Lajos Kassák, 1917 (photo: Ilka Révai)
The Kassák Museum’s permanent exhibition presents the literary, artistic and journalistic oeuvre of the leading figure of the Hungarian avant garde. Independent in thought and action, he first appeared in the 1910s as an artist of a type that was utterly new in Hungary, and his responses to historical and social challenges through the successive stages of his life were unceasingly original. Born into a half-Magyar, half-Slovak family, with no scholarly background, he developed his own way of thinking, innovative and wide-ranging, and from his own strengths alone grew into an
international authority. He never ossified into the pose of artistic giant, and his strong individuality kept him open and dynamic, able to collaborate, and think collectively. Communities grew up around him – the people who worked with him in editing journals, a cultural society, and a walking group where young working-class
people shared experiences and visions of the future. Kassák was a pioneer of the modern attitude that artistic activity is not constrained by the boundaries of aesthetics: he created art which linked social criticism with bold ideas for the future.
Kassák’s periodicals in the 1910s and 1920s
Cover of 2nd issue of A Tett 15 November 1915, Budapest
A Tett, 1915 – 1916 Kassák started up his first journal, A Tett (“The Action”), during the First World War. A Tett had a tone and a European perspective which the public of the time found provocative. Its models and precursors were German journals with social and political inclinations, and Dadaist-influenced publications. Although the journal became the target of numerous political attacks for its anti-war rhetoric and anarchist views, its propagation of radical ideas on the purpose of art succeeded in encouraging the embryonic artistic avant garde and the activist movement. It was in A Tett that Guillaume Apollinaire and Marinetti were first published in Hungary. A Tett survived for a total of 17 issues between 1 November 1915 and October 1916. Kassák devoted the last, international issue to works and writing by artists from countries at war with the Monarchy. The prosecutor’s office responded by finally closing it down. A Tett’s other editors included Dezső Szabó, Aladár Komjáth, Mátyás György, József Lengyel, Andor Halasi, János Mácza, Vilmos Rozványi, Imre Vajda and Béla Uitz.
MA, Budapest 1916 – 1919
Welcome to the REvolution! Campaigning special issue of MA, May 1919. Editors: Lajos Kassák and Béla Uitz
After A Tett was banned, Kassák launched a new journal, MA (“Today”). MA came out in Budapest 35 times from 15 November 1916 to 1 July 1919, edited by Kassák, Béla Uitz, Sándor Bortnyik,
Jolán Simon, Sándor Barta and Erzsi Ujvári. The journal’s subtitle changed several times – originally Journal of Literature and the Arts, then Activist Journal, and finally Activist Journal of Arts and Social Affairs – indicating its intended role in the historical developments of the late 1910s. During the Republic of Councils, Kassák stood up for the autonomy of art and became embroiled in an ideological dispute with Béla Kun. The journal was banned. The fall of the Republic of Councils brought even worse times for Kassák: after a period of imprisonment he – together with many other intellectuals – left the country in 1920 and took up a life of exile in Vienna. During these years in Budapest, Kassák and the MA Circle engaged in organisational activities which went far beyond editing a journal. Through their books, exhibitions and cultural events, they assumed the task of propagating ideas that spanned art, literature and music.