P.R. group is a Budapest based collective of young artists. The group was founded in 2010 by two young Hungarian artists, Virág Bogyó and Csilla Hódi. Their works vary in form alike the meaning of the P.R. acronym, both are adjusted to the context of each project. Using the tools of humor and irony P.R. group focuses on current social issues, discourses and cultural traditions creating awareness raising actions, public interventions or offering amusing solutions for the problems. Their recent project called The Library of the Chosen Ones presents a selection of various printed matters that have the expression ‘the chosen one(s)’ in their title. Curated by Attila Tordai the project has been presented in tranzit.ro in Cluj.
Kinga Lendeczki: How was the idea of P.R. group born? How did you start to work together as a group?
Virág Bogyó & Csilla Hódi: We started to work together with Csilla around 2009 or 2010, back when we used to be students – Csilla studied photography, I eventually studied media design, both at the MOME. We knew each other from before, as both of us participated in the constructivist visual arts camps organized by János Fajó at Szerencs.
We practically started to help in each other’s individual school projects. We had a strong critique towards the ethos of the individual genius in the fields of art. We’ve continued the collective working method in own projects, unrelated to the school. We’ve picked an actual phenomenon, we didn’t know and/or interested us – something that was actual, and influenced us in a way.
The name itself is already an important medium in our work: we chose the P.R. acronym as a camouflage technique to add different meanings to it at each project we are doing. On one hand, this approach to distinguishing ourselves was interesting because it made hiding our individual identities possible, and because in the beginning it was not clear (not even for us) who is inside, and who is outside the group.
And then later on, as the projects followed one after the other, the two of us have become the permanent factor, so the group came to be identified with us. We could not – or maybe we did not even want to – hold up the ambition of keeping the membership of the group in constant flux. None the less, we still abide by the name changing, as a memory/memento.
KL: What is your working method?
VB & CsH: Our working methods have changed thorough the years. Sometimes we started with simple puns or thought experiments. Sometimes it was new acquaintances, or talking to our very well known family members. Our projects were many times reactions to our surroundings or political, social, personal events.
Usually you just have an idea, an image (even if we come to do a performance or an action later on) and you can’t let it go. In such cases, we tell our ideas to each other, and the other one gets excited as well, and then something happens, or maybe not.
KL: For your recent project The Library of the chosen ones presented in tranzit.ro/Cluj you collected printed matters that have the expression ’the chosen ones’ in their title. Can you tell us more about the beginning of the project?
VB & CsH: We used to work on liberagility (the obstacle race track for liberals) so we visited nationalist bookshops and shops selling religious paraphernalia, and we stumbled upon this book called the Kiválasztottak (The Chosen Ones) that has both totally appropriated and positively affirmed this concept. We had a sudden idea: we should try to find out about all the other communities harboring such ideas… so that is how we came to have this idea for the fiery chariot library.
KL: Why did you choose this topic, why the chosen ones? You said you just stumbled upon it somehow.
VB & CsH: Indeed. But we soon realized it is much more relevant nowadays than what we would think at first. As we started researching the topic, we soon had a rough idea of subcultures and disciplines privileging this concept. It refers to transcendence, to religious heritage. It implies some kind of transcendent power or some teleology behind the process of choosing the chosen ones, and we would like to find out about its working mechanisms. What do such ideologies do, who are the choosers? Who writes such books, for whom? The main topics are not hard to guess: zionism, prophets, Jesus, antisemitism, sci-fi, politics, sports, esoteric topics, evolution, and so on. Current trends are noticeable as well, such as the prominence of the socially engaged adolescent fantasy literature genre like The Hunger Games.
The books themselves are rather interesting. One of the books deals with epilepsy, the “holy disease”, through examples from literature, in an other book the chosen ones are the presidents of the farming cooperative, in an other one they are the fetuses escaping abortion…
KL: How did you start to collaborate with Attila and tranzit.ro/Cluj?
VB & CsH: We met Attila through a common friend, Miklos Erhardt, and we had the idea of this collaboration with tranzit.ro., making this library.
KL: How did you select the books? Did the place of the presentation influence you in creating the selection?
VB & CsH: Our concept was taking only books for the library that have the words ‘The Chosen Ones’ or ‘The Chosen One’ in their titles. We tried sourcing books in as many languages as possible, but of course the easiest was getting books in either English or German. The rest was a bit harder, both for the linguistic and the logistic obstacles, such as not every country having a well-established online book market, but at least we have tried getting a book from every country in Europe.
The aim was to present as many ‘Chosen Ones’ as possible, so together they de-legitimize each other’s exclusiveness and absolutism. The project being presented in Cluj has made it possible for us to get more Romanian books, but so far this has been the main influence of the site.
KL: The publications of the library were on display for three days in different public spaces in the city of Cluj. What was the reaction of the passers-by, what kind of feedback did you get?
VB & CsH: It is important to state that despite the carriage stacked full of books has functioning wheels, and it does look like the book sellers stalls on the street, we did not mean to present a public art project. Despite being interested in the reactions, and taking an object on wheels out to the street is pretty self-explanatory, we do not think that public space should be the main context for this library. Especially not in such freezing cold as the weather was in December in Cluj. Despite such circumstances, we had quite a few reactions from passers-by. Some people instantly understood it, some had misgivings about whom we chose to place on the carriage, some wanted to donate books (donations are of course welcome, if you happen to have such books, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)
KL: The Library is part of the ’Fiction, Rhetoric and Facts’ program of tranzit.ro that is supporting cultural and artistic projects dealing with the issue of Romanian society. In frame of this program what is in your [tranzit.ro] focus in Cluj?
Attila Tordai: The ’Fiction, Rhetoric and Facts’ program has started in 2012 and was initiated to uncover or to approach different reality constructions we face in Romania. After 1989, the country, but of course the whole region of former communist states of East Europe experienced a strong and fast political transformation process which besides turning everything upside down in people’s life, made visible not only the constructed character of realities that suddenly appeared, but also the constructed character of any kind of new or old truth-discourse. What is interesting is that once a fiction became fact, people started to relate to it, believe in it or even die or kill for it, so it is not an innocent issue. Artificial constructions as the nation, the state, or capitalist determination, became strong facts, which occupy people’s imagination and have an important place in shaping our daily environment.
The Library of Chosen Ones can be inscribed very well in this program since the “special”, the “chosen” is based on same idea and process. We all know that basically the humans are same, no one is much more different than the other, so it is very sad to see that we need to create “chosen” individuals; or to create inequalities and hierarchies to be able to organize our societies. The project proposed by PR group helps to understand many aspects of the society, and point out to the fictional character of ideologies and myths in a very ludic manner.
KL: As you defined in your concept the Library ’reveals the self-contradictory nature of groups that imagine themselves as chosen ones and questions the assumption of a transcendental power that shapes history, identity and attitude towards the so called others’. This conclusion comes from the research you made on printed matters. Do you think you would have a different result with investigating the chosen ones of another medium?
I am referring here to the last collateral event of the project where the topic was discussed not just through stories and historical anecdotes, but also with presenting the „chosen ones” of sci-fi movies. Are the chosen ones who choose their position or are they chosen by the ’others’?
VB & CsH: For sure there would have been some differences, and surely we would have had more sci-fi, for example, if we had chosen to collect films.
So who chooses the chosen ones? Always someone else. Or at least faith.
KL: The Library was closed in February. Are you planning to continue it? How do you imagine the afterlife of the project?
VB & CsH: We would like the library to travel, so we needed a mobile carrier for it from the beginning. It is important to reach further than just one community. First of all, we would like to take it to Budapest, as both of us live here.
The article was originally published on 29th of March, 2016 on ArtGuideEast.