1 December 2009 – 4 December 2009


The little village Hegyhátszentmárton in Őrség has less than sixty inhabitants, according to the latest data. In the past few decades, nearly one and a half million people migrated from the countryside to the economically progressed regions of the country. This process affected a lot of villages, mainly in the Transdanubia, including Hegyhátszentmárton. The small villages cause a problem especially where they make an adjoining zone. The regional development politics, that urges concentration, weakened their functions - schools and post offices were closed, local co-operative farms were liquidated -, it narrowed down the labour market, and as a result of migration, the local communities deformed. Thus, the small villages, including Hegyhátszentmárton, became the disadvantaged elements of the Hungarian settlement system.

Our work, that was born under the auspices of the Hungarian Institute for Culture and Art, focuses on the social and personal side of the phenomena. The local, aging inhabitants lost many of their loved ones in their neighbourhood and family within a few years, partly due to migration, and partly due to aging and death. Our installation aims to visually seize the absence that became part of everyday life in Hegyhátszentmárton. Since 31 October 2009, fifty helium-filled black balloons have been floating in the only street of the village. We applied digitally processed monochrome portraits onto the balloons based on the villagers' photos, thus, impersonating the ones who once lived there - not only the dead, but also the emigrants. We secured the balloons with weights, but the inhabitants could relocate them as they pleased, and in this manner, the work became interactive.

A significant part of our work was the opening ceremony, combined with holy mass and goulash cooking, on 31 October, to which the emigrants were also invited. We hoped to rehabilitate the village emotionally, even for a short period. More than two hundred people arrived to the event, many of them hadn't seen each other for decades. The floating souls above the village created a shocking, dreadful and fantastic atmosphere among the visitors, which is why we found it important to document the opening event.

Kata Oltai curator