Petőfi‘s Corpse 

Petőfi‘s Corpse by Tomoya Imamura

Petőfi‘s Corpse is an attempt to describe the Hungarian present whose post-socialist reality nourishes a new form of nationalism. After centuries of foreign rule, the losers perspective has shaped the identity of the country and today leads to a rediscovery and reinvention of one’s own history. Pre-Christian legends and heroic stories from the many failed revolutions strengthen the self-confidence of a people that no longer wants to see itself in a European supporting role.



This image series combines documentary photography and staged images to create a parallel to the reality and staging of the present. Part of this staging are paper-mâché objects, which partly represent Hungarian national symbolism, partly Eastern European clichés, as well as communist symbolism. Scenes and portraits depict everyday situations in which these symbols are inserted. They serve as a white projection surface or burntout form. For outsiders, they are almost the only direct reference to Hungary, although the national symbolism depicted does not provide more information about Hungary than the occasional Hungarian-language lettering. The location thus remains in Eastern Europe and emphasizes the communist veil that poured the former Eastern bloc into uniform concrete.


Sándor Petőfi was the „national poet“ of the Hungarian Revolution against the Austrian Empire 1848. He was most likely killed by a russian Soldier while fleeing battle, which would weaken the legacy of his famous call for a „heroes death“ in protection of the homeland. His death remains a mystery to this day. The uncertainty and pathos surrounding his death led to the title of this series. Another important symbol is the 1kg-loaf of bread. It is a standardized remnant of the socialist system, but also draws a parallel to the „body of christ“ and the religious aspects of the right-wing-movement, as well as „Petőfi‘s Corpse“ in its national sainthood.