Captured Liberties – Stories from the Salazar Dictatorship

Captured Liberties – Stories from the Salazar Dictatorship
Exhibition of: Lilla Szász, photographer, Maria Teresa Braz, private archivist, and Monika Perenyei, art historian
20.05.2022-25.06.2022
Institute of Contemporary Art – Dunaújváros
Opening: 20. 05. 2022, Friday, 18:00
Opening remarks: João Miguel Henriques, Director of Camões Institute, Budapest
Opening speech: Andrea Pócsik, culture researcher
Lilla Szász photographer is a talented figure of the middle generation of contemporary Hungarian photographers, who is also internationally recognized. In 2018, she was awarded the Budapest Gallery and the City of Lisbon Artists’ Fellowship; art historian Monika Perenyei spent July 2019 in Lisbon with the same fellowship, which she won with a curatorial programme for archival research. The two of them have been working together for three years on the private archive of Maria Teresa Braz, and their research and creative work will be presented in the exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Dunaújváros, within the framework of a Portuguese-Hungarian collaboration.
Maria Teresa’s (b. 1948) childhood and youth took place within the framework of the Salazar dictatorship. Her childhood and early adulthood was photographed and filmed by her father. Through their personal life story, private images and footages we can get a glimpse of what it might have been to live and grow up in Salazar’s Portugal as a woman.
Teresa’s father was an amateur photographer and filmmaker, who, as his daughter’s playmate, kept alive the richness and openness of the role-playing and imagination of the child girl in a forbidding environment through role-playing and photography at home. Her favourite doll, which was the protagonist of the scenes she invented and staged with her father, was called Maria João: she was given a double name, one female and one male, because her character was always adapted to the role. The story of Teresa and her father, accompanied by photographs, is as much about a father-daughter relationship as it is about the possible and life-defining forms of finding personal freedom in restrictive circumstances. “My father helped me to live my life the way I wanted to. He loved to play, maybe even more than I did. He loved film and taking pictures. I always loved it when my father took my picture. He also took my pictures. I think the pictures we imagined and staged then are how I live today. Open to the world.” (extract from Lilla Szász’s interview with Maria Teresa Braz)
Through a personal story that unfolds along a strange photographic path, the exhibition brings closer the past of a distant country that is comparable to our own, an experience that is inseparable from our present. Moreover, this photographic work, a Portuguese-Hungarian collaboration, also gives form to questions that concern the fascinating process of cognition, perception and self-analysis: what is ahistorical in these processes, that is, independent of historical time and universally experienced everywhere, and what is socio-culturally determined and only locally interpretable.
The exhibition is supported by Camões Institute and National Cultural Fund of Hungary.
Special thanks to: Maria Teresa Braz, Dániel Farkas, Andrea Mátyus, Fatima Tomé, Csaba Aknay, João Miguel Henriques, Zsolt K. Horváth, Estela Casanovas, Alexandra Nunes, Arquivo Fotografico Municipal de Lisboa, Videoteca Municipal de Lisboa