Sputnik and Apollo
Science, Technology and the Cold War in the Hungarian Visual Arts, 1957-1975
In 1957, when the Soviet Union sent into orbit Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in history, the cold war stepped into a new phase; the Space Age began. In 1961, came another victory: the first man in space was also communist. In this regard, the sixties were about the nuclear arms race that meant a scientific and technological competition as well. Then came Apollo 11, the spaceship and the lunar module, which proved unquestionably that the West had won this war. This paper discusses the Hungarian artistic reception of this scientific and technological war. Some artists served well the aims of the Eastern Bloc; others had their own political and aesthetic motivation. Some used the official visual culture; others tried to transform it. Describing the scientifically and technologically oriented visual arts (mainly painting) of the long sixties (1957-1973), I will focus mainly on one topic: aviation and military technology. Besides, I intend to deconstruct the apparently plausible narrative that claims that the early heroism (late fifties) of the Soviet technological and military supremacy turned into a resigned acceptance of defeat in the early seventies.