György Galántai

From Unearthing The Music

Still active today, György Galántai was a key figure in Hungarian non-conformist art in the 1970s and 1980s, and the founder of the Artpool Art Research Center. As the organiser of thirty-five exhibitions in a disused chapel in Balatonboglár from 1970-73, Galántai created a gallery for the display of neo-avant-garde and conceptual art at a time when such practices were marginalised and even under prohibition in Hungary. Despite being compelled to shut down the gallery and becoming the subject of Secret Police attention, Galántai continued to create networks for intellectual exchange, not least in the form of mail art.

As an artist, Galántai has explored various practices from painting and sculpture to performance. His works from the 1970s explore the production of meaning in sign systems. Later in the decade, he practiced as a sculptor, working with iron after training as a welder at the Csepel steelworks. Both interests combine in the acoustic sculptures which he made in 1984-85. Galántai viewed them as an invitation for spontaneous and improvised performance.

In 1985, the Hungarian ‘shaman punk’ outfit, Vágtázó Halottkémek (Galloping Coroners) played Galántai’s sounding sculptures at the Petőfi concert hall, Budapest. In 1987 members of the Group 180 and New Music Studio performed with the sculptures at the concert held on Marcel Duchamp's 100th anniversary at the Eötvös Lóránd University, Budapest.

In the 1980s, Galántai’s activities combined the fluxus tradition of the multiple with the ‘local’ practice of samizdat (self-publishing) and the punk DIY ethos. Artpool Radio, for instance, was a series of eight cassette tapes that Galántai initiated in 1983 and distributed abroad through his mail art networks. A mix of interviews and conversations as well as music and documentation of concerts, and sound art, Artpool Radio demonstrates the close connections between visual artists and musicians in Budapest at the time. The third Artpool Radio tape documents the telefonkoncert which Artpool co-organised with the Vienna-based BLIX group. Over four hours in April 1983, musicians in Budapest (including Európa Kiadó, Trabant and Bizottság), Vienna and Berlin performed across a network formed by telephones. The fifth cassette is a compilation of excerpts of sound documents from the Hungarian counter culture and was made by Galántai in 1984 for the vernissage of "Hungary can be Yours", the last banned exhibition in Hungary before the transition in 1989.

Related Links

Freedom is Mere Illusion – Experimental Music and Media Arts in Hungary

Hues of Independence

Glimpses from the history of the Eastern Bloc’s neo-avant-gardes: Katalin Ladik’s collage-portrait

Vágtázó Halottkémek

Artpool Radio (@UMCSEET MUSIC)