This paper traces the complex relations of György Lukács to visual art and aesthetics, from his early writings through his engagement with artistic politics in the post-World War II ‘people’s democracy’ transitional period and during the Stalinist dictatorship. In one sense, Lukács seems obsolete for contemporary art and aesthetics, as a philosopher and critic with an out-of-fashion aesthetic theory, justifying a canon of works opposed even to the mainstream of the 20th century modernism, and deployed in the service of a cultural politics of Soviet and Eastern Bloc socialism now seen as historically superseded and discredited. In another sense, Lukács’s non-contemporaneity may been seen through the dispersed reception of his work, particularly across the Cold War East–West divide, in which different moments of Lukács’s oeuvre were picked up and developed in divergent ways. Given these multiple contexts of reception, the author and thinker ‘György Lukács’ could never be wholly contemporary with himself, but always signified a variable complex of his current writing as well as the afterlife of earlier phases of his work. Lastly, there is an additional sense of ‘non-contemporaneity’ that is associated especially with Lukács’s one-time friend and ally Ernst Bloch, for whom being non-identical with one’s time implied a reserve of potentiality not yet realized, but latent within the inheritance of culture. With reference to László Lakner’s works based on Lukács’s books, I conclude with the possibility that the ‘non-contemporaneity’ of Lukács may yet have something to offer contemporary art and aesthetics.
Summary Lukács' erbitterter Kampf gegen die - vermeintlich - vom Zerfall der bürgerlichen Welt zeugenden Avantgarde ging einher mit dem Ausbau einer für realistisch gehaltenenen Vision einer - den Formen Sicherheit gewährenden - harmonischen Weltordnung. In der zweiten Hälfte der fünfziger Jahre dürfte sich aber bei Lukács das innere Bedürfnis verstärkt haben, mit dem Stalinismus abzurechnen, was auch weitgehende Konsequenzen auf sein literaturtheoretisches und -kritisches Wirken hatte, und letztendlich zur Auflösung seiner Theorie vom &großen Realismus“ führte. Er kam zur Einsicht, dass ein derartig zerspaltenes Weltbild nur noch aus einem radikal umgedrehten Winkel betrachtet werden konnte. Konfrontiert mit dem Weltbild Solschenizyns baute Lukács die geschlossene poetische Konstruktion des &großen Realismus“ als formales Gebilde um, integrierte die früher beargwöhnte Avantgarde in sein System; hielt jedoch weiter ungebrochen (und naiverweise) an einer humanistisch ausgerichteten Geschichtsphilosophie fest.
The archive has been one of the most popular topics in the humanities of the past few decades. The archive as such has not only influenced historical, art historical, cultural anthropological research, but it has also become a corner stone for philosophical and art theoretical thinking. In Derrida's conception, there are two forces at work in an archive: one is that of conserving, the other is destructive, the latter phrased as “the archive fever” (mal d'archive) which works against conservation, wishing to destroy (to suppress). A good example of this two-way force may be the so-called “Heidelberg suitcase” which, after Lukács's death, turned out to have been deposited in a Swiss bank safe. It contained the philosopher's early writings, sketches, diary and correspondence. In Lukács's oeuvre biographical and autobiographical elements are mixed, life is replaced by “lived thinking”.
The Lukács Archives is located in the philosopher's last apartment in Budapest, it is both a memorial and a research place. Contemporary artists' Interventions in May 2010, in memory of the 125th anniversary of the philosopher's birth, partly explored the law-creating power (arche) of the archive and partly the hidden sides of Lukács's life and work. Lukács had been an inspiring source for contemporary art. László Lakner's book objects and hyper-realistic book pictures (1970) tried to explore the relationship between philosophy and art in general and presented, at the same time, Lakner's (critical) attitude to the philosophical sources. Lukács also appeared in a different role, in film, approximately at around the same time: in the legendary, censored and banned film by Dezső Magyar entitled Agitators (1969). The script was the adaptation of Ervin Sinkó's documentary novel, Optimists by Dezső Magyar and Gábor Bódy. Writing the history of the Hungarian Republic of Councils of 1919, they used several personal recollections, including those of Lukács' and Sinkó's. The directors of the film approached the events of the Republic from the viewpoint of the so-called “ideological group”, action was often replaced by speech in the film, and they used archive film footages, uniting Eisenstein's “intellectual montage” and Jean-Luc Godard's propaganda language. Also, György Kemény painted a secco in a room of Ferenc Kőszeg's apartment in 1972, at a time when the renaissance of Marxism and the rejection of “existing socialism” did not yet involve total disappointment from Marxism. The iconography of the mural was worked out by the then-tenants of the room, philosophers György Bence and János Kenedi. The secco represented not only Lukács himself but also Angela Davis, as well as Leo Trotsky. Photographer Gabriella Csoszó and curator Lívia Páldi have been working on an accurate photo-documentation of the Lukács Archives since 2008. Some of these photos under the title Shelves were on view at the Budapest Kunsthalle's exhibition Other voices, other rooms – reconstruction attempt(s), fifty years of the Balázs Béla Studio.Interventions was conceived and organized by artist Tamás Soós who, like Lakner, was inspired to study Lukács by his childhood and youth memories. Soós' approach to the archives and also to Lukács is esoteric: the figure of the philosopher can only exist in allusions (consequently, his attitude to him is uncritical), through his books and the narration of his most important student and follower. The figure of Lukács has been faded by time: even to talk about him is already history, he himself belongs to the archive, simple past has turned to past perfect. Soós is preoccupied by the melancholy of this transiency against which one may fight with dreams, remembrance, meditation.
In János Sugár's intervention, the archive appeared as the place of preservation and law. Sugár did not wish to evaluate Lukács' oeuvre: in his interpretation it is the archive itself that is to be preserved. Sugár focused on the actual state of the Lukács Archives, its functioning at the mercy of economic and political decisions. The central element of his intervention is the gesture of conservation. He sprayed onto the wall, under a picture of the study room, one of his earlier graffiti works (Arbeite gratis oder verrichte eine Arbeit die du auch gratis machen würdest [Work for free or do a work that you would do for free]) so that, in case of an evacuation of the archive it is revealed as a warning, a deterrent for the liquidators.
Miklós Erhardt's intervention presents the philosopher as an active political actor, “Realpolitiker” whose activity in this capacity also raises ethical questions. Addressing those who were present, he revived a historical event of 1919 (as the political commissar of the Red Army, Lukács ordered seven people to be shot dead), a fact that is to be faced up to here and now. The covering of a crushed memorial plaque was his reflection upon the inclusion of a historically and politically laden monument in the archive as a piece of furniture, i.e. meaningless surface.
Balázs Beöthy addressed Lukács' the Soul and Forms, and installed his research findings in the memorial room of the archives on Lukács desk. Beöthy was interested to pinpoint the biographical-philosophical moment that made the young Lukács choose between personal life and work. Of all Intervention participants, it was Beöthy alone who studied the documents in the archives instead of just trying to capture the “spiritus loci” or the figure of the archive-founder philosopher in general. Next to photo copies of Lukács's private letters (first of all Irma Seidler's letters) Beöthy put a video piece (Hancsi) narrating a love story from his own life that had some similarities with that of Lukács'. Beöthy does not only question Lukács's choice: the video is a testimony that the question itself – life or work? – is fundamentally wrong. Life is the source and model of the work – as the dedication of Soul and Forms also supports.
It was Lukács “alive” (impersonated) who was the protagonist of the intervention of Little Warsaw (András Gálik and Bálint Havas). Their attempt to present the real person in his original setting can be seen both as a minimalist performance and as a hyperrealist statue. By giving shape to a quasi mythical figure, Little Warsaw also put their finger on one of the sorest points of Lukács' esthetic thinking. Their intervention confronted Lukács' realism concept with the everyday realities of contemporary art. By conjuring up the figure of Lukács in this environment, the dusty backdrop of the archive, they did not only ask how it was possible to preserve anyone's memory, but also pondered how to face the historical-esthetic and political legacy and its contradictions of the most prominent and influential Hungarian philosopher of the 20th century.
The present paper is the second part of two connected essays (following One night at the Lukács Archives: György Lukács and contemporary art, Művészettörténeti Értesítő 61. 2012/1. 1–31). Both attempted to present a special point, Lukács' antipathy to modern, avant-garde art that is obviously there in his work ever since its beginning. Even though Lukács carried the flag for 19th century classical realist art, his writings influenced the art discourse, he influenced thinking in the 20th century, and his ideas were important for contemporary artists, even if in the form of rejecting them. The Archive Fever was working in these Interventions as well, and the same fever may help to demolish the wall between Lukács and contemporary art.
On the occasion of the 125th anniversary of György Lukács's birth, the Georg Lukács Archives affiliated with the Institute for Philosophical Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences held a one-night show, Interventions, that was conceived and organized by artist Tamás Soós who invited Balázs Beöthy, Miklós Erhardt, the artist duo Little Warsaw and János Sugár to contribute to the event.
There is a considerable difference between Lukács's reception in Hungary and abroad (mainly in the Western world). In his native country Lukács has sunk into near oblivion, while elsewhere – also on the occasion of the jubilee – several conferences and publications support the reinterpretation of Lukács's legacy parallel with the renaissance of the Western new left. Gail Day's recent essay looks into Lukács's legacy in fine arts. She argues that Lukács's concept of realism is probably best represented by Allan Sekula's art whose “critical realism” is indeed connected to Lukács's late concept of art in many respects. She also introduces the notion of “militant citoyen” in her analysis of the Lukácsean legacy of engaged artists depicting social issues in an agitating manner (e.g. the Radek community or the chto Delat? group). The Hungarian reception of Lukács is far more ambivalent because of historical and political reasons. His impact on contemporary Hungarian art was not exclusively philosophical, his function as an ideologist and his relentless hostility to the avant-garde had occasionally more direct effects on the art production of his time. His antipathy to the avant-garde is not only visible after the communist turn of 1918 and the parallel “Weimarisation”: for Lukács modern art was essentially anti-art already in 1907 because it was not culture but fashion that determined its face – he claimed. Although he stood up for the new progressive art of the Eight group, in his writing The Ways Have Parted (1910) he still insisted on the conventional relationship between artist and public. For him, the warranty of “new constructivism” was an art emanating harmony, peace and tranquility, and in this respect he is closer to Kant and Hegel than to the avant-garde that he defended in the essay. His ideas on art were deeply influenced by his friend Leó Popper after whose untimely death Lukács lost contact with contemporary art. He was less interested in art and was tempted more and more to use painting only as a pretext to explicate his ideologies.
In 1918 Lukács joined the Hungarian Party of communists. During the Republic of councils as a deputy leader of the commissariat of Public Education he was in charge of the art directories led by progressive artists of the period. Although he defended Lajos Kassák and the periodical MA he edited against Béla Kun and his comrades' attacks, but his harsh criticism published during the artist and his circle's emigration in Vienna, determined the reception of Kassák for many decades. During his emigration in Moscow, Lukács made attempts to elaborate a system of Marxist esthetics with Mikhail Lifshitz and he got into debates with Ernst Bloch, Bertolt Brecht and others, whether German expressionism should wholly or at least partly be considered as part of cultural heritage. He connected expressionism politically to social democracy and ideologically to fascism (and its precedents). In terms of form, he prescribed classical legacy, rejecting the formal realm both of the avant-garde which he saw as decay and chaos, and the dry naturalism of Stalinist esthetics. With an unexpected turn, Lukács shifted the topic of the polemic from expressionism to realism. During the decades-long debates he was arguing with philosophers like Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, who rejected the dogmatic character of Lukács's esthetic and political views.
After World War II, Lukács moved back to Hungary. Though he was not directly involved in politics and held no state or party position, the communist leadership entrusted him with an important task as they needed internationally acknowledged prestigious experts who could help spreading Marxist ideology among the intellectuals. He was not the official ideologist of the party but his critical writings of this period still greatly influenced cultural trends of the next decades. In his Hungarian theories of abstract art (1947) Lukács applied his theses of the expressionism debate to the book of Béla Hamvas and Katalin Kemény, as well as Ernő Kállai. Lukács argues that abstraction “opposes to the centuries-old practice of European art” and hence it is not a “normal” shift of style. The Hamvas–Kemény book as well as Ernő Kállai's The Hidden Face of Nature were the most important theoretical writings of abstract and surrealist artists after World War II. Hamvas's book Revolution in Art, co-authored with Katalin Kemény, followed the unfolding of Hungarian art from Károly Ferenczy to the European School. Lukács's article therefore contributed not only to the silencing of Hamvas but eventually also actively contributed to creating a hostile and unbearable situation for the European School and the Group of Abstract Artists. “Silenced into a legend”, Hamvas became an important point of reference for the so-called Zugló circle and the young Hungarian avant-garde artists.
Lukács passed down his inexorable anti-avant-garde views to his disciples, too, who could only discover the art of their age moving away from the aged master. However, only few of them had actual contact with neo-avant-garde artists. At the end of the sixties, with the contradictions of his life and work, Lukács was the defender of the (conservative) middle-class culture versus socialist realism and at the same time the main ideologist of socialist realism; with his revolutionary and hereditary interpretation of Marx, he paved the way for democracy while at the same time he was a doctrinaire communist; he was a philosopher of international reputation and a has-been scholar, the apologist of “mandarin culture”, the minion and persecutee of the system. Nevertheless, Lukács was present in the mentality of avant-garde art because despite his ideological dogmatism he represented a bourgeois esthetic culture (often downright in opposition to the regime) which had a kind of ethos compared to the bureaucratic indolence of power.
A theorem of Ferenc Lukács determines the jumps of a periodic Lebesgue integrable function f at each point of discontinuity of the first kind in terms of the partial sums of the conjugate Fourier series of f. The aim of this note is to prove analogous theorems for functions and series, introduced by Taberski (, ).
The intellectual-emotional community or even symbiosis of the friends György Lukács and Leó Popper was fuelled by irresolvable antagonisms as well. Popper's concept of form, “form as event” inevitably withstands any attempt at historicizing or theorizing. Popper's was a deeply anti-theory aesthetic attitude, which reveals a lot about the ethos of the psychology of creation, but the first and foremost tenet of this morality is “the will of form will be done”. The will of form and not the will of the thinker, however close one may come to the morality of Lukács's demand for the detachment of the personality. The contradistinction between life and work becomes the antagonistic opposition between “work as life” and thinking. This opposition is timeless, supra-historical. Popper's principal intellectual legacy is not the idea of double misunderstanding, even if Lukács promotes him to be a forerunner of the aesthetics of reception and “an anticipator of modern hermeneutics”. A very talented person needn't even be present when he creates – this was Popper's opinion.
Stuttgarter Zeitung, January 9, 2004.
Endre Kiss: "Lukács versus Nietzsche, or The Most Significant Stalinist Trial Against Philosophy," in East Europe Reads Nietzsche, edited by Alice Freifeld, Peter Bergmann, and Bernice Glatzer
This paper is a reassessment of Béla Bartók's The Wooden Prince, in light of the attitudes and beliefs of Bartók's contemporaries, in particular György Lukács, and the Ballet's librettist, Béla Balázs. Particular emphasis is given to Lukács's relationship with Irma Seidler and Balázs through examination of Lukács's essay, “Søren Kierkegaard and Regine Olsen” — a source overlooked in previous studies of this work. After analysing the views of Bartók's milieu regarding love and relationships, I conclude that the ballet's message is much more pessimistic than previously thought. This study places The Wooden Prince, which has been compared unfavourably with Bartók's other two stage works, alongside Duke Bluebeard's Castle as its companion in both musical and intellectual depth, and confirms Kodály's view that the ballet is the Allegro which balances the “desolate Adagio of the opera.”