Tamás Szentjoby, or St.Auby (he often changes his name in protest against the official art system), is a prominent conceptual artists in Hungary. He originally made the film Kentaur (Centaur) between 1973-75, but it was banned before the final version was completed. In 2009, a found copy was restored and digitized for the Istanbul Biennial. As you can imagine, I was thrilled to have the rare opportunity to watch a copy with English subtitles at the Ludwig Museum the other day.
Kentaur consists of about 40 minutes of found footage from the Socialist era showing citizens going about their daily lives. Without context, it is unclear why these 12 fragments of factory workers or men in coffee shops were filmed, but it certainly doesn’t make sense with Szentjoby’s voice-overs. Szentjoby wrote dialogues dealing with themes of work and money and power, co-opting the language and concerns of Socialist propaganda and turning it on its head.
“-Don’t you think that whatever exists, is an incitement? That the tradition of efficacy nowadays is none other than the efficacy of tradition? But, we’re theoretically done with that.
-Maybe there’s some point in my saying it.
-You’re saying very little.
-Still, I hope it has an effect.
-So it’s all about efficacy.
-Doesn’t speech have an effect?
-Only if you’re saying forbidden thing. That’s how it liberates the unknown within us, and unleashes on us the unknown that lies inside. Alright now, Margit, I’m getting off now.”
Phrases ranging from the philosophical to the blunt become ridiculous, and are at odds with visual scene. In addition to being provocative, it can be quite funny. It is obvious why it was banned. Today, I find the film interesting as a reaction to the Socialist government of the time, naturally, but perhaps also the underlying questioning of unending, mechanized work and its effect on the human spirit is still relevant.