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Jani Leinonen: “Hunger King”

Trotz massiver Proteste hat das Budapester Stadtparlament umfangreiche Sperrzonen fĂĽr Obdachlose beschlossen. Die Betroffenen dĂĽrfen demnach alle Orte, die zum Weltkulturerbe zählen, nicht mehr als Aufenthaltsort benutzen, ebenfalls tabu sind zudem 29 UnterfĂĽhrungen und der Umkreis von 100 Metern um Kinderspielplätze, Schulen und Friedhöfe. Der finnische KĂĽnstler Jani Leinonen hat dies nun fĂĽr seine neue Aktion “Hunger King” thematisiert: “MátĂ© Kocsis, the mayor of the 8th district of Budapest has said that “if we don’t push homeless people out, we will end up being pushed out by them”. The sentence crystallizes the new political attitudes towards poverty not just here in Hungary but also in many other Western countries that used to promise to protect those who could not protect themselves. It crystallizes other things too. First, Hungarian governments wide campaigns to criminalize homelessness is a diversion to draw attention away from the states failure to achieve the promises of the regime change. Hungarys economy is today in a worse state than it was during state socialist regime: more than 1 million people, or 12% of the population, live below the poverty line (Ferge 2012), one million Hungarians cannot heat their homes properly and the occurrence of cold-related deaths is 10 times higher than in other developed countries (Habitat for Humanity Magyarország 2012:10).

Second, those who dismiss the homeless and dependent as “parasites” fail to understand economics and parasitism. A successful parasite is one that is not recognized by its host, one that can make its host work for it without appearing as a burden. Such is the ruling class in a capitalist society. Hungarian situation depicts a global problem. The political and economical elite has screwed things up, and now they are using every trick in the book to ensure their power even though another world is becoming inevitable. You can sell oppression as emancipation, impoverishment as enrichment and the formalities of participation as substantial democracy only for so long until people notice.

The ruling system is doing its best to paralyze our capacity to think about alternatives. Although majority of Hungarians think the country is on the wrong track, they also believe there is nothing they can do to change the direction of the politics. My view is very limited but I was surprised how many journalists, academics or social workers I interviewed working in institutions funded by the government cannot speak out in public because they fear loosing their job or funding. I am not saying Hunger King will speak for them but at least it draws attend to one of the most pressing issues in contemporary Hungary. It shows in a very direct way how in equally people are treated based on their social and economical status. Its my job as an artist to encourage people to imagine alternative social and political arrangements. Hunger King is a call for social and political engagement, a call for change.

Whether you love them or hate them, in Hunger King everybody can send their greetings directly to the rulers of Hungary. We will deliver the messages. 6.6.2014 in Budapest, Jani Leinonen

PS. For the information and quotes thanks to Éva Tessza Udvarhelyi, Jason Read and Slavoj Zizek.”

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