Virtue from absence

A Monographic Exhibition Constructed without Material Legacy

We were not in an easy position when we had the idea of staging an exhibition deserving of Sándor Weöres’s poetry to mark the centenary of his birth. The estate of Sándor Weöres and his wife Amy Károlyi was left to Alice Károlyi, who organised and supported financially and intellectually the foundation of the Sándor Weöres and Amy Károlyi Memorial House in Csönge in 2006. Due to that, the material legacy of the couple can be seen in the permanent exhibition there. It was curated by Ágota Steinert, editor of the published Weöres volumes, an expert in the poet’s entire oeuvre. A large-scale exhibition encompassing the whole life and work of the two poets, was staged in the regenerated birthplace. This meant that the presentation of Sándor Weöres with traditional literary methods of exhibitions was not possible, since we had no compilation of objects which would be required for that. In his poem Self Portrait  he writes: My friend, you who aim to know me, / look at my room: nothing there / was my own choosing; open my wardrobe: / there is nothing that characterises me. This convinced us that it was not important for the objects which surrounded him to be presented in the exhibition, since the milieu he lived in did not interest him and was primarily created by his wife, the poet Amy Károlyi.  The Petőfi Literary Museum holds many manuscripts, artworks, sound and film recordings connected to Weöres, and we were able to select from among those for the exhibition. A team was set up by the Creative Technology Lab of the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, which presented Weöres’s poetry with creative language games involving visitors. Software for 10 games and an information database about the poet’s journeys have been developed.  Ten thematic display boards reflected the poet’s life, his inspiring experiences and achievements, namely: family, birthplace (parents and Csönge), masters (Mihály Babits, Dezső Kosztolányi, Milán Füst, Béla Hamvas), friends (Gyula Takáts, Győző Csorba, painter Árpád Illés, Nándor Várkonyi, Lajos Fülep, Ágoston Pável), presentation of a doctoral thesis, Birth of Poetry, the relationship between the poet and music (Zoltán Kodály, Béla Bartók), the active organiser of literary life (editor of Sorsunk, Dunántúli Szemle, tireless manager of their contributors), his love for Amy Károlyi, the writer of poems for children, the poet concerned with public life and a summary of the oeuvre’s eternal values. The exhibition was held in the Petőfi Literary Museum from June 2013 to October 2014. Then it became a travelling exhibition – after Debrecen, Szeged, Pécs, Veszprém, Sátoraljaújhely and Miskolc, since 1 December 2016 it has been on display in the Jósa András Museum in Nyíregyháza. The plan is for it to travel to four towns of Sekler Land in 2017. The project was implemented with the sponsorship of the National Cultural Fund.