ARTPOOL - The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe
History of an active archive for producing, networking, curating, and researching art since 1970


Guy Bleus
ARTPOOL - The Book

"Artpool: The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe" is a colorful climax in the bibliography of the Eternal Netland. Everyone interested in the activities of (post)conceptual art - i.e. mail art, performance art, artist's publications, fluxus, artistic communication, etc - cannot ignore this volume of 536 vivid pages. It gives not only the history of 'Artpool' (1979-1991) and the 'Artpool Art Research Center' (1992-2011), but also focuses on György Galántai's activities of the early seventies. With exquisite texts, documents and illustrations this book explores the roots of experimental art and gives plenty of meaningful information for art researchers. If this book was not written, it should have been. Immerse yourself in this wonderful bookwork, you won't regret it.
While enjoying this amazing volume I look forward for 'Artpool - The Book: Part II'.
Guy Bleus - 42.292
Winter 2013

Rod Summers

Every book should be a voyage of exploration and Artpool the Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe is a splendid document of one man’s pioneering expedition through virtually the complete history of Experimental Art. This richly illustrated document of one man’s experiment in art is a masterpiece and an all-encompassing masterwork at that. From the repressive politics of the cold war era to the blossoming of the freedoms of expression experienced in the West, Galántai’s journey has been exquisite and this book reflects that perfectly. But the book is more than one person’s involvement in art evolution from the Seventies up to the present day; it is a document of what is widely recognised as one of the greatest archives of the work of international artists over the last 45 years.

It might be asked “Experimental art who needs it?” Well art needs it, art, be it fine art, music, theatre or literature is the highest achievement of human evolution and experimental art is the creative laboratory which seeds the art of the evolutionary future.

If Life is Art then this book is a perfect document of an art life, a unique and valuable resource. If you are interested in Art then this book will be of considerable and continuous interest to you.

Vittore Baroni
György Galántai, Júlia Klaniczay (editors)
Artpool - The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe
(Artpool, Budapest, 2013)

The history of the Hungarian Artpool archive, conceived in its embryonic form in the early Seventies, is as well seasoned and mature as the history of Mail Art, that multifaceted branch of the contemporary “networking cultures” that the centre directed by the multimedia artist György Galántai and by Júlia Klaniczay has taken as main focus and reference frame for its diverse activities. The New York Correspondance School show curated in 1970 by Ray Johnson and Marcia Tucker at the Whitney Museum in New York is generally credited, in fact, as the first public collective exhibition of the truly “global” phenomenon of postal art. With almost half a century of events, publications and projects behind its back, Artpool represents therefore an authoritative data bank of the eclectic range of expressions contained under the umbrella definition of Mail Art: artist’s stamps and rubber stamps, creative postcards and envelopes, artist’s books and magazines, but also visual and experimental poetry, collage and copy art, performance and video, sound art and sound poetry, installations and assemblages, process art and social art (the list is really endless). It comes therefore as no big surprise the mammoth size of this profusely illustrated volume, that by describing in minute detail the various projects curated by the Artpool Art Research Center in Budapest, also offers a consistent picture of what the grassroots phenomenon of art-by-mail has meant for thousands of professional and amateur authors worldwide in the past five decades.

What we infer from the many photos included in the book, mixed with original artworks and documents, is also that Artpool is one of the best organized Mail Art archives in the world, methodically ordered and wonderfully complemented by an equally well structured Artpool web site, a real treasure trove for those interested in the tradition of “networked art”. I have visited many correspondence artists throughout the years, and with a few glaring exceptions (such as Guy Bleus’ Administration Centre in Belgium) their “archives” are usually just a chaotic stockpile of cardboard boxes and crammed shelves scattered around the house. Quite often, mail artists do not have enough space at home, so they are forced to store their massive correspondence in attics, closets, garages or even rented warehouses. Artpool, on the contrary, looks as a well ordered and controlled art space, with a library and archive of original documents accessible to students and researchers, and the possibility to host exhibitions and performances (often in synergy with other institutional and alternative art spaces). This accomplishment is even more remarkable if we consider the geographical dislocation of Artpool in East-Central Europe and the many difficulties encountered, in pre-Internet years and under the pressure and surveillance of State officers, in the long process of gathering information and materials - mostly by mail - about underground and independent forms of art.

Mail Art today has been in great part superseded by networking activities carried out through the internet, in a much cheaper, faster and more pervasive way. Art through the postal system, though, remains a favorite practice not only for a few mail art veterans, as demonstrated by the high number of younger authors and newcomers to the genre who attended the recent Ex Postal Facto convention, organized in San Francisco in February 2014. The exchange of physical artifacts retains evidently a particular appeal, not comparable to the daily flow of volatile digital data. With such a consistent background, Mail Art allows today to reconsider the history of contemporary avant-garde art from an unusual perspective, quite different from the “official” art histories dictated by the art market and the mass media. The process of “self-historicization” of Mail Art, as postal art pioneer and Artpool friend Guglielmo Achille Cavellini would have said, carried out by insiders like Galántai-Klaniczay or the Danish mail veteran Niels Peter Lomholt (see his huge book Lomholt Mail Art Archive, Fotowerke and Video Work, Lomholt Formulart Press 2010), is therefore very significant and revealing. Just flip through the over 500 pages of the Artpool monograph, and you will see a wide and colorful range of unexpected developments of the seeds planted in the soil of XX Century art by Marcel Duchamp, George Maciunas, Ray Johnson, Robert Filliou and other more obscure thinkers and cultural activists that worked outside (or against) the mainstream culture of their time. Collective projects above all, from the creative philatelic emissions of World Art Post (1982) to the big ParaStamp exhibition of 2007, that often imply a collaborative side: art with solidarity and empathy, without renouncing to quality and individuality. Today like yesterday, Galántai’s 1985 statement “Art always works counter to its milieu otherwise it could not change it” remains absolutely true and vital. Study this book and then, if you are an experienced networker, write your own chapter in the unending saga of the Eternal Network.

(March 2014)

Artpool. The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe
György Galántai et Júlia Klaniczay

Comment ne pas souligner le tour de force en édition de cette publication réalisée à Budapest par Artpool en 2013? C'est un monument d'édition qui porte en sous-titre « History of an Active Archive for Producing, Networking, Curating, and Researching Art since 1970 ». Tout un programme! En 540 pages, tiré à 500 exemplaires numérotés, l'ouvrage offre une synthèse des multiples activités produites par ce centre dont on dit déjà qu'il possède les archives d'art actuelles plus importantes en Europe de l'Est.

En introduction, Kristine Stiles présente la publication. György Galántai et Júlia Klaniczay commentent pour leur part près de 400 activités produites par Artpool, qui a débuté ses activités en 1979. C'est donc une publication importante pour le stock amassé par ce centre au fil des ans. Dans cet ouvrage, divisé par années, se trouve une documentation impressionnante tenue par des archivistes du low art principalement, c'est-à-dire les traces d'activités en art action, en manœuvre, en art postal, en art in situ ... bref des productions qui ne sont pas institutionnalisées!

La section en appendice, titrée « General Information on the Institution and its Operation (2012) », représente à elle seule un travail de compilation considérable. Voici une liste des parties essentielles de ce « pavé » : 400 expositions, lectures et événements (dans le seul espace d'Artpool depuis

1997!); 500 000 objets singuliers; 8 000 livres et 5 000 périodiques; une documentation numérique d'environ 7 200 artistes; 1 250 cassettes ou CD et 200 vinyles; 2 000 documents sonores; 2 000 VHS ; 15 000 photos et 3 000 affiches ... Et tous ces documents sont accessibles pour les chercheurs!

S'y trouvent également la liste du personnel qui y a travaillé, les recherchistes locaux et internationaux, les thèses produites et les visiteurs. Une bibliographie sélective et un index complètent cette archive d'archives.

Un grand merci ici à Galántai et Klaniczay d'avoir travaillé pendant ces nombreuses années pour la conservation des nombreuses activités de ce que l'on a l'habitude de nommer low art.

RM [Richard Martel], Inter Art Actuel no. 117, pp 75

György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay, eds., “Artpool: The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe” (Book Review)

Written by Éva Forgács (Los Angeles), Monday, 02 June 2014

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