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Theater under House Arrest

Episodes from the History of Dohány Street Apartment Theatre (1972-76) 


21. November 2017. – 12. January 2018. 

Opening: 21. November 2017., 18.00

The home theatre operating in Dohány Street in the counterculture environment of the 60s and 70s in Budapest is known to many from urban legends, photographs, and written documents – in a second-hand, fragmented way. It is the photographic capturing of mostly spontaneous, continuously changing performances which is able to “picture” these events, places, and people, however, at the same time it is in conflict with the basics of the initiative, inasmuch as it makes picture space – however involuntarily – stage-like. The attitude of the photographers recording performances is not the one belonging to an external observer – in such a closed environment this would not have been maintainable –; they are all friends, participants, “performers of the second publicity”.

The exhibition of Trapéz Gallery highlights episodes from a theatrical experiment running between 1972 and 1976 in Budapest, directing its attention primarily to the interrelations of space, freedom, and the lack of these. As compared to the confined public space controlled by the dictatorship, the personal space, the flat could offer an intermediate space, which was not entirely free but was suitable for creation and re-thinking the relations between the stage and the auditorium. The tension of in and out, the possibility produced by necessity is not freedom yet, however, sometimes it does look quite similar to it.

After 1972, public stages became inaccessible for the theatre group founded by Péter Halász, Anna Koós, and Péter Breznyik. Two possibilities seemed available to continue their activity: to used a private apartment (the Dohány-street flat of Halász and Koós) or – to a lesser extent – to use nature as a stage (Szentendre Island or Balatonboglár Chapel for a couple of days); this way they could move away from the official examinations of the authorities.

The exhibition gained inspiration from the photographs taken during the performance Betlehem Child Killers, mostly from those which picture the exchange of spaces between viewers and players. The picture blown up on the back wall of the internal space (a photograph by Péter Donáth) was taken during the only open performance between 1972 and 1976, in the library of the National Book Distribution Company at Deák Square. The audience, contemplating the story from the outside, from behind a glass wall is now observing contemporary visitors of the exhibition from the wall. Our stage is the exhibition space, the performance is the walk from picture to picture, roaming around folding screens – back and forth. We think of ourselves as viewers, however, from the perspective of the picture or the passers-by from the street, we are performers – observed observers.

Exhibition installation: Katarina Sevic.