Friday’s night was a very interesting evening with lots of discussions and many questions.
First of all I was really impressed how much was already made. The sketches together were a rich and meaningful collection, full of beautiful stories, and seeing it in this context it also became more clear what can be improved and where we should focus on.
Who are we addressing?
One of the reasons to make the ‘Subjective atlases’ is the urge to react on the current harsh tone of the public discourse in western countries. A climate of fear is created wherein populistic politicians play with the people’s sentiments. Minorities are blamed for problems of national scale (unemployment, criminality and rough behavior) and arguments of belonging to certain races or religions are concidered the main problem, and not the difference in social classes. (National) identity is approached as a culture of ‘exclusion‘ (so other cultures, value-systems or habits don’t fit in and in constructing identity old models and symbols are polished again) instead of ‘inclusion‘ (in a way that culture is something fluid that constantly changes and develops, and where other cultures and events leave their traces). It is in this climate that facts and long term visions loose influence, and outspoken politicians who express themselves in simple quotes are gaining power.
If we don’t want this to explode, we need to invest in ways to demonstrate against it. We need to visualize the qualities of inclusion and diversity, we have to show who we are and how we differ, and construct new narratives. Not in order to change, but to be able to exchange the alternating perceptions of cultural concepts, and to stay at a safe distance of the magnetic fields of mass-media.
The ‘Subjective atlas’ is a tool to research our identities, not to get an answer but to develop a visual dialogue and pose new questions.
So to answer the question of who to address; the first audience is the populistic voices and ears in society. They need to be reached — although this is difficult. The book is meant to influence the public discourse in and about Hungary and to make people rethink what Hungary is or could be, and what it all includes. This can never be a complete story, but it will be ‘dis-arming’.
Therefore it’s important to avoid cliché’s, we know paprika and Hungary fits together, so this story doesn’t need to be told. Also the specific language (to refer to Fanni’s argument that she was missing this) is not relevant as such, because you know all this. On the contrary, how for instance Rebeka treats her family-grave is something no-one knew, and which illustrates care for the death and strong familiy-relations. This is not illustrative for ALL Hungarians, but then I would like to argue that NOTHING is illustrative for ALL Hungarians.
So the stories to be shown in the atlas can be small and personal, and at the same time (especially in relation to the other contributions) refer to a bigger story and meaning. In choosing your content don’t be afraid of being personal.
It was also said that politics is missing, and I said to agree on that. But I doubted it later, what I did meant is that ‘the political perspective can be represented stronger. Though the section with alternative flags, and the collection of maps are showing ‘the political’ strongly. That’s a place where you can be critical.
Hungarian / English
Although the books is firstly meant for an Hungarian audience we do aim to make the book bi-langual, or even better, making an Hungarian and an English version, to reach a wider audience and broaden the discourse. Whether it will be a bi-langual book or two books, depends on the willingness to invest in this from the Dutch publisher and once I’m back in the Netherlands I’m going to talk about it with them.
I hope this helps you further in making your contributions for the atlas and if you have more questions, don’t hesitate to pose them on the mailing list or discuss them next week at Kibu.