Review by Wayne Swanson •
Phony patriotism. Vilifying the opposition. Demonizing outsiders. Sound familiar? The days of Making America Great Again may be over, at least for now, but the problem is international.
Perhaps nowhere is the rise of nationalism, populism, and authoritarianism more of an issue than in Hungary under the regime of Viktor Orbán. Polish photographer Michal Adamski spent three years photographing the people, places, symbols, and events in Hungary to show the disconnect between reality and propaganda. The result is Two Tailed Dog, an unsettling look at life in the post-fact age.
Adamski organizes the book around a series of quotations from two ends of the cultural and political divide. Most of them are Make Hungary Great Again-style statements by Orbán that mix national pride with the need to fight the scourge of The Other. For contrast, Adamski presents the purposefully absurd slogans and activities of the Two-tailed Dog Party. Established by a group of artists, this party’s election platform promises things like eternal life, two sunsets a day, free beer, mandatory siesta, and banning the Eurovision Song Contest. Attribution for the quotations can only be found at the end of the book, so readers are left to guess who is saying what.
Between the quotes, we see a jumble of imagery. People on the streets and in parks, government monuments, a political candidate wearing a chicken costume, police in riot gear, kids on bikes. Are they protesting or partying? Are they Orbán loyalists or critics? Are they happy or outraged? Oppressed or empowered? Us or them? It’s hard to tell which side any of them are on. And that’s the point. “I do not want to analyze or to draw conclusions,” Adamski explains on his website. “I move intuitively from one place to another, to be taken in by the sense of being lost in reality created by Victor Orbán.”
Adamski notes that Hungary is internally divided, and “dissatisfaction and disappointment have caused part of society to become an easy target for populist slogans used by those in power. The government manipulates and exploits the Hungarians’ emotions. It creates a vision of the world full of enemies of the nation. It refers to the idea of patriotism, which is a mix of national pride, a feeling of unfair treatment and a sentiment for the historical Greater Hungary. The authorities’ attention is only seemingly directed to society, while in fact it focuses on gaining and maintaining power.”
The disconnect between the quotations and the photographs of daily life drives home the overall message that some matters are too complex to be defined by simplistic slogans. Yet as long as slogans replace facts, and power at all costs is the only goal, finding common ground will remain illusive in Hungary or any other nation.
Two Tailed Dog, Michal Adamski
Photographer: Michal Adamski, born and resides Poznań, Poland
Publisher: Pix.House/Michal Adamski (Poznań, Poland, copyright 2019)
Stiff cover book, perfect binding, four-color lithography, 8 x 10 inches, 40 images, 96 pages, printed in Poland
Photobook designer: dobosz.studio
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