Dóra Benyó (HU/NL/BE)

Tények Means Facts (2019)

11-OD-4884 (2020)

Searching for My Grandfather (2020)

Nagytakaritás (Big Clean Up) (2021)

Recently I visited my grandmother in Budapest together with my mother and sister. During dinner, I asked her, ‘Grandma, how come there was never a strike to change the working conditions of the factory when you worked?’ My mother interrupted me intensely, ‘Dóra! You cannot imagine what it was like back then! Before hundreds of people are on strike, you need a number of people who get the idea started. But at that time, you were being constantly watched and risked to be arrested. You grew up so freely that you can’t imagine what it is like not being able to say what you want.’ Then I kept my mouth shut.”

In 2019 Benyó requested insight into the official documents from the Hungarian Archive of State Security Service on her grandfather, who used to be part of the democratic opposition before the regime change. After nine months of waiting, she received the documents counting 255 pages.

The video Tények Means Facts (2020, 7:36 min) narrates the predicament with the Hungarian Archive State Security Service when Dóra tries to get insight into the secret documents on her grandfather, made before the regime change. The film is shot in the style of the Hungarian propaganda news channel Tények (“facts” in Hungarian). Dóra copied the camera movement and the way the news channel presents their subjects. Three generations are shown with interviews: Dóra’s grandmother, who cannot speak due to her aphasia sickness, her father and Dóra herself. By counter-exposing personal and political stories she investigates the ways in which we transfer information and the defects in communication systems.

In the performance 11-OD-4884 (2020, 20:00 min) Dóra brings her audience back to a summer night in Budapest in 1980. The text that she performs is an old report from the Hungarian Archive State Security Service describing a lecture night that an undercover agent attended. By reading his notes out loud, she shows how the secret service described illegal events at the time. The title 11-OD-4884 is the file number of the report. This performance was first realized on the occasion of paysages habites / une exposition balade, Wandering Arts Bienale. A project by Dounia Mojahid.

In the series of paintings Searching for My Grandfather (2020-ongoing) Benyó uses an unconventional method. Copying archival photos in a style that reminds of impressionism, she brings scenes from a resistance movement into the present time and space. However, she doesn’t prepare the canvasses like it’s usually done. When she displays these scenes she shows only their back side, where the paint is partially visible, as it has permeated the support. In this way, a pictorial manipulation resonates with the particularities of the way historical events are transmitted, the selectiveness of our memories, and the scripts of collective consciousness.

For the video Nagytakaritas (Big Clean Up) (2022, 12:53 min), Dóra Benyó went back to her country of origin to demonstrate the historical urban landscape of her grandparents. During the Soviet regime between 1947-1988, thousands of public statues were erected, glorifying the communist ideal and its representatives. They didn’t only colour the streets of the city, but were also part of people’s everyday life. Memento Park is a statue park located in the 22nd district of Budapest. It shows a large amount of statues that used to fulfil the requirements of the socialist political ideology. After the fall of the Iron Curtain the fate of these public memorials were questioned. Many have been removed. What are the transformations that we can (not) see?

Dóra Benyó (1989, Budapest, Hungary) lives and works between The Hague (NL), Brussels (BE) and Budapest (HU). Through video, performance and painting, Benyó uses her own genealogy to speak of censorship and authority in Hungary during the Soviet era. From a personal quest for belonging, she searches for traces left by dictatorship on her family, using the position of the eternal newcomer, existing between two worlds.