Frogacs does monster mashups

by Beacon Staff • April 9, 2008

In the eyes of the Internet generation, a "mashup" is defined as a work which recombines and modifies existing work-film, text, audio, still image or any combination thereof-in order to create something new. This technique originated in nightclubs and behind soundboards, where DJs and emcees would combine vocal tracks with one or more songs with the audio tracks from another source. One of the most famous recent results was DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, a mash-up of Jay-Z's Black Album and the Beatles' White Album.

Since the advent of YouTube, this technique has also been used for comedic ends, such as in Chocolate Cake City's popular "Brokeback to the Future" video. Budapest-based media artist Peter Frogacs has been creating mashups with more serious intentions since the late 1970s. He uses a variety of different found and archived materials-including home video, radio broadcasts, music and voiceovers-to create his work, which, for the most part, focuses thematically on either the plight of Jews in Europe during and immediately after World War II or the everyday lives of Eastern Europeans (particularly Hungarians) during this same period. Many of these films are shot exclusively on home video cameras, usually by one of the "characters," with various clips of voiceover and music edited in for effect. Some of Forgacs' work will be on display at the Harvard Film Archive this weekend.

Among the more than 30 films he has created, he is best known for his "Private Hungary" series, which focuses on ordinary people dealing with extraordinary historical circumstances.

According to his Web site, Forgacs has shown his work in a variety of cities, including Tokyo, Sao Paolo and Amsterdam, and his more widely-recognized works remain in constant exhibition in various museums and universities.

In 2002, he had his "Danube Exodus: Rippling Currents of the River" shown by The Getty Research Institute.

This installation, created in conjunction with the Labyrinth Project, gives viewers a unique, interactive glimpse into the lives of Jewish and German refugees fleeing the horrors of World War II. According to the Getty Research Institute's press release, viewers are presented two different narratives: one-via footage shot by Captain Naacute;ndor Andraacute;sovits, a ferry captain-shows Eastern European Jews being ferried down the Danube River to the Black Sea. The second narrative is of a "reverse exodus" that occurred one year later, when the same Captain ferried Bessarabian Germans who were fleeing the Third Reich due to the Soviet annexation of their homeland. These two events are projected simultaneously via a variety of mediums, including touch screens and audio clips.

Aside from his award-winning films, Forgacs also established the Private Photo and Film Archives Foundation in Budapest in 1983. This unique collection of amateur film and video footage shot in Hungary provides a fascinating, unorthodox view at recent worldwide events, while simultaneously providing him with the raw material and footage needed to create his mashup films.

In addition to screening "The Danube Exodus," a number of Frogacs' other works will be on display this weekend, many of which deal with World War II and its immediate aftermath in Eastern Europe. Friday's screening ("The Danube Exodus" and "The Maelstorm: A Family Chronicle"-the firsthand home video account of a Jewish Dutch family living in the shadow of the Holocaust) also includes a conversation with Peter Forgacs and Susan Ruben Suleiman in between films. Tickets for each night of the event are $10, and screenings begin at 7:00 pm.,Jessica O'Byrne