Bridge Guard

Transnational Artists, National Populist Politics, and Cross-Border Interethnic Relationships

in East Central Europe
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This article concentrates on an artist-in-residence project that is linked to the Mária Valéria Bridge on the border between Slovakia and Hungary. The article traces the history of the bridge and of the ethnically mixed populations living on the opposite sides of the Danube River that the bridge connects in order to suggest the complexity of the cross-border relationships in this particular corner of Europe. In more recent decades relationships between Hungarians and Slovaks have been influenced by national populist politics exercised on both sides of the Danube after the fall of communism in the late 1980s. The consequence of such politics is a narrow understanding of “national” interests and “national” culture that prevents a more open, more cosmopolitan approach to the relationship among the ethnic groups living in the area. The long-awaited and often delayed rebuilding of the Mária Valéria Bridge is symbolic of the shortcomings of the “national container” approach. A more cosmopolitan outlook is opened up by a transnational artistic project that is—perhaps not surprisingly—largely ignored by cultural and political elites in Slovakia and in Hungary. Bridge Guard was launched in 2004 and continues to attract artists from around the world whose art works are intended to “build virtual bridges to protect the real bridge.”

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References

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