Péter Forgács

Laureate Erasmus Prize 2007

Theme: Cultural Memory

The theme of the Erasmus Prize was ‘Cultural Memory’: how history is kept alive and how the past is transmitted to younger generations. Hungarian media artist Péter Forgács (1950) received the Erasmus Prize for the original way his documentary films have contributed to the transmission of culture and the memory of the past.

Péter Forgács was born in Budapest in 1950. He started to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, but was expelled the same year. He eventually graduated as a drawing teacher in 1977. He has worked as an independent film and video artist since 1978.

Forgács has exhibited his video installations in major museums and galleries in Europe and the United States. He has built up a large collection of amateur and family films and made them accessible for purposes of research and artistic inspiration. On the basis of this ‘found footage’, Forgács has compiled an impressive body of work. His films are not documentaries in the usual sense of the word; they are new creations made from documentary material. They establish a relationship between the private lives of ordinary people and the major events of twentieth-century history, thus bringing back memories of periods of repression and totalitarianism.

By artfully and artistically manipulating the materials available to him, Forgács addresses our cultural memory and sets the viewer thinking about the world of today. His most important films are the twelve-part series Private Hungary (1988-2008), The Maelstrom (1997), The Danube Exodus (1998) and El perro negro (2005).