OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE (2016)
foam, mortar, acrylic, antique books (Kossuth’s memoirs), watercolour on paper, Kossuth hat, pebble
The memory of the 1848-49 Hungarian revolution and independence war and its leader, Lajos Kossuth, has survived not only in folklore; botany also preserved it in the form of a Peruvian cactus.
There exists a tradition of memorial trees in Hungary with dozens of villages claiming to have „1000-year-old” trees to which some historical hero supposedly tethered his horse to, but a cactus even enables forking narratives.
According to the legend - spread by the contemporary press - a Peruvian cactus pad was sent to Hungary from the exiled Kossuth's garden in Turin where he found solace in botany. The sprouts of the same plant are still living today in three sites, including botanical gardens.
Old Soldiers Never Die reconstructs the arms and branches of the story of this immortal cactus based on archival research and fieldwork. A major element of the work is a genealogical diagram which illustrates historical turning points and political events determining the fate of the cactus.
Kossuth sends a sprout to Kolozsvár. The mother plant dies in Turin but the sprout grows into a large plant. Kolozsvár becomes Cluj, part of Romania. A sprout is sent back to the remaining motherland. Come WWII, the cactus - now
a large plant itself - is evacuated to a shelter where it dies due to humidity. But on the way there an arm falls off of the carriage. A woman picks it up and nurtures it back into life...