Thomas Strauss
Endre Tót, the action artist


...In autumn 1980 Endre Tót and I were carrying a banner with the text: “Wir freuen uns, wenn wir demonstrieren können” (We are glad if we can demonstrate) through the city centre of Bonn. This action was a modification of the “Joy-Tót” concept that had been created for a few years by then, or simply taking it further. Tót himself saw it as nothing more (?). However, as often happens in similar situations, a lot of unforeseen things emerged.

Firstly: the two people who were carrying the banner with a message that made no sense by itself both came from Eastern European countries under Soviet occupation, where at that time any free manifestation of personality, therefore spontaneous demonstrations, were strictly forbidden. Thus, an originally purely artistic action could be interpreted as an obvious expression of thanks for the freedom that existed in West Germany. (In fact, it basically was that.)

Secondly, in Germany every public demonstration must be announced at the competent authority some weeks in advance for approval. In our concrete case this meant that the two to five people who directly participated in the action were escorted by a line of policemen that was at least ten or twenty times as many as the number of the demonstrators. Thus, the typical paradox of those times was revealed, in this case through art.

And thirdly, in addition to the above: The visible contradiction between the exaggerated police escort and our (minimal) message unveiled the surge of demonstration that filled the streets of Bonn on an almost weekly basis at that time... Even though it was not intentional, we appeared to be a not too unsuccessful caricature of our hysteria-ridden contemporaries...

Unlike the representatives of the big happening and performance movement, Tót draws inspiration from an entirely different source. Instead of revealing things with an ulterior motive, using gestures of protest and (symbolically) destroying the existing world, his works are a manifestation of the will of the poetry of our modern times, hidden laughter, and the resourcefulness of our contemporaries, especially that of Eastern Europeans...

(source: Endre Tót: Semmi sem semmi [Nothing Is Nothing], retrospective 1965-1995, Műcsarnok, Budapest, 1995. pp. 17-18)

(English translation by Krisztina Sarkady-Hart)

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