From Activism to Kinetism: Modernist Spaces in Hungarian Art. Budapest-Vienna-Berlin, 1918-1930

Open Access
Toth, Edit
Graduate Program:
Art History
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
December 16, 2009
Committee Members:
  • Nancy Elizabeth Locke, Dissertation Advisor
  • Nancy Elizabeth Locke, Committee Chair
  • Sarah K Rich, Committee Member
  • Craig Robert Zabel, Committee Member
  • Michael Bernhard, Committee Member
  • Hungarian modernism
  • activism
  • kinetic art
  • Weimar visual culture
The dissertation From Activism to Kinetism: Modernist Spaces in Hungarian Art, 1918-1930. Budapest-Vienna-Berlin considers selected works by Hungarian artits associated with the MA ("Today," 1916-1925) artistic and literary circle and their response to the shock effects of modernity during this period. Works by Lajos Kassak - writer,poet, artists, editor, the main mover and guidig star of MA, - the painter Sandor Bortnyik, the polymath Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, and the designer Marcel Breuer are investigated based on a particular agenda. First, the study considers how the failure of a revolutionary reorganization of society during the Hungarian Soviet Republic (April 23-Aug 1, 1919) prompted the Hungarian Activists to reassess their lofty political ideas in exile and make compromises if they wanted to remain in the vanguard of modernity. Second, it explores how their mission of "revolutionary activation" became transformed by Moholy-Nagy into an educative preoccupation to train and activate the senses and perception in coping with the multifarous phenomena and increasingly accelerating pace of modernity. By the end of the Weimar era Moholy-Nagy's educative-activist aganda nonetheless would prove problematic, as his modernist works become absorbed into the urban consumerist spectacle in a conflicted and ambiguous manner, as both its leading agent and an alternative means of liberation from it.