Hit Me One More Time

Born between the two world wars to a couple of shopkeepers, my grandfather grew up in an era strongly marked by nationalism. Hungary was in shock from the First World War, from which it emerged on the losing side and having lost two-thirds of its territory. The young Imre Miklos Galbats fled his native land upon the arrival of the Russian army at the end of 1944.
Having spent three years in various repatriation camps in Germany - still under Allied control - my grandfather, a stateless refugee, met a young French woman, my grandmother, near Metz in Lorraine. Having decided to go to Morocco, she left France in 1949 to work in Casablanca, where Miklos joined her the following year. After their divorce, some years later, Miklos remarried and lived until 1969 in Morocco, before moving to Provence, near Avignon, where he would spend the rest of his life.
I never knew Miklos Imre Galbats, but his absence sufficiently nourished my childhood imagination to eventually become the starting point for and the driving force behind the work presented in this exhibition. Reflecting on my origins enabled me to discover an entire country, the homeland that my expatriate grandfather probably regretted his whole life long, the country that taught him the meaning of words like saudade and Heimat. On his passport delivered by the Third Reich, he had scribbled the Hungarian national anthem in pencil.
Still today, almost seventy-five years after the end of the Second World War, millions of people, from Afghanistan, the Near-East, or Africa, are fleeing incessant wars. Hungary, as a frontline country of the Schengen zone on the refugee trail to Western Europe, responded to this migratory flow by closing the famous Balkans route with a new "iron" curtain along the Serbo-Hungarian border.
Having grown up and lived at the heart of an open Europe, where borders have practically vanished, we tend to forget that this Europe also has its limits. The anti-migrant barrier in the south of Hungary is the physical embodiment of those limits and as such it radically changed my viewpoint in the development of this work. This new wall contradicts the self-image Europe would give itself as supreme defender of human rights. The decision makers in Brussels were unable to prevent the construction of this barrier and others like it. The resulting dilemma epitomizes the situation in which European finds itself politically. Founded on noble principles like peace, justice, openness and free exchange between its various member states, the Union can no longer hide the cracks in its ideal visage.
Demagogues, like the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, are venturing into dangerous terrain when they legitimize their decisions on the pretext of our Christian culture, our civilisation and hence our Europe. Such claims force our thinking to be Manichean, either black or white. They portray a world in which they are not like us and in which they consequently do not have a place.
My investigation took me all over Hungary, against a backdrop of European history and a Europe increasingly disunited.