György Galántai
Endre Tót’s new experience of space-time

After works spanning from pop art collage and gesture painting all the way to minimal art object-pictures Endre Tót took a radical decision in 1971 and started his work completely from scratch. His collage paintings had already contained aspects of installation and his gesture painting had demonstrated the attitude that manifested itself in Tót’s life-long search for identity. His object-pictures (meaning the picture itself is an object, e.g. a tablecloth) signified his last step in painting and the first step towards installation. From the point of view of concept art, signals, messages, posted objects, ads and demonstrations can all be installations. Accordingly, Tót’s media include, among others, postcards, telegrams, letters, envelopes, stamps, rubber stamps, photocopies, faxes, objects, T-shirts, newspapers, electronic message boards, placards/posters, banners, boards, actions, graffiti, audiotapes, film and video.

My Unpainted Canvases” were conceived as pieces of concept art, but with his slogan “Nothing Is Nothing” Tót entered the territory of “behaviour art”. This means that his behaviour is crucial to his art, since everything that happens to him – through his ideas – is manifested as art. In his gladness works the symbol of nothing, i.e. the zero-symbol 0, becomes an independent shaping tool with which anything can be expressed. In his ideas, in the nothing, gladness, rain, and later in his “mine-yours” works he created mature pieces of correspondence art. By using non-traditional media his documents, the nothing-, gladness-, and absent pictures, are simultaneously present in the mail art network. From the late 80s Tót returned to the use of traditional media, and in these (“absent picture”) paintings his gladnesses were temporarily left unseen. While “My Unpainted Canvases” are about what would make him glad if he could see them, his “absent pictures” made fifteen years later, imply what he is glad to have made disappear.

I am glad to have stood here” is Endre Tót’s first “sidewalk table“, which he designed in 1996 to be placed in front of the entrance of what was to become the Artpool P60 exhibition space. At first, the sign in bronze, sunk into the asphalt, appears to be a commemorative plaque designating the place where a noteworthy event occurred. In contrast, the style of the text resembles tourists’ writing their name on monuments that will outlive them. The absences in the case of the commemorative plaque: when, until when, and why the person stood here, and once he did, who is this Endre Tót? a tourist? (By the way, Tót is definitely a space-time-traveller.) For a tourist a dusty asphalt sidewalk is not typically the place that would outlive him. So what are we talking about here?

This installation is a new type of absent picture, which harks back to “gladness pictures”; therefore it is worth comparing it with the “gladness pictures” Endre Tót made in the 70s: “I am glad if I can stand next to you” (he is standing next to a Lenin statue), “I am glad if I can look at the wall”, "I am glad if I can lift my leg”, "I am glad if I can go one step”; and a later work entitled “I am glad if this can hang here”, etc. These are all admissible attitudes for him in the present existing as a “kindergarten past”. Since Tót traverses a reverse path, the source of his present gladness is moved into the past (“I am glad to have stood here”), which can also be poetically understood in a way that he is glad about the present which is the past of the future. I am glad that Endre Tót stood here because in this way I myself became privy to a new space-time experience and from now on I will always be glad whenever I have the chance to (be able to) refer to the present as the past, since, as Flusser stated, “the road no longer leads from the past into the future but rather from the future into the present”.

Installing Endre Tót’s "sidewalk table” has been occasioned by Artpool’s installation project and the coincidence that as "self-assembling poetry” it can be directly linked with Miklós Erdély’s {SIDEWALK} table exhibition on Liszt Ferenc Square, as well as with Sándor Altorjai’s picture installations in Artpool P60. The idea was inspired by Miklós Erdély’s oeuvre exhibition in Műcsarnok.

(October 1998)

(English translation by Krisztina Sarkady-Hart)

1998 | Artpool | Endre Tót / texts / biography | search