Saturday, September 3, 2011

Roza El-Hassan´s "Exclamation Mark" sculpture protests plight of Roma

"Exclamation Mark" by Roza El-Hassan at Art on Lake Photograph by Stefan van Drake (2011)
“I´m still puzzled why the struggle for moral good and peace had to be attended by visual boredom. Can art and aesthetics be tools of agitation, even if propaganda for peace?" –Roza El-Hassan.

Art activist and conceptual sculptor Roza El-Hassan breaks visual boredom with her water-moored “Exclamation Mark” a Roma-made, wicker sculpture at Art on Lake in Budapest.

Launched by the Museum of Fine Arts Budapest, Art on Lake, which opened 22 May, closes 4 September—a collection of 25 European Union conceptual artists´ contemporary works on water.

Her father Syrian, her mother Hungarian, El-Hassan bridges at least two cultural worlds. 

You could say she´s an Arab-Hungarian, born in Hungary, living in Budapest and an internationally known art activist and contemporary artist.

“In the shadow of the Millennium monument, the Exclamation Mark is erected to speak for the traditions of handicrafts, for abstract thought and equally, for attractive and graceful patterns,” wrote co-curator Peter Fitz in the show´s catalogue.

Roza El-Hassan

But earlier Art on Lake literature cuts much closer to the pathos and ethos of El-Hassan. 

It describes the artist´s working concept of art as community, interacting with the artisans who create the Roma-woven art objects El-Hassan designs, including "Exclamation Mark."

But nowhere in Art on Lake´s literature is there even a hint that what El-Hassan´s work may really conceptualize: “Hey, wake up, we´re good, honest people and we´re smart and can, if given opportunities, be hard working people. We are family.” (Mine.)

Earlier Art on Lake literature, however, recognized the “participation" of Roma in Szendrolad, Hungary, who actually created the work´s components.

They are: Matali Crasset, Jozsef Zalavari, Zoltan Kis, Erzsebet Nyitrai, Imre Kalo, Nandor Kalo, Horvat Peterne Bori, Zoltan Racz, Robert Racz, Aliz Gore, Kitti Racz, Racz Zoltanne, David Racz, Zsolt Racz, Andrea, Kezmuves, Gyongyi Racz, Racz Zoltanne Gyongyi, Davidne Racz, Mark Racz, Andrea Kesseru, Rami Al Dihni and Orsolya Arvay.

On her official website, El-Hassan asks: “Can the aesthetic of protest and resistance be studied without letting the aesthetic approach distance us emotionally from the cause represented?”

El-Hassan, also a performance and video artist, in 2001 performed, “Your ¨Victims, My Victims, “a memorial for Holocaust and other war victims."

While living in Budapest recently, I saw two burly policemen, and they are big and can be brutal, nearly frisking a black-clad gypsy at Oktogon´s tram stop in central Budapest, basically hassling the man, checking his ID.

The man walked past me in disgust, almost swearing to himself, as though this were not the first time.

The plight of the Roma in Europe has been well publicized.

But this interaction with a very peaceful Roma community (90 percent Roma with three distinct “settlements”) is more than social protest.

It is also an exercise in applied concept art that benefits everyone, or so it seems.

Rock on and practice peace and love.
Stefan, the ArtTraveler ™

ArtTraveler notes:

After living at the Hotel Queen Mary in Budapest (3.5 stars), I heartily recommend it: old on the outside, otherwise totally modern (23 rooms); 

The owner and staff are affable and speak English and German. Tel: 0036-1-413-3510;;

Visit Andalusia for a walking holiday or week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop. 

"Spanish Life Stilled," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2009)

You may reach me at or by calling (34) 915 067 703 or from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Stefan, I would like to connect, my email address:

    I am a Hungarian artist and president of the HMC. Roza is a great artist and glad that you have wrote about her and her art.