György Pálos

Motion Pictures on the Wall

A long time ago, maybe yesterday, there was a prematurely bearded young man (as one would gather based on his appearance) who projected homemade animations onto a screen that was hung on the wall of a darkened secondary school classroom in Budapest. For this he used an obsolete - or quite to the contrary, nowadays, once again trendy - technical device (a Super 8 projector). With live piano-accompaniment. By way of explanation, contemporary sources pointed to the many hours of childhood spent in front of the television. Of Yugoslavia. With its multitude of cartoon films. Donald Duck and friends. Winter nights in Eastern Europe are rather long. Especially in a village. Where ballpoint pens are referred to as "permanent writers."

The young man observed the educational process with considerable reservations, as they say. According to some, he did not spend a single minute studying. Others confirm this. However, if a school mate of average diligence and a mild degree of interest visited the abovementioned teenager in his home, he was in for a surprise. His small room was crammed full of papers, pencils, paintbrushes, drawing-papers, cameras, film splicers, self-timers, prospectuses, finished paintings. And books. That is to say the young man was interested in a lot of things. How cameras worked, the mechanics of the cine camera, the light refraction of optics, how to mount the painting canvass onto a frame, the mixing of colours.

The years went by, and those around watched with growing concern the young man's heroic struggles with everyday reality, which sometimes took the shape of chemistry lessons, at other times Russian language lessons (according to eyewitnesses, he learned texts phonetically, without ever having an idea about their meaning), or manifested through the perpetually repeated, distressing question: Son, what will become of you when you grow up? A painter, the young man would have answered, ordering another pint of beer.

As it happens with everything in this world, the intimate, sheltering milieu of secondary school was one day no more, those who died, died, and the young men was not accepted into the painting faculty. Once again, he had to start everything from scratch. So he became an animator assistant in an animation studio. And colourer. And twenty. One day early in the spring, the young man gave a talk - at the place of his former studies - on a Van Gogh painting which depicted a small room with a large bed in the centre, a chair, a table and another chair next to it, a towel hanging from a hook in the wall. The sizeable audience, who had otherwise been developing an attitude of reserve towards all possible manifestations of fine art, sat through the hour without as much as a peep. With the precision of a scientist and the passion of an artist, the young man revealed to his listeners the story of the little room and the way the painter saw the world. Loneliness.

With this a possibility opened up for the young man: he could exist as a misunderstood man of talent, he could live the everyday life - tinged with romanticism - of a self-sabotaging artist. Events, however, took a different turn. The young man wished to educate himself. Further. One day, the exact date is subject to clarification, he became acquitted with the computer. He laid his hands on it, he removed the cover, he tried the keys. He switched it on, he switched it off. Truth be told: it was beautiful. And very high tech. It was called Atari 520. While in Western Europe it was considered a children's toy of the more impressive sort, in Hungary it administered the everyday operation of major companies. Eyewitnesses swear: a fleeting smile flashed across the young man's face. Others refute this.

He spent twelve hours a day in front of the monitor and then he started losing his hair. In those years, computer art was thriving all over the world. The screen was covered with compositions of spatial effects, lines that met in infinity and space games. But the young man longed for something entirely different. Motion picture. Animation? The young man was well aware that paintbrushes and canvases could not be as neatly packed away as the rug awaiting vacuuming. So he did his summing up: Waiter, the check, please! So I had a childhood, a family, school, a teacher or two, a few drinks, friends and girlfriends, etc. And I am here too, in other words, HE himself. And since he had been making pictures earlier anyway, he named his enterprise - just so everyone else would understand too - Pictures. Pictures hung from the walls, pictures that, though it was barely visible, hid other pictures inside them. And those, other pictures still. Until the pictures connected at the edges: past and present were hung on the walls alongside each other. Next to one another, in peace. And others looked at these pictures and recognised themselves on them. Or not. And they saw that it was good.

The young man found a friend and a creative companion, and once again started working. He began to get used to the situation and the device. Finally, he was making motion pictures again. Pseudo-animations. Of sorts. And because he - they - had moved into a new flat, he traversed the new spaces, contemplating: Is there any room for me here? Well, what is there to say, this is how one gets a glimpse at the genesis of a work of art. Or not? Not much later, already married, the young man set one foot outside Hungary with Anna. Fate willed it so. Famous galleries. Success abroad. Fame. Or what's it called?

The young man one day became a father. For real. A child is someone who cries a lot and talks a lot. And runs around in the yard. And discovers the world. From down there. Let's call her Annamari, let's position her in the centre (not so difficult, as that is where her place is, really) and let's see the world through her eyes. In other words, lets break with classical perspective representation. And the young man did. This is how The Garden and the Studies for the Garden came about.

As for the time period that followed, there are conflicting reports. He lead a double life. In other words, he popped up here and there, but chose the vicinity of the Black Forest as his headquarters. He was often seen searching for a way out of The Forest. Or breaking into a run as soon as he reached The Way. If it started raining, he stopped the drops. One day his fate caught up with him: the young man became a teacher. Guten Tag, Herr Professor, Guten Abend, monsieur le Professeur, Tamas San, etc. Then the thought occurred to the young man that he may not be a young man much longer. What matters is that there is a place, a lecture hall, where he can set his briefcase down. Or laptop. Where he is waited for. In his free time, the young man walked out to the seashore and caught a Golden Fish. Just like that. Just like that? Never mind. The fish of course pleaded, promised everything under the sun. And the young man threw him back in the sea. Who would do differently in such a tense situation? And so, with a bit of a hump in his back, but nevertheless hopeful, he started back to the house. Which has changed a lot. Since. When is that?

The young man fell into deep thought. He tried to conjure up earlier images, memories, but to no avail. Of the colours, only black and white remained. Tones, without transition. And what if I don't catch it, thought the young man, though he knew, the question is not valid in reverse. Well, there we are, done with that, so far so good, he said, and hung a new picture on the wall. The little room was tidy. The sheets on the bed were fresh. Next to it, a chair, a small table and another chair with his travelling jacket laid over it.

The author is a filmdirector, member of Közgáz Vizuális Brigád (Econo Visual Brigade)

English Translation: Zsófia Rudnay