Istvan Csaba Bartos (Template:IPA-hu; Template:Sc Bartos the Great Human Muck Pit) is a hungarian cynic philosopher, humorist, performance artist and spoken word performer mostly known for his notorious subversive 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 in constant travelling as a vagabond. His work is similar of the ones by Antonin Artaud, Alejandro Jodorowsky, William S. Burroughs, Joseph Beuys or Hermann Nitsch. Considered himself as a "philosophical cannibal" and a tramp poet. Bartos has some devoted cult following in Hungary.
Born in a Communist family tradition (his grandfather was a member of ÁVO, the Hungarian NKVD), he was strongly 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) tries to track down the downfall of the traditional Hungarian working class. He was brought up in Budapest, but later moved to Székesfehérvár with his family. He lost his father as a child. His extreme habits became visible in a very early age. In school he rejected the bourgeois etiquette and the conventional way of feeding, insisting upon the (mostly fictional) customs of his peasant ancestors. He committed to a primitive way of life from his early childhood. After school he started work in an abbattoir then in a rubber factory where he became obcessed with the industrial way of transforming material into something else. He later broke with his remaining family and started his life as a voluntary outcast, learning philosophy, literature and social theory as an autodidact.
Started as an anarcho-primitive communist activist of the newly born Hungarian Working People's Party but strongly influenced by Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and hungarian conservative thinkers. 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 became 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. Side by side 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 flamboyand 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 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 spoken language using the dialect and sociolect of the working people which is very rare in hungarian literature. He expresses his emotional stance towards his subject by altering the typography of his poems.
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 "tryptichon" 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.
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 have 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 artist under the nicknames Hortobágyi and Trurl. This work is still yet to be published but excerpts can be read in their blog listed below.
The 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 tradicional 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 reprezentation 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 individualty 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 too, so it can be altered by the means of nutrition.
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.
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
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 aren’t 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), 2001 – poetry
A sötétség rabságában (Prisoners of the Dark), 2001 – poetry, short stories
Pesszimizmus (Pessimism), 2003 – short stories
Csőd (Bankrupt), 2003 – short stories, private edition.
Emberek a lomok között (People in the Garbage), 2003 – sociographic writings
Jegyzetek egy pusztuló világról (Notes from a World of Decay), 2003 – essays, ISBN 963-430-667-5.
Elköltözött Székesfehérvárról az IBM gyár (The IBM Factory Moves Out of Town), 2004 – sociography, ISBN 963-460-024-7.
Bezárt a székesfehérvári Ikarus gyár (The Closing Down of the Ikarus Factory in Székesfehérvár), 2004 – sociography, ISBN 963-460-026-3.
Bezárt a balinkai szénbánya (The Closing Down of the Coal Mine in Balinka), 2004 – sociography, ISBN 963-460-027-1.
Katasztrófahelyzet Magyarországon (Situation of Social Disaster, Hungary), 2004 – sociographic writings, short stories, poetry, ISBN 963-460-025-5.
Szent Varecza élete (The Life of St. Varecza in Three Pieces), 2005 – biography, ISBN 963-460-889-2.
Dialektika (The Bartosistic Dialectics), 2006 – philosophy, in manuscript and spoken word recording.
Sztálin-kép a falon (Picture of Stalin on the Wall), 2007 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording.
A Pol-Pot dosszié (The Pol-Pot Files), 2007 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording.
A mezei Vörös Csepel (Red Csepel of the Fields), 2009 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording.
A részeges filozófus (The Drunken Master of Philosophy), 2009 – poetry, in manuscript and spoken word recording.
Az új ember kovácsa (Road to Life), Bartos, Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Tanyasi vándor filozófus (Travelling Cottage Philosopher), Bartos, Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Szar idők tanúja (Witnessing Lousy Times), Bartos, Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Bartosista irodalmi szalon a Velencei tavon (Bartosistic Literary Saloon by Lake Velence), Bartos, Székesfehérvár, 2010.
Works on Bartos
Hortobágyi & Trurl: Beszélgetések a Moslékfőző Bartossal (Dialogues with Bartos the Great Muck Pit), 2010, in manuscript
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 0-31263-229-0
- Pictures from an exhibition by Nitsch
- 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
- A documentary on Varecza made by Ferenc Boros and Zoltán Horváth
- REDIRECT Template:Official website