The Two-Tailed Dog Party (Kétfarkú Kutya Párt) is a satirical political party, one which uses humour and street art as tools of intervention, expression, and protest to ‘parody the political elite’ in Hungary. The party has been active since 2000 and frequently makes use of public space for its political messages which stand strongly in opposition to the current right-wing government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the conservative party Fidesz.
The current government launched a campaign of xenophoic and anti-immigrant billboards and posters preceding a recent referendum. The referendum had hoped to contest the European Union’s imposition of mandatory quotas on accepting migrants. A great many refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War have crossed the border from Serbia into Hungary (many of whom hope to settle in countries like Germany and Sweden which have been more accepting of refugees). The migrant crisis has permitted an unfortunate platform for cultivating ignorance and right-wing politics throughout Central Europe. The referendum in Hungary posed the question: “Do you want the European Union to be entitled to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of parliament?”‘ The referendum of October 2nd was deemed invalid due to inadequate voter turnout. Those with sense apparently stayed away from the polls, perhaps taking heed of the Two-Tailed Dog Party’s plea to invalidate the vote. The Two-Tailed Dog Party had in fact launched their own parallel campaign: a series of stickers, posters, and billboards countering the Hungarian government’s xenophobia with wit and poignancy.
I came repeatedly across their playful and striking stickers and posters in Budapest, all marked with their signature character: a dog with big red eyes, two tails, and a striped tie. Their intense and satirical campaign mocks the government’s recent billboard campaigns, pairing a speech bubble with the text ‘Tudta?’ (‘Did you know?’) with humorous, sometimes absurd other times politically pointed, claims. The small print at the bottom reads ‘Hülye kérdésre hülye választ!’ (‘Stupid anwers to your questions!’) and urges voters to ‘Szavazz érvénytelenül!’ (Vote invalid!). There are twenty-seven versions, many of which I encountered and photographed during my recent visit to Budapest.
I reflected a lot upon migration and the refugee crisis while visiting the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum (Hungarian National Musuem) where a special exhibit commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 1956 revolution in Hungary. I thought of the 100, 000 Hungarian refugees who settled in Canada after fleeing the violence of the 1956 revolution; dissent quashed by Soviet bullets, tanks, arrests, and executions. The revolution lasted a brief twelve days, but much like the Prague Spring of 1968 and later the Velvet Revolution, it was writers and artists who played fundamental roles in mobilising dissent. The exhibit touched particularly on the art of the revolution, with many examples of sketches, watercolours, and prints of various types. The exhibit demonstrated so well how art and politics meet in defiant forms of resistance, not just documenting a moment in history but also offering alternative visions of the future; of what life could and perhaps should be. I was touched most by the black and white photography, many of which were accompanied by bits of text explaining how the negatives were developed and hidden swiftly away only to re-emerge and printed long-after the regime change. Over thirty years of hidden imagery is hard to imagine now.
Below are some of the photographs I have taken of the work of the Two-Tailed Dog Party, with some rather dubious Hungarian-to-English translations. Some translations absent due to the difficulty of the beautifully complex Hungarian language (and my and Google’s inability to make sense of it).