Saturday, October 08, 2005

Kommie Kitsch

I took a trip to Budapest a few months back. A beautiful and vibrant city, full of intricate architecture and good food, still in the process of shaking off its long history of being caught in between empires and winding up on the losing side of wars. There are many serious memorials to the failed uprising of 1951. That's one way to get past dictatorship. Another is to take all the kitschy public sculpture erected by the communist regime, and put it in a park out in the suburbs and turn it into a tourist attraction.

Marx and Engels look blockily down on the world they helped make.

He's got the whole world in his rusting, metallic, inhuman hands.

The locals call this one "Cabana boy rushing to rescue a bather who lost his suit", but it's real name is "The Republic of Councils Monument", and it's huge!

The real face of the occupation.

After the quick visit to Sculpture Park, I managed to squeeze in another side-trip to Gödöllö, a three-umlaut town with a restored Baroque castle, a summer retreat for the Emperor Franz Joseph and the royal family. The hugeness and luxury of such places is supposed to fill one with awe at the power and sumptiousness of the art, but for me they mostly inspire rage at the wastefulness and inequality that had to go into the creation of such a lifestyle for the few. In other words, it gave me a bit of sympathy for the commies, despite their bad taste and their own forms of oppression and murder. It put it in context, at least.

In between these two trips I had to hurry to catch the train out, so succumbed to McDonald's, which I guess represents the end of history, no more class warefare, nobody suffers but the cows, the environment, and health.

Update: more here. The pictures of East European stamps whisked me back to my childhood philatelist days, when I was puzzling over all those blocky hammer designs and why they seemed to be associated with "democratic republics".

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