István Cs. Bartos
|István Cs. Bartos|
18 January 1979
|Occupation||Binner, writer, poet, performance artist, spoken-word artist|
István Cs. Bartos (Hungarian: Bartos Cs. István, pronounced [ˈbɒrtoʃ ˈt͡ʃeː ˈiʃtvaːn]; AKA Bartos the Great Human Muck Pit) is a Hungarian performance artist and spoken word performer mostly known for his acts in which he eats dirt, garbage, raw meat, animal cadavers, excrement and drinks his own urine representing the decay of human condition. He lives voluntarily homeless and as a constantly travelling vagabond. His artistic viewpoint can be referenced to the ones of Antonin Artaud, Alejandro Jodorowsky, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Beuys or Hermann Nitsch. Considered himself as a "philosophical cannibal" and a tramp poet. His lifestyle is a regional form of freeganism. Bartos has some devoted cult following in Hungary. Often credited by his fans as the "peasant Marquis de Sade" or the "Charles Manson of Hungary". Bartos is a strong supporter of such contemporary ideas as degrowth and psychical nomadism.
Bartos was born in a Bolshevist family tradition (his grandfather was a member of ÁVO, the Hungarian NKVD), he was influenced by the lifestyle of his working class predecessors dominated by the Stalinist agriculture and industry. This world was destroyed by the turn of the regime in 1989. Most of Bartos’ early work such as The IBM Factory Moves Out of Town (2004) or The Closing Down of the Coal Mine in Balinka (2004) try to track down the downfall of the traditional Hungarian working class. He was brought up in Csikéria, but later moved to Székesfehérvár with his family. In his spoken-word autobiography he depicts the farm of his grandfather as a survivalist camp. He learnt the survival techniques of a vagabond or an urban guerrilla from his early age. His father dies when he was a child. He rejected the so-called bourgeois etiquette and the conventional way of feeding, insisting upon the (mostly fictional) customs of his peasant ancestors. Bartos became a local medical curiosity as a child, an extreme example of Pica disorder. Later he studied the subject extensively and found out about his historical precursors like Tarrare or Charles Domery. Bartos does consider this an illness but a birth privilege for hime that gives him a liberty of living through unhuman conditions. After school he started work in an abattoir then in a rubber factory where he became interested with the industrial way of transforming material into something else. He later broke with his remaining family and started his life as a social outcast. He studied philosophy, literature and social theory as an autodidact.
He started as an anarcho-primitive communist activist of the newly born Hungarian Working People's Party but strongly influenced by Nietzsche, Schopenhauer. After living a few years voluntarily homeless he published a few pieces of sociographic fiction. The most famous of them was the short story The Muck Pit (in the periodical Árgus, 08. July 2004. or ) in which he depicted the life and social connections of homeless people living by a muck pit which serves as their only resource of self-preservation. His Günther Wallraff-like social awareness accompanied with a pessimist world view. His views seemed to be too nihilist and controversial for the Hungarian anticapitalist scene which leads to rupture. Later, under the influence of the known mathematician and mystic-psychedelic poet Lazlo Varecza (aka. St. Varecza the Corpse) his work became more allegoric tending forward a radical abstract-naturalistic style. From that time automatic writing became more dominant. Then came the fusion of writing and performance art. He accompanied his essays with his notorious lifestyle which he ironically calls Bartosism – The Ultimate Philosophy. The great turn became visible with his apocalyptic vision The Bartosistic Dialectics (around 2006) – a grotesque parody of Pol Pot’s theory of the state, based on significant researching work. The encounter with Pol Pot's work deeply transformed Bartos's vision of the possibilities of communism. Since then he’s dedicated to performing acts and philosophical-allegorical poetry.
He is always conscious about his audiences, accompanies his writing work with performing tours among the socially oppressed. He rejects the bourgeois institutions of literary life. Most of his works are published on his own account, some of them are in literature periodicals. The main Hungarian influences on his poetic work were János Dömötör, Lajos Palágyi. He writes in the dialect and sociolect of the working people. He expresses his emotional stance towards his subjects by altering the typography of his poems. The main historical influence on his poetic style is futurism. The most popular pieces of his poetry are Bartos Horror Stories in which he elaborates on the lives of well known and fictional serial killers like Andrei Chikatilo, Jeffrey Dahmer, Nikolai Dzhumagaliev or John Wayne Gacy. One serial killer Bartos personally knew was Anatoly Onoprienko whom he met around 1995 while travelling in Ukraine. Serial killers are used as examples to underline the author’s view on social oppression and suppressed human instincts. In this poetic vignettes Bartos rethink an extinct literary genre, the folkloristic horror tale mastered by such Hungarian artist as Ignác Csató, Károly Mezőtúri Nagy or Márton Bodó in the late 19th century. Bartos fill this literary form with transgressive content. His main artistic strategy is to create publicity for his social and political concerns by using his extreme habits, appearances, black humor and the subversive choices of subject-matters. Bartos’s poetry is dominated by a certain kind of postmodern anti-humor and his affinity for chiastic and antimetabolic rhetoric figures and poetic structures. A typical poem of Bartos starts with a grotesquely transfigured bucolic idyll depicting alcohol and psychotropic drug-related intoxication or garbage-eating farm life and slowly becomes an allegorical political and philosophical statement on the human condition as such. Bartos also likes the form of a Feghoot.
Bartos and Varecza
Bartos started writing in 2001 in a social realist genre. His sociographic fiction depicts the life of drug addicts, homeless, alcoholic and all kinds of social delinquents Bartos lived with in that part of his life. He tries to draw their social surroundings and psychological motifs in a very complex way – projecting it to a metaphysical dimension. According to him he found out about Varecza’s work by accident: found some of them in a garbage can while living in the Budapest subway among the homeless. Then he visited Varecza at his home in Szombathely and the two lived together for about half a year in 2004. The main product of their collaboration was the biography of Varecza written by Bartos. It is one of the most unusually complex literary biographies written in Hungarian language. Bartos made it a "triptych" by setting apart his biographical study, a collection of interviews and documents and a textbook of Varecza’s most relevant writings. The three pieces make a full circle around Varecza’s life analising deeply both its social and psychological aspects. Their co-work changed the life of Bartos. Varecza encouraged him to write visionary poetry and widen his philosophical horizon. Bartos also found out about discordianism as a philosophical view of life in that time and integrated it to his marxist system of thought.
Originally the poems of Bartos are written in the meter of Hungarian folk songs with a great amount of self-parody and intertextuality. After meeting with Varecza he mostly uses automatically written free verse (similar to Mayakovsky’s) patterned by his free associations. There is a specific genre in Bartos’s poetry which is closely related to Varecza’s influence, a kind of ritual mockery of a chosen subject in poetic obscenity. It is called The Bartosistic Beatdown.
Radical artists such as Varecza or Bartos are not widely known in Hungary and usually have affairs with the authorities. The work of Varecza has only gained some critical attention in the last few years while he starred in a critically acclaimed short film documentary on him made by two young filmmakers in 2004. The main source for Bartos’s thought is a collection of dialogues with him made by two young artists under the nicknames Hortobágyi and Trurl. This work is still yet to be published but excerpts can be read in their blog listed below.
Bartosism is not a theoretically manifested and well-structured philosophy but a definite way of life. It is based on materialist metaphysics and strongly influenced by Bartos’s experiences as a butcher and factory worker. All social interactions can be considered as transformations of the matter in both allegorical and empirical aspects. For Bartos political philosophy is social alchemy. In traditional societies the circulation of matter was maintained by the local composting of garbage. In individualist industrial (capitalist) societies the alienated matter (trash) is stuck out of the control of the world of production either real or virtualized. There, in the merges of civilization it can be seized and put back to circulation by social rejects of whom Bartos consider himself as symbolic leader. The Bartosistic Act is an allegoric representation of this social-political alchemy. It is clear that for Bartos all ethical, aesthetic, social values are part of this circulation, just as academic philosophy. His cynic standpoint comes from his materialist fundamentalism. Capitalism and communism are cosmic principles in Bartos’s terminology. Capitalism is the dissemination, |individualisation of the matter and in communism it loses all its individuality and meaning while transform to another form. This process is mystic and concrete at the same time. Of course a man’s psyche depends on the body’s material also, so it can be altered by the means of nutrition.
Bartos’s philosophy is mainly a grotesque parody of a philosophical system using black humour and extreme formalities and symbols to subversively spread what Bartos regards as a valid philosophy. It is considered by Bartos as part of a historically latent cynical tradition of philosophy. It is a strongly reductionist standpoint based on ontological naturalism and the concept of man as a heroic being whose only absolute is his own self opposed to society as a system of norms. In Bartos’ terms capitalism is the dictatorship of the quantitative logic of mass production. Getting rid of this logic is the only way of emancipating the creativity of man to become an authentic person. Bartos is strongly influenced by not only marxism but Nietzsche’s concept of Superhuman and Ayn Rand’s objectivism. Bartos can be described as a kind of libertarian communist.
During a Bartosistic Act he usually consumes raw meat, urine and domestic garbage, mainly plastic. He uses plastic and chemical waste as psychotropic drug as well to alter his consciousness to the so-called Bartosistic way of cognition. He drinks a huge amount of hard liquor at the same time. The system of his acting called symbolic gastronomy.
Bartos’s body is tattooed from top to bottom by himself except for his face and back. The tattoos are mostly political and philosophical statements in written text. There is one on his arm which depicts him in his early twenties which was made by a professional tattoo-maker.
The most simple articulation of bartosism can be found in his poem "Ars poetica" written in free verse:
The whole history till now was muck!
Muck were the kings, muck were the churches, muck were the landlords,
Muck were all people and still muck they are. Except for me.
I am BARTOS THE GREAT MUCK PIT and I eat up all this slop,
This garbage, this excrement. I throw it on my great compost pile
And turn it and turn till it rots to dirt.
Then I consume and digest in my iron stomach, I recreate. And when I’m done
Bartos Company is a cottage industry establishment set up by Bartos and his associates in 2009 in purpose of making publicity for Bartos’s work. The main product of this artistic co-work are spoken-word albums and video performances. The spoken-word albums are edited by the author’s associate under the name of Hortobágyi using mainly plunderphonic techniques and released in mp3 format. Video works can be divided to two kinds. In one Bartos acts as the host of his own talk-show and in the other he presents himself as a famous representative of political philosophy. Each of his video acts makes grotesque social and political commentaries.
His current location is always changing, he’s travelling within the ruined Hungarian rural areas listening to the voice of people forced to the merges of society. Most of his work today are not written, his interests are mainly in the oral history and his observations are presented in his performance acts and video messages which can be seen on his website created by his friends and comrades.
Alulnézetben (From Below - De Profundis), 2001 – poetry, private edition.
A sötétség rabságában [kórelemző szabadversek, abszurd valóság, sorstörténetek, riportok, szatírikus gúnyiratok, filozófiai gondolatok] : [I. cikluskötet] (Prisoners of the Dark), 2001 – poetry, short stories, ISBN 963-440-702-1.
Dialektika (The Bartosistic Dialectics), 2006 – philosophy, in manuscript and spoken word recording, available only in underground publishing.
Sztálin-kép a falon (Picture of Stalin on the Wall), 2007 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording, available on the author's website.
A Pol-Pot dosszié (The Pol-Pot Files), 2007 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording, available on the author's website.
A mezei Vörös Csepel (Red Csepel of the Fields), 2009 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording, available on the author's website.
A részeges filozófus (The Drunken Master of Philosophy), 2009 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording, available on the author's website.
Az új ember kovácsa (Road to Life), Bartos & Co., Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Tanyasi vándor filozófus (Travelling Cottage Philosopher), Bartos & Co., Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Szar idők tanúja (Witnessing Lousy Times), Bartos & Co., Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Bartosista irodalmi szalon a Velencei tavon (Bartosistic Literary Saloon by Lake Velence), Bartos & Co., Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Új beszélyek, 2010 ősze (New Poems - The Fall of 2010), Bartos & Co., Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Cím nélkül - Második önéletrajzi album (Untitled - Second Autobiographic LP), Bartos & Co., Székesfehérvár, 2011.
Works on Bartos
Hortobágyi & Trurl: Beszélgetések a Moslékfőző Bartossal (Dialogues with Bartos the Great Muck Pit), 2010, in manuscript
- Transgressive fiction
- Industrial metabolism
- Insurrectionary anarchism
- Pictures from an exhibition by Nitsch
- The second of a series of autobiographical spoken-word albums by Bartos
- Website of The Hungarian Communist Labour Party
- The Muck Pit by Bartos Csaba
- Compendium of Árgus
- An account on St. Varecza’s Work
- The Collected Works of János Dömötör in the National Széchényi Library
- Lajos Palágyi in Portraits from Hungarian Literature
- Bartos's own account on the influences of his horror stories
- A documentary on Varecza made by Ferenc Boros and Zoltán Horváth
- The Postmodern Scene: Excremental Culture and Hyper-Aesthetics by Arthur Kroker and David Cook, 1986, 1988, New World Perspectives, CultureTexts Series, Montreal: New World Perspectives, ISBN 0-920393-44-6, Published simultaneously in the USA by St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-63229-0, ISBN 978-0-8223-4828-3.
- So Much Wasted: Hunger, Performance, and the Morbidity of Resistance by Patrick Anderson, 2010, Perverse Modernities, Duke University Press, ISBN 0-8223-4828-4