Memento Park

Balatoni út [directions]
Buda, XXII, B150 from Kosztolányi Dezső tér

In recent years, you may have seen adverts for “Statue Park: Gigantic Monuments from the age of Communist Dictatorship.” You may even have ventured out to the back of beyond that is the 22nd district and followed the signs to “Szóbor Park”.

Now, some bright spark with an elementary understanding of English, and/or an awkward sen
se of irony, has renamed it... Memento Park!

Before we get bogged down in detail, let’s get a few things straight:
  • The park, under whichever moniker, has a unique, truly remarkable collection of controversial treasure.
  • At least two of the statues are gigantic.
  • There are no rollercoasters.
  • Whoever put this together did it without a great deal of money.
On arriving, you’re greeted by Lenin, Marx and Engels, perched in the arches of a faux-classical facade in red-brick .

“This crude, monumental brick wall has all the characteristic elements of socialist realism (pillars, arches, wall spaces)”, announces the booklet that you can’t read yet because you haven’t got as far as the shop. This crude, monumental brick wall has, in fact, gone out of its way to look nothing like socialist realist architecture: a blatant concession to the “if it looks too realistic, there’ll be trouble” school of thought.

I admit that it can’t have been easy designing The Park. It was 1993 when it opened, two years after the last Soviet soldier left Hungary. If anybody had dared or wanted to preserve the effect that the statues had when they littered the streets, they might have been lynched!

The red-brick theme pervades the whole park and does have the effect of undermining the statues' presence somewhat. The statues themselves are plentiful and varied, although the Lenin, Marx and Engels out there on the wall would really have helped to add a bit of familiarity, especially with the dearth of information on display.

Just a few sentences for context; and maybe some 'then and now' photos of where the statues used to be located, would have really brought the park to life. If you don’t buy a booklet you’ll be completely stranded, although you won’t have to endure the justifications for the positioning of the statues, which are crassly employed as a metaphor for the path of communism.

(Csepel Iron and Metal Works, 1969, above.)

The recent additions that prompted the name change are largely welcome, if not life-changing. A couple of wooden huts outside give a bit of background on both the park and Hungary's violent past - essential for anyone who's just passing through. There's also a video about Commie spies which is worth at least 5 minutes of your time, if only for the ancient film footage they employ.

Then, outside on “Witness Square”, or “the car park” as it might otherwise be termed, are Stalin's boots, standing almost as they did back in 56, following their owner's 'be-body-ing'. The rostrum then was somewhat more ornate, and obviously didn't employ red brick.

All in all, Sculpture Park, as it will be renamed in 2012, is an achievement in conservation rather than presentation. Hopefully, by that stage, the organisers might consider a facelift. They could do worse than take a few pointers from Csepel Iron and Metal Works, 1969.

Andy Sz.



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