Is what this videoreport takes to explain our Mission. With shots from the Saturday afternoon, with the neighbors speaking out, us being flies on the wall. With images from the nightwalk, with us being in the lead. You gotta speak Hungarian though...
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
Parks come in different shapes: my cousins are glaciers, savannas or even tundras. People like you travel to get to know them, to admire them, or like watching them on television. It makes me sad sometimes. It is like everybody in your family only likes your sister, and neglects you. Let’s change that. Try caring for me as I care for you. Even your sister might notice and warn your other family members they should appreciate you more.
I have been her longer than you. I remember many things. From being a cemetery, from being a waterflooded square, from being barricaded to seeing lovers meet, children being brought along for their first steps, to people lamenting their dear deceased. Remember this when you see me. You might not remember when we first met. But I do. Like I said, I remember many things. To train your brain, try to remember when we did first meet. Was it that long ago already? Time for me is different than for you. I am timeless. Try being that with me. Take off your watch and become timeless too.
People tend to have appointments with friends. We parks just stay in our place and wait for friends to come – which never happens. But humans are friends with humans – and meet them in the park. Parks don't meet with other parks.
But look, you just received a text message which says your friend would be at least an hour late. You might be pretty nervous, but what to do? At least your friend didn't have an accident. But what should you do to pass the time? You're not familiar with the area, your home is in more than a hour's distance. Only me the park is here as your companion. Talk to the park. That's me. I will answer – and we will be friends. Finally.
There are a lot of things in my area that need to be fixed. Please come, and find the missing pieces, and provide a creative fix to them. I love things colourful, use as many colours as you can. They might conflict with other colors, i hear you say. Well, embrace the conflict, it will make your life easier in many ways.
‘A walk in the park’ is a synonym for ease in English, ‘because the park knows how to walk.’ In other words, when you enter a park, like me, you don’t have to make any decisions, because I, the park have already made them for you. It resembles job life in many things. You don’t like your dayjobs like these, is what I often here you say when you are sitting down, talking over on a bench. Than explain me, why would I, the Park, like to be like this? I like to be treated just like you. Use me as a playground, let me be the boardgame for your life. Move around the tables, replace the chairs, bring some new plans.
What I, the Park, really hate is the sound of dogs fouling on me. It is not so much the smell, trust me, I’ve smelled more disagreeable things, but it is that sound of materials being forced through a small hole. Everytime I notice one of these small piles on my surface, the sound recurs in my ears. It is a very painful experience. Now I noticed you Humans don’t like the piles of dog foul neither, but for different reasons. So let’s get rid of them. Cleaning up someone else’s mess makes me look better for you, it takes away the pain from my ears, and it also prevents others from littering. With a plastic bag it is no so difficult. And you know what? It will make you feel a better person.
Humans have workplaces. Parks just do their duties. People and parks don't have time for each other. I am really sad for that.
Or better to say, I was until today: the day that you lost your job. You have been fired. Suddenly you don't know what to do with yourself. You start to really get depressed. Too much of free time. What would you like to do with it? No idea. That's the moment to look at Me. Look at my simple life as the Ferenc tér Park and follow my example. Relax.
What a pity! You forgot your mothers birthday! It's today. Anyways I don't even have a birthday. I don't even have a mother. But let me help you with some simple ideas to make this a beautiful day for her. Think about it. Nothing comes to your mind. What would she like to have at all? I don't even have a birthday. I want to have a birthday.
You are so desperate and indecisive. Maybe you should stop thinking about giving objects and start thinking about quality time? I want you to host birthdays on my premises. I want to experience your birthdays!
I am just like you. Me too, I love nice festivities. Please bring your neighbours to the park on Sundays, or on my namedays – which are May 11th, October 4th and December 3rd – and have lunch at the tables, or find a blanket and start a picnic. Send out invitations, draw postcards that you give to neighbours when you meet them, or even to people in the park.
‘Play’ is about interrupting the utilitarian efficiency of the urban environment and getting people to think about what actually makes us human, is what Julian Baggini said. For us, parks, that of course is a little different. For us, being played upon, being played in, is what makes us parks. We are not only there to help you navigate the paths laid out, we are there to carry you to places you have never been. So explore us, play on us, play with us. It makes us more Park. I will be more than happy if you do.
I am curious and sometimes a little greedy, just like you. I like it when more plants than planned grow on me. You can always bring me plants which have become to bg for your house. You can always plant flowers on me – they make me happy, and people like ‘em too. Some of the plants growing on me are edible. Than we both profit. I like apple trees, abricots, cherries and pears. Because more peope can enjoy them. But my biggest wish is to see less asphalt in my surroundings, just like you I want to grow. How could you help me in growing out of my constraints and be a jungle in the city?
I like seeing people happy. I like it when i see you, Humans, spend time with other humans. The starts of relations. The celebration of special moments, seeing how they elevate you from your daily miseries. Now try this: Caress me me as you would caress a new lover. Whisper sweet words in my plantbeds, softly touch my trees, gently kiss me when nobody watches.
On birthdays, you humans present eachother with small gifts. I, the Park, like gadgets too. Maybe you can make these for me? Please install smart bins for dog foul in the park. I would like one that barks like a dog when a bag of dog foul is put in the bin. I think i will laugh a lot, and think you will too. Some other parks in Budapest have smart devices that measure air quality and can tell the weather. Why can’t I also have such a smart gadget? I would love to be modern too, just like you.
‘The city breaths in what we exhale, for Christ’s sake, let it be love’, wrote the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Try being quiet for ten minutes sometimes, sit down, lie down. If you listen carefully you can hear me breath.
A lot of you, Humans, listen to music while visiting me. But I have no earphones to listen privatel, and like you, I don’t want to disturb others. But you can help. Why not invite families and friends on Thursdays to make pinwheels. If you have at least 50 pinwheels, I would like to have them in the grass next to the playground, so they can play some wind music for me. Maybe I will do a little dance.
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
In the Netherlands, there is a lot of water, as you might know. Their coastline is longer than their country is from North to South. Last years some shocking events happened on the beach. A lot of whales stranded on the beach. Sad for them. Good for scientists. An attraction for tourists. But mostly it says something on our eco-system: how come whales lose their way and end up on the land?
Here in Ferencvaros, there is a lot of water too. The Danube passes by, sometimes flooding the neighbourhood. The flooding of Ferencvaros in 1838 caused for grand spatial renovations in this part of town. But there are connections with us, humans, too.
In 1961 a dead and stuffed whale called Goliath was exhibited in the City Park. The whale went on tour shortly after, in 1962, and once again in 1963. Thousands of tickets were sold all over the country and people flocked to the cities where the whale was on show. Not that Hungarians had never a whale before, but rumors had it the whale came from the other side of the Iron Curtain. That was something to see.
Soon urban legends accompanied the whale, and its tour. Maybe the whale – 22 meters long – was weighting just as heavy as a ballistic missile and thus the CIA might have thought of using the whale to test Hungarian roads. That of course is just make belief, but as a story it is great.
More narratives evolved around the whale. Lajos Parti Nagy’s short story Giuseppe undo Pusztay, László Krasznahorkai’s novel, The Melancholy of Resistance and Béla Tarr’s film (based on the latter book) Werckmeister Harmonies all feature the whale. So even without a sea one can say the Hungarians love sea life. Or was it the ecosystem of those days which caused Hungarians to think of such an explanation?
These days mysterious things are happening with whales in Budapest.
In 2016 renovations began on Ferenc Ter. This square park was decorated, well decorated, actually the park revolved around a whale. It had arrived via the Danube and decided to rest itself in the park. It could have arrived on the same defaults in the ecological order which caused whales to strand on Dutch beaches last year. Who know? Anyways, the whale was there. Centrally located in the park.
Little children liked to climb on it, elderly women admired the lean image of the muscular body, younger women even went close to the whale and put their feet in the water flowing from the whale’s fountain. Young men tested each other guts by inviting their friends to throw precious belongings over the whale and have other friends catching it on the other side. Old men watched all this and did what old men do best: sit and think. Their minds wandered off to the days of 1962 and 1963, when Goliath toured the country. Back then, they were still young and life was in front rather than behind them. Aaaah. What times lay between this park whale and the days of Goliath.
Earlier, in another part in the city, a whale appeared. A new cultural centre – also serving as a shopping mall – opened along the Danube in 2013, apply called Balna. The last time I was there it was empty. Being in the belly of the beast is a scary thing. It can be dark and warm, you are not breathing fresh air and your wifi doesn’t work. It is an ecosystem almost nobody likes.
What is the connection between all this? Is there some secret we don’t know of? But that whales do understand? A secret system of tunnels reaching out from Dutch beaches to Ferenc Ter? A international connection between the biggest mammals on the planet, speaking their own language, way beyond ours? And that the way they arrive in our societies could tell us something? Something we would understand if we could only understand their languages. But their communication is still a mystery to our scientists, even though they know one thing: they can speak over thousands of kilometers with one another.
Yes, I can hear you think, that is something humans can do as well. But does it wake up the same emotions as sitting next to one another? As with Goliath traveling the land? As amongst Dutch tourists on the beach? As with old men enjoying a park? Or do the whales want to tell us something special? I wonder. And perhaps you too...
[This column was spoken out on the occasion of the performative walk on May 25th 2016]
Monday, 23 May 2016
One of the shortest stories the Argentine writer, novelist, essayist, the ‘Simon Bolivar of the novel’ [dixit Carlos Fuentes] ever wrote, is “The continuity of parks”.
It is about reading, about identifying with the narrator, about how parks are backgrounds for love, murder, life and storytelling. Read the story here.
Such a story asks for it being turned into a movie, and no wonder, that happened plenty of times. You can find a Argentine version here, a French version here, a Spanish one here and an English version here
But perhaps the most beautiful thing is to listen to Cortazar reading his story out aloud.