Krisztina Erdei

  • Hungary (b. 1978 in Szeged)
  • Currently in Budapest, Hungary.
  • Photographer presently working on her doctoral studies at Moholy-Nagy Univetsity of Art and Design. Krisztina Erdei graduated from the School of Philosophy and the School of Political Studies.
Moving Box

Moving Box

  • 2019
  • Photographs, interviews, boxes,

  • The portraits were taken after the demolishing of the Dzsumbuj, mostly on the empty, still destitute grounds that were left behind.

  • Img 3033s
  •  mg 9152
  •  mg 9177
  • Dscf0678
  •  mg 8322
  • Img 2459
  • The Birth of Venusz - thumbnail Grinder - thumbnail Moving Box - thumbnail

    3 / 3

    The Birth of Venus and Other Stories | 2018 - 2019

A city is always a mosaic of sharply distinctive “social worlds,” or unique cultures, as Louis Wirth found upon organizing the urban sociology knowledge accumulated by the end of the 1930s. That is, one can only claim to know his or her own city if he or she is familiar with as many neighborhoods representing the various social worlds as possible. The history of the building complex standing on the corner of Illatos Street and Gubacsi Street, consisting of about 500 flats, goes all the way back to the housing market anomalies generated by World War I, but it actually started in 1937 and lasted until 2015, so it encompasses almost 100 years. The premises became known as the Dzsumbuj [the projects, or lit. the mess] already a few years after the construction was finished. All the similar housing projects used to be called like this, but somehow the Illatos Street building complex monopolized the name. In 2005, Kinga Göncz, the minister of youth, family, social affairs and equal opportunities, Imre Ikvai-Szabó, the deputy mayor of Budapest, and Ferenc Gegesy, the mayor of the 9th district, signed a declaration of intent regarding the settlement of the Dzsumbuj’s situation. By this time, it was imperative to find some kind of a solution. The goal of the program they signed was to facilitate the social integration of the disadvantaged families living here and to reduce the stigmatization of the residents. According a contemporary report, “the Dzsumbuj, as a unique subculture, concentrates, preserves, and reproduces destitution.” The media continuously reported on the protracted liquidation that took almost ten years. Based on the news, these last years were about the war between the squatters, the security personnel, the human rights activists, the employees of the local government, as well as the politicians, and the social workers. The Illatos Street 5/A building was demolished in 2009, the 5/B building in 2013, and the 5/C building in 2014. In order to refine the image suggested by the media, we carried out a joint research under the aegis of the A város peremén (On the Outskirts of the City) project with a small group of sociologists, anthropologists, and artists. The project aimed at contributing to the attenuation of the problems resulting from poverty and social inequality, with the help of interviews, photographs, and videos. The numerous personal stories have altered the homogenized image of the residents available until now, giving new accents to the earlier media narrative emphasizing deviation and poverty. The research of personal memories is not only important for resolving traumas, or for exploring the responsibility of the past in the evolution of today’s value system. It can also be an asset to a learning process that could aid future decisions. Thanks to receiving the Budapest Photography Grant, I could start working on exploring the situation of the residents who had moved out, and the environment in which they try to get by. In the images, we can see the different employment and health-related problems intertwined with various Budapest locations. At the same time, in the midst of the possibilities provided by the urban environment, I search for an answer to the challenges of the present based on the memories and experiences of individuals. For me, the project is about layers of social responsibility, about a process which facilitates the communication of people living in the same city, while it also approaches the solution to the problem, the approximation of the different interests via the toolset of arts, leaving the project open and maintaining a continuous reflective attitude. This exhibition investigates the current situation of the former residents of the building complex that used to stand on the corner of Illatos Street and Gubacsi Street, from the days of moving out until today. It explores the ordinary, everyday life of a community already extinct. Moving Box The portraits were taken after the demolishing of the Dzsumbuj, mostly on the empty, still destitute grounds that were left behind. The scenes resemble the stories told by the former residents. They recalled their past in life interviews taken a few years after they moved out, focusing especially on the years spent in the buildings on the corner of Illatos and Gubacsi streets. This is an interview format that probably least controls the direction of the conversation, allowing for freely expressing one's recollections. In the interview excerpts, the former Dzsumbuj-residents talk about the circumstances of the moving out and the first steps of restarting their lives. The Birth of Venus I met Venus during the A város peremén (On the Outskirts of the City) research project. In the past one year, several things happened to her that are difficult for me to process. Over the course of a few months, she lost her mother, and then her patron and her brother. She received a judicial order about her forced eviction from her new accommodation where she had moved after the Dzsumbuj. She tried she steadily looked for a job to escape financial insecurity. I helped Venus find the addresses for the job interviews with Google Maps, sending her the routes to each one. After almost a year, I realized that I had sent her almost fifty locations for auditions and job trials. There were places where she would show up only for the interview, and other places where she worked a few days or weeks. It is very complicated and rather intangible why she always needs to find a new place, why she needs to be born again and again. This is when I decided that I would visit all these diverse Budapest locations connected with Venus’s search for a job, for getting an opportunity to fit in, with a seashell inspired by Botticelli, under the aegis of the Budapest Photography Grant. The seashell was made out of old newspapers, pasteboard, resembling the A város Peremén (On the Outskirts of the City) project, which intended to refine the – mainly media-suggested – image of the Dzsumbuj. The series flashes images of the burdensome one year of Venus’s life, and the locations of her search for a job, parallel to each other. “Never give up!” This was the message Venus herself saw in this project when I told her about it. And what I saw behind the story was the effort, which somehow always gets derailed due to the external expectations requiring a continuance. We were planning to prepare the photographs of the locations and the related documentary videos together, possibly as the basis for a music video of a future song of hers. After all, Venus only showed up on one occasion of the many, so the photographs you can see here present the scenes of a music video created for a silent song that was never recorded. Grinder In 2011, a family with 9 children received an alternative accommodation not far away, on Soroksári Road. During the renovation carried out by the municipal government, a grinder toilet was installed in the studio flat. Because of the electric toilet and the electrically powered heating, the family piled up such a huge debt that electricity was turned off in the flat, and the people living there had to use candles for lighting in the evening hours until they received a prepaid electricity meter. “And paper and gave a go for then, just when I signed the proceeding with the renovation, we realized that everything works with electricity. The toilet... the toilet works with electricity. They installed a grinder toilet for 11 people. Which is like, if we take three uses per day, it would be like 33 flushing, driving the electric meter 33 times a day, which is a lot. And the heating also works with three electric heaters. (background noise) And then the electric boiler. Bummer. So we couldn’t pay the electricity bill. (little girl: “Mom...”) For four years, there was no electricity here. For four years! Because I couldn’t pay a monthly 60,000 HUF electric bill. So we lived without electricity for four years, using candles… (little girl coughing in the background) using candles.” (excerpt from the interview)