ARTPOOL’S ART TOUR, 21 June–2 August 1979

Artpool’s first art tour project to Italy

The specific aim of the tour was to meet some of the artists, publishers and organisers of Italian experimental art, as well as to collect publications and look for opportunities for co-operation. But we had planned nothing in advance. Prior to the journey we had written letters to all the Italian addresses we had at our disposal, asking the addressees to specify what we must definitely see of contemporary Italian art. The answers determined the route and content of the tour. Those who answered were: Vittore Baroni, Ugo Carrega, G. A. Cavellini, Betty Danon, Gillo Dorfles, Marco Pachetti, Romano Peli, Michele Perfetti, Studio Santandrea, Adriano Spatola. We paid a visit to those who recommended themselves.

These two travel bags suitable for the two main methods of our travel, hitch-hiking and walking, emphasised the aim of the tour.

These two travel bags suitable for the two main methods of our travel,
hitch-hiking and walking, emphasised the aim of the tour.

After the wondrous cavalcade of Venice we arrived in Brescia. When we entered Cavellini’s house we were greeted by two pictures of the same size placed opposite the door, closely next to each other, functioning as a kind of name card: one was an original, colour Vasarely and the other a white Cavellini inscription in Ben Vautier’s style placed in a black background. The inscription read: “Vasarely is a piece of shit”. After seeing the Cavellini Museum we documented our first meeting with a photo project, and then we agreed on the Cavellini exhibition in Budapest for the following year. Finally, we enjoyed a fine dinner hosted by Cavellini.

The most interesting place in Milan was Ugo Carrega’s poetry gallery called Mercato del Sale, where we accidentally met Peter Frank, an American expert on the artistamp. Thanks to Carrega, we were introduced to Giancarlo Politi (Flash Art) among others, as a result of which Artpool refreshed its 1980 Art Diary address book. Although the galleries were not open, gallerists kindly gave us catalogues for Artpool’s archive. We deposited our hand luggage, packed full, in Rome. Then, after a sightseeing tour of Italy we headed towards Parma.

We used the map made by Adriano Spatola to get to Mulino di Bazzano. This place is a mill, at the end of all roads. The building is multilevel and spacious, but we were only able to walk along little aisles between the piles of books and half-ready publications. Geiger assembling, Tam Tam and Baobab were all made here. Spatola liked incalculable situations, so he asked me for example to make the cover for Geiger’s issue 9 in 300 copies when we return to Hungary, on paper and in a way that he could not imagine.

Accompanied by Spatola we arrived in Parma, where we got acquainted with Romano Peli and saw his mail art archive, called C.D.O. Peli was really excited at that time about Ray Johnson Nothing, so he mostly talked about him, but he also showed a lot of other things in his archive which proved to be very useful in the building up of Artpool, which had only recently begun.

The last place where we stayed was a German artist's house, the Villa Romana in Florence. We wanted to meet Nannucci to see his Zona archive, but we did not manage to. As recompense we went to see the Uffizi Gallery, - great place with splendid works.

One of the outcomes of the tour could have been the exhibition entitled “PACCO dall’ITALIA”/Italian package (APS no.2). (PIK GALLERY, Csepel, Budapest). The exhibition would have contained mainly visual and sound poetry pieces and the material received by Artpool for its Mail Art invitation for projects. Unfortunately, the call for projects sent to 137 Italian addresses was not delivered by the post, about which we filed a complaint, without success. Moreover, the exhibition which was being organised at that time was hindered by the Budapest Fine Arts Directorate, the competent authority of authorisation. Even though the material for the planned exhibition was not seen by anyone at the directorate, nor were they interested, they seemed to know that Italian art is ‘fascist in nature’. [see: the secret police file with the cover name “Painter”]

In the meantime, to compensate myself for how the Hungarian Post had gone about things, I made multiple copies of a general mail art invitation (APS no.4) and posted them in small portions every day, at different post offices. The answers revealed that the surveillance system was not working perfectly, because some people got news of the “Italian package” project. The material I received in response was exhibited under the title Küldött Művészet (Sent Art) as part of “The Culture of the Seventies”, a strictly exclusive series organised in the cellar of the Young Artists Club.

The next interesting development was that the exhibition entitled “Italian package” was eventually realised. Not exactly the way I had previously imagined, but I didn’t mind because it was far better in the end. Because it was an exclusive event the exhibition did not need to be judged by a jury, but some news was published about it in the press. (!?) This was the Cavellini event in Budapest, utilizing all the premises of the Young Artists Club (23, 24, 26, 28, 29 May 1980). The exhibition (APS no.5) consisted of three parts: an introduction of Cavellini by György Galántai, works jointly executed by Galántai and Cavellini, entitled “Operation Round Trip”, and works by 25 Hungarian artists on the theme Cavellini. At the opening Cavellini video pieces of his performances were shown, he drew portraits of the participants, and distributed the reproductions of his works, postcards, stamps and stickers to the members of the audience. Then he talked about the “jungle of art” with those present. Cavellini arrived in Budapest from California, where an exhibition was organised for him, and he kept stressing how great a time he was having in Europe after ‘barbarous America’, mostly because people spoke good Italian here.

The last event presented itself thanks to the plentiful opportunities we could exploit. György Galántai had the idea of doing a “correspondence art” performance with Júlia Klaniczay and Cavellini on Heroes’ Square entitled Hommage à Vera Muhina. On the square - with help from the police – the background installation was being made at the time for an official celebration. Microphones and loudspeakers were being set up, and we offered to help test the microphones in a way that Cavellini would say out loud the names he was writing on our clothes. Cavellini’s voice filled Heroes’ Square, so we managed to remain completely invisible on public space we were using without permission.

(English translation by Krisztina Sarkady-Hart)