Exported Dreams, Imported Desires

Site specific installation at Ramon's Tailor, San Francisco 2013

Interactive installation
Photography, advertising material, smell box (wood), price tags

The idea to this work roots in the fact that I was born and partly raised in Eastern Europe, behind the Iron Curtain.
As a little girl, who did not really understand the political “climate” the adults had to struggle in, I was, just as others of my generation impatiently waiting for the weekends, when Donald Duck would be shown on TVR 1 for 20 – 30 minutes. Those minutes were a gateway to a different world. The western world, for some “The Golden West”.

The West – land of happiness and endless gold. Content people all around, questions of race and origin excluded – promise of a better tomorrow. Land- and cityscapes poured in color telling stories of wealthy people. What a dream! And how much more inviting they are, when surrounded by a unique grey of common misery. When the outside world is fading, we rescue our hopes and nourish our phantasies. They grow bigger and bigger until the resistance crackles.

Back to Donald Duck. Donald is not any Donald but a copy. He is born behind the Iron Curtain, a manifestation of this dream incarnated in rubber. A leftover himself from the 20th century, that nurtured the little adult’s yearning for the West. Today, I arrived in the West of the West. Any attempt to go further would drop me into the wide open sea. And while arriving I am questioning of course the “American Dream”, double checking what is left over.
Commy meets Demmy. I ‘m still with my memories, while looking around. Driven by the curiosity and overwhelmed by the capitalist industry. According to James Truslow Adams who popularized the term “American Dream” it should be not about “…motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”
So if it is not about the products, what is it about? Today the borders have been shifted and they are dissolved behind invisible curtains of power. Outside these invisible curtains – what do people think, feel and what promises does the world around keep, share? Is there any correspondence? Or is it all complete nonsense?
While I am having my dream that I brought back to its origin, I also look for dreams that are offered today and I find them in mass media  advertising.

I still collect your notion of the “American Dream” or, your very personal “Life Slogan” with me via email. If you share your address with me I will send you a price tag to write on. Thank you!


Elisabeth Ajtay essays on growing up in Eastern Europe and her eventual immigration to America. Her art and installation stars Donald Duck, a favorite childhood symbol for what she believed to be the Land of Opportunity. Also on the docket is a pedestal with peep holes for your nose, a floor papered in advertisements for the trappings of material culture, and more.” Alan Bamberger