Share Your Oblivion – Monument Design
Budapest Intensive Hybrid (Offline-Online) Workshop
The original idea for the O3 module of PARTGO proposed a synthesising approach to the theme of symbolic representation in the public space using the increasingly saturated urban landscape of today's Budapest as a starting point and backdrop. Budapest presents an inspiring context for an inquiry into the nature and recent trends of public art, from the bizarre post-'89 Statue Park of removed Soviet-style monuments through numerous recent, and often contested, manifestations of memory politics to the proliferation of ‘photo opportunity’ statues and landmarks.
The module was supposed to engage the international student team and teaching staff in producing a collective video consisting of a number of interconnected clips, including elements of investigative journalism, essays, propaganda, and staged or fictional documentary.
Due to the Covid situation and related lockdowns, the planned fieldwork became impossible, so the theme and the assignment for the students were changed and applied to the conditions of online working and communication processes. The context was provided on the one hand by the universal experience of the restrictions, isolation, fear and grief related to the pandemic, and by the general idea of public remembrance in the form of memorials and monuments on the other.
The one-week programme was planned to provide occasion for both group work and individual work within a tutored process also supported by interpersonal and inter-university communication. The days consisted of a morning session and an afternoon session, both 3 hours long, that were further distributed into online and offline tasks according to the progress of the work.
As an ‘entry’ assignment, every student had been asked to select a photograph of a particular monument, memorial, or public sculpture that was important or interesting for them, and to prepare to briefly present it to the others. To attune the groups to the assignment, a short inspirational video piece was prepared and sent to Dublin and Turku, presenting two distinct memorials from Budapest without any commentary or context. In the first morning session, the groups watched and discussed the video, trying to find out what the context of the memorials might be, and formulated a verbal answer. These reactions were presented online, together with the students' short individual presentations and introduction, in the first afternoon session when all the participants first met in the online space. The video and the photographs collected by the students, printed on A4 pages, functioned as a pool of reference within the subsequent process.
To start the second day,  a 1-hour online lecture introducing the theme of public monuments and memorials. The lecture approached the public space historically as a site of either social consensus or social conflict and discussed examples of public art supporting one aspect or the other. Specific attention was dedicated to concepts of ‘weak monuments’ and ‘counter monuments’ (James E. Young) as well as to memorials and new genre public art as a means of social ‘healing’ (Suzi Gablik et al.). After the plenary lecture, the groups in Turku, Dublin and Budapest worked separately with the photographs collected by the students, trying to group them according to the keywords and criteria emerging from the lecture.
The afternoon session was fully online, where the groups presented the results of their discussion, then the assignment was given from Budapest, and explained and discussed. As to the assignment, we expected the students to work out a visionary idea for a monument or memorial that reflects or represents the experience of the pandemic-related lockdowns of 2020 – the suspension and evacuation of the public space to the benefit of the virtual, the social distance and fragmentation it presumed and triggered, the virtualisation of communities and communal feelings etc.
On the third day, the morning session was dedicated to teamwork in each participating university, whereby the students, forming smaller groups, shared and discussed their experiences of how the lockdown affected their everyday life and the relationship to public space in their particular environments, and prepared a presentation of the results. The afternoon session was dedicated to the presentations that were then compared and discussed.
The day before the last and the morning session of the last day were dedicated to actual work for the assignment. Due to the hybrid nature of the module, such work was done in the three universities separately – offline in Dublin and Budapest and online in Turku. Students could opt for individual solutions or work in small teams (maximum 3 persons), while the tutors offered ‘transnational’ online tutorials and mentoring to support the workflow. There were no restrictions on the technique or format except that the result was supposed to be a presentation that included visual renderings and a written explanation of the piece that made its design and expected effects or functioning clear. The presentations and the discussion of the results happened during the last afternoon session in the shared online space via Zoom.
In despite of the fragmentary nature of the hybrid workshop and the physical distance between the participants, the overall collective process and the sharing of the often frustrating and sad experiences ended up forming a functional community of the students, which provided the basis for the following offline modules in Tallinn and Dublin. The creative results were engaging and mirrored a basic understanding of what criteria are to be evaluated when ideating public art interventions and what effects a given intervention might have in a public space, which, in the end, was the most important goal of the module in Budapest.
Concepts emerged from the practice
MOME - Share Your Oblivion
Keywords for the methodology:
  • Historical sites in the city and Covid
  • Covid -> Lockdown as heterotopia, limbo
  • Covid EXPO
  • Provocation of the short video work - mediating the space in Budapest
  • Temporal public art
  • Collaboration and group work
  • National teams working in parallel
  • Hybrid
  • Everyday shared online presentations
  • Keynote lectures
  • Brainstorming
  • Pre-intensives
  • Performative elements
  • Universal experience of pandemic
  • International students sharing their experiences
  • Visionary design and model making
  • Psycho-geographic walks
  • Performative elements
Feedback & assessment strategy:
  • Feedback from the local pre-intensives
  • Student surveys and questionnaires
  • Certificate of participation