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‘WM 26’ [author’s alias], Szabadnép, 1987, object, detail. From police records of images destined for the catalogue of ‘The Fighting City’. Courtesy the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security (.BTL), Budapest
The material exhibited had been in the criminal record office since noon; at 5pm those who gathered despite disturbing news could only listen to the inauguration speeches altered to fit the new circumstances. Instead of pictures and documents about ’56, it was only words — easy to erase from the memory — that remained, and the occasion.
— Tamás Molnár/Inconnu2
Published in the samizdat journal Hírmondó, these words reported the ‘opening within empty walls’ of the exhibition ‘A harcoló város’ (‘The Fighting City’) in a private apartment in Budapest, on 28 January 1987.1 Organised by the artists’ group Inconnu, it was to display Hungarian and international artists’ tributes to the 1956 Revolution, reaffirming the persistence of the uprising’s spirit not only for its veterans, but also for a younger generation who linked the legacy to present demands addressed to the lengthy regime of socialist leader János Kádár.3 Scheduled for 23 October 1986, for the thirtieth anniversary of the Revolution’s beginning, the exhibition had to be postponed until January because of police harassment of its organisers as well as attempts at sabotage. The Hungarian authorities had in fact been aware of the project since the publication of its first call for participation in the Hungarian independent press and the Western media in the summer of 1986; from then on, Inconnu’s activities were increasingly surveilled and the process of planning ‘The Fighting City’ was conscientiously reported to the national state security by several agents, some of them close acquaintances of group members. Official attempts to dissuade Inconnu from pursuing its goal were unsuccessful, and after half a year of collecting material and elaborating the exhibition’s