Mikes Kelemen Returns To Transylvania
B&W/ Colour Digital video 12 minutes 30 seconds. 2006. PAL 48 Mhz stereo sound. Filmed in Transylvania, Romania.
Supported by the Hargita Cultural Center, Czikzederea, Romania Hargita Megyei Kulturállis Kózpont.
Also; a two-page hand-written letter in Hungarian. An annotated book, ‘Letters from Turkey- the memoirs of Mikes Kelemen’
"In the eighteenth century, after a failed war of independence, Mikes Kelemen, a Transylvanian nobleman, went into exile with Ferenc Rakoczi, the last Prince of Transylvania. In 1717 after wandering Europe in a state of dispossession for many years, the Prince and his entourage were invited by the Sultan of Turkey to live in Rodosto, just outside Constantinople. There they were to spend the rest of their lives, over some forty years, in exile. After Kelemen's death in his possessions were found 207 un-posted letters, all addressed to a favorite Aunty in Transylvania. In these letters Kelemen jokes with his Aunty, teases her, answers her questions, talks of life in Turkey and his hopes and disappointments - but hardly discusses Transylvania. Later Kelemen's Aunt was found never to have existed; she was instead an entirely fictional construction who became for Kelemen his symbol of a home it was too painful to address directly.
In his poetic world Kelemen is an emblematic figure, one that extricates himself from the contingencies of history and time through an alliance with vast spaces of his imagined Transylvania and the entirely imaginary presence of a fictional character. Home for him was also the experience of an inner spatial and fictional form of his ‘Aunty’. Home and exile stand thus redefined: homelessness understood as the transcendence of place, befitting also a modern human condition. But finally, it is worth remembering that despite the disorientation, the ennui, even lethargy of the exilic space in which Kelemen is held, Kelemen losses were also real, his lack infernal, and his longing deadly.
Kelemen’ s writings were often stoic in nature - he often talked of having to submit himself to the will of God - and whilst traveling to Transylvania, a region that is the focus of so many tales of folklore, I became aware that there was something about Transylvania that has formed a kind of imaginative crucible to a broader Europe. For instance the tale of the Pied Piper ends in Transylvania, and of course it was a Dubliner, Bram Stoker, who wrote the tale of Dracula, (‘Dracula’ meaning ‘bad blood’ in Gaelic-Irish). And so, during my journey to Transylvania the trope of ‘The Return’ played on my mind, particularly that of an impossible Return - the return of a man long dead, but who for forty years desired to Return, even unbeknownst to himself. By means of my small video and this work, I decided this was a gift I could maybe posthumously give to Kelemen.
For the duration of the work we do not see Kelemen directly, in fact it was a principle of my approach that any person who appears were always filmed as distant figures within the frame. Kelemens’a presence is similarly oblique, only a man’s hand is shown as his writes a letter to his Aunty telling her of his Return and that he is searching for her. The writing of this letter in fact narrates the work. This is inter-cut with images of Hungarian-Transylvania. Given the fictional construction of this Aunty, I am aware that in finally ending one quest for him, I may in-advertently, cruelly, condemned Kelemen to another, as perhaps befits our need of his condition."
Made during FREECAMP, organized by Istvan Eross, 2005.
Event supported by.
Supported by the Hargita Cultural Center, Czikzederea, Romania
Hargita Megyei Kulturalis Kozpont
Centrul Cultural Judetean Harghita, Romania