ROMA BODY POLITICS I. No Innocent Picture

Mar 12, 2015 - Apr 03, 2015

Opening: 13 March, 2015, 5.00 pm

Opening Speech: Camilo Antonio, activist in the poetics and cultural politics of the diaspora, founder of the Urbannomadmixes group

Roma Body Politics is an extensive and intercultural (Roma – non-Roma) exhibition series and educational program aimed at exploring, documenting and making visible the Roma body politics in present-day Europe. The project, which was realized with the help of Roma artists and intellectuals, focuses on the depiction, representation and participation of Roma – and especially Roma women – in the media, art and public life. The exhibition No Innocent Picture is the first event of the program series.

The exhibition presents how the social assignment of Roma Bodies to an underclass is a historical construct that has multiple origins, rooted in the institutions of both slavery and mass media.  It theorizes how race is enacted in the moment of the gaze, and how this spectatorial surveillance complicates social relations because of how it is historically and inextricably woven into the European collective consciousness and the European cultural ethos via popular media.

Roma scholars, diplomats, public figures and intellectuals posed as models for Déri Miklós's psychoanalytical photographic portraits. Moreover, each of them undertook to embody a well-known Roma stereotype, assisted by Kriszta Szakos stylist and Zita Kozári makeup artist. Thus, they took on the roles of the “Gypsy girl”, "the “ghetto dweller”, the “gangster”, the “Gypsy musician”, the “Gypsy Madonna”, the “King of the Gypsies”, the "fortune-teller", the “voivode”, etc.

The participants:

Rodrigó Balogh, founder and art director of the Independent Theater Hungary
Katalin Bársony, executive director of Romédia Foundation

Mária Bogdán, media researcher, researcher at the Institute for Ethnic and National Minority Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Ágnes Daróczi, researcher of ethnic minorities, civil rights activist

Clara Farkas, producer, Hungarian National Film Fund

Dr. Rita Izsák, special rapporteur on minority issues, United Nations
Tímea Junghaus, art historian, researcher at the Institute for Art History of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

Zeljko Jovanovic, program director, Open Society Foundations, Roma Initiatives Office

Bettina Kállai, music producer

Iulius Rostas, sociologist, PhD, visiting lecturer at Corvinus University

Marius Taba, monitoring and evaluation officer, Roma Education Fund

It is important to engage the historicity of the Roma body and the different encryptions of the Roma body for what they reveal about existing racially xenophobic tendencies that are re-distributed and recycled in mass-mediated cultural practices. For this research, we chose the vehicle of critical, historical analyses through photography, which recounts the genesis of the phenomenon, while mapping contemporary parallels, and grappling with age-old questions like: What do we see and how are Roma bodies led to be seen? Which social, political and cultural practices deconstruct the body image of Roma people?

The mission of Gallery8 is the liberation of the Roma body – and therefore the liberation of Roma people. Roma bodies are not described here as a way to objectify, re-shape or dis-figure Roma. Instead, the Roma body is the vehicle in this initiative for finding specific practices to “re/configurate diasporic gazes into subjects and to invite ourselves to be viewers; to uncover the colonial discourse inscribed in us and to depict it in exhibitions so that it is quasi disenchanted, to unmask the Western master-discourse as a historical legend”[1].

The exhibition is on view between 13 March and 3 April, 2015.

Curators: Angéla Kóczé, Tímea Junghaus, Árpád Bak

Photo by: Miklós Déri

Stylist: Kriszta
Makeup: Zita Kozári

Special thanks to:
- Péter Szuhay, ethnographer

- Nagyházi Galéria for assisting us in studying the Vojvode jewelries.

- Éva Kovács, sociologist for the inspiration of her study: Fekete testek, fehér testek. (Black bodies, white bodies.) Beszélő, 2009/14. [In Hungarian]


Image: Ágnes Daróczi, distinguished Roma civil activist, one of The Romani Elders

Further readings:

Kóczé Angéla: A rasszista tekintet és beszédmód által konstruált roma férfi és női testek a médiában. (Roma Male and Female Bodies in the Media Constructed by the Racist Gaze.) Apertúra, 2014. nyár-ősz

Junghaus Timea: A neonáci és rasszista romagyűlölő propaganda vizualitása. (The Visuality of Neo-Nazi and Racist Anti-Roma Propaganda.) tranzit.blog.hu, 2011. július 20.

Kovács Éva: Fekete testek, fehér testek. (Black bodies, white bodies.) Beszélő, 2009/14.

[1] Peggy Piesche et.al.: Museum. Space. History: New Sites of Political Tectonics. A virtual exchange between Belinda Kazeem, Nicola Lauré al-Samarai, and Peggy Piesche. Translated by Tim Sharp. Transversal, June 2008.  http://eipcp.net/transversal/0708/kazeemetal/en

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