? Oktoberhaz - a blogger in Hungary - Dylan James - Imponderabilia

Oktoberhaz - a blogger in Hungary

This is a selection of writings and pictures I put together over the past 3 years in Hungary - mainly its capital city, Budapest, but also in the Alföld region in the East of the country - the uncovering of a blogger's intimate sphere, whose commitment and responsibility I propose to discuss more openly here.


Budapest, New Year's eve, 31st of December 2007

It's always ironic for someone to start photography on his first experience abroad. The need for photographic practice very often derives from feelings of fear, loneliness or foreignness. It is there for simple reasons if you are still looking for light, colours and contrasts; a struggle against representation, at the same time a kind of tragedy: sacrificing the pleasure of results and frames for more effort and walking. So for whom are we - bloggers, travellers and picture-takers - collecting this massive data? This is a question worth asking as over the years we learn to travel more and more through the camera obscura.

"Smell of tobacco in the plastic chairs
Soda in your cheap wine
Good wine is for food
Old coffee resting amidst the fumes
of menthol cigarettes of mosquitoes from the Tissza

The dog is wailing for company
We recite our week's walks and encounters
How was work, where is the wine?
Home-mades and home-stomachs
Glory be for a bit of kocsmálya*
in my memory box

Oh for a good wine discussion"

- Posted on September the 18th 2008.

I was told by my girlfriend, who is a Hungarian national, that this description of her father's kocsmálya (* which stands for "his pub"), one I wrote on my return to London, made her very sad. She found words of plastic, fumes, cigarettes and mosquitoes hard to take in a poem about home. She didn't go any further and eventually swept the matter away, as those were my own words, my own images. Of course this didn't satisfy me. I keep on reflecting on the kind of criticisms I receive when I decide to picture the debris of a broken-down building. They don't just stem from a sense of harmony between a population and a government's politics of representation, nor simply from a sense of national pride. To me, it's a gap in between pride and history. The no-man lands of construction and the marginalised bits of history lie behind the big Puma or McDonald's banners, and those kilometres of temporary walls are symbolic holes in a country having to imagine its future at extra euro-speed. (The irony of an outsider's position, to seek those symbolic cracks around the city whilst through his own country the wind of finance blows down an economy so fragile) The advertisement banners and temporary walls on the way to university, to the supermarket, to the bank, to the bar, to bed, to the night-job, to the tube... those banners stay up, reflected everywhere in the plastic colours left by Soviet history. They stay up, and mirrors are everywhere that tell history in their own moments.


Martfü, Alföld region, 3rd of January 2009

Colours at Loss

their profile was well chosen
colour was as golden as branch
words were leaves drafting dust
and his was a shadow of doubt

The tree of their body
gave way to the cold window
instantly travelling away
to the east, Hortobágyi train

the pale blue of the wood
they left on the window sill
was like a bottle on a bench
words of solitude

- Posted on December the 7th 2008


Budapest, 31st of May 2007

It's a cold December afternoon and I feel a reproachful gaze breezing past me towards the hills of Buda standing in the mist. When I stand in the Pest side of the Hungarian capital, there is an unavoidable tension in the air drawing from the hills opposite. A duality resonating in the Danube's valley, a duality of a country's history, tensions of generations and times. Such is the atmosphere that recalls to me now the beginning of a phrase by the late writer Márai Sándor as he walks in the ruins of post World War II Buda, and in his memories recalls going down this hill he would never climb up later again: "as I was about to descend the Granite stairs to return to the world in ruins below." (*) It was a world in ruins while shiny cars and French jewelry were being parachuted like Marshall plan shells, while a country's sovereignty was drifting in the air in the fumes of fallen bridges, soon to be overshadowed by the red flags of victorious Soviets. 'The Slavs', this barbarian east Márai describes that Hungary was forced into, a culture's representation pushed further out when the 'Iron Curtain' - a political turn imagined as this solid metaphor by Winston Churchill - symbolically fell in the 1990s, and tourists rushed into the thermal baths of Pest, who had been designated as the wash-basins of Ostalgia [or 'Nostalgia for the East'].

"After World War II pessimists endowed with imaginative power likened Europe to such a ruined house with an unscathed façade" (*)

- Written in Budapest, December 2008


Train from Szolnok to Martfü - Alföld region, 4th of September 2008

Framing a struggle

Familiar signs appear around me as I raise my eyes in streets of North-East Pest or the London underground. In a corridor at University waiting for exam-time or on the staff-board... A Hungarian name, a label that reads 'made in Hungary', and the complexities those words swallow for our good use.

Further on I am searching for colours of those very grounds that project those signs. History bares no dress when one is shy and curious at the same time, colours referring to the unsaid, to the patterns of life and craft of passing time, which itself is no pure human gift. There is a sense in which we re-create time as representations go, but the responsibility is so complex there is no one road to it. Responsibility means having the time, means of travelling and walking, and making use of this time in that elsewhere constructed as an observer. Of course such poetics are a choice, but is it possible to reduce the image to mere personal experience when it comes to such media-spaces as blogging?

This is not to say - it would be absurd of me - that each picture is an ethical choice. Instead, this is merely the reflection upon me of my experience as well as the reflection of the eyes of passers-by looking dubiously at me for choosing this particular place and scaffolding or bus tire to stop and observe. They cannot be disconnected, as much as a digital picture is only rarely reserved 'private' today. Hungarian is a great language to play with associations - being so unique, some words are found in other languages but with completely different meaning - and the word 'ami' is a very relevant example for me here. It both means "that which is" in Hungarian and "friend" in French. Similar to the effort of translation, in blogging I take it as both an affectionate relationship on my behalf to a certain place and people, as well as a sense of this very place, a part of it. In practice: a drive towards respect.

- Posted on December the 21st 2008


Budapest, Újpest, 4th of November 2007

Sweeping the street he dresses his frame
In a theatre for the cold
And whenever he stops the light comes in
Place reflected in his everywhere

Sweeping into the street they dress that fame
A theatre of gold
And whenever they disappear with pens of silver
Space is nowhere but in the heart

Of the street colour's metteur en scène

- Written in Budapest, January 2009.

Media-responsibilities are in transition, participation is everywhere and young adults finishing their studies run the risk of falling sick of the human record. Blogs are the bastard-children of the possibilities left by an era of words sinking in rivers, while rivers sing out the words in a language we are too busy to get to grips with. This blog, reflection of place as much as it reflects the media space I participate in, is a reflection of and on this era of blogging and self-propelling media that risks the exclusion of a real understanding of place.

"One is always ashamed when one finds out he is not a hero but a dupe: a dupe of History" (* Márai Sándor Memoirs of Hungary 1944-48)

I leave you with the mark of a bourgeois yet brilliant writer of his time (indeed Márai himself stresses who can write but the bourgeoisie? The deal is different now, but his commentary leaves a trace on the meaning of our travels to the east, the south and those poles of others' existence), a poet dressing up the times of transition between two wars, while at this very hour a war is being waged simultaneously in the streets of Gaza and on my contacts' Facebook status. The colours are grey indeed in this October house.

Based on the blog "an Eastern feather flies around" http://oktoberhaz.blogspot.com/

Dylan originally discovered digital photography together with blogging, which allows him to keep on writing with a freedom he enjoys. In the past years during his degree in Anthropology and Media this has taken on a different - ethical - meaning but he wants to develop this reflexive and 'amateur' format as he values its potential. He is originally from countryside Brittany in France, born in a family of musicians and dancers.his heart rooted in South African gospel.