Endre Tót: Joys 1971-78

“My Joys” are a reflection of the dictatorial conditions of the 70s. With my absurd euphoria of joys I responded to the censorship, the closed world and the oppression that could be felt – although it worked with subtle tools and was almost invisible – in all areas of life.

My first joy piece from 1971:

"I’m glad I was able to print this sentence". It was a text printed on a piece of cardboard, made illegally, at night, at a printer’s in Pest, moonlighting. It is a known fact that in those days you needed permission for all printer’s products, even for a rubber stamp. After one of my rubberstamp designs was rejected, I had one made in Zurich: "I’m glad if I can stamp” (the text was combined with the cliché of the happy face).

It wasn’t easy to get hold of a xerox. In Belgrade, at the "Expanded Media" festival I was finally able to indulge in my joy by photocopying. I made thousands of photocopies on the xerox machine that stood in the middle of the gallery: "I’m glad if I can xerox". Some ideas from my films: "I am glad if I can go one step”. Not needed for an explanation. Or: "I’m glad if I can go here and there" (closed in between two walls). Or there is a photo idea with commentary: "I’m glad if I can stand next to you" (standing by the Lenin statue in Felvonulási Square).

I wrote this on the Berlin wall in 1978: "I’d be glad if I could write on the other side too" (the text was of course written on the West Berlin side). Now the Lenin statue is gone and the Berlin wall has been demolished. History turned my joys into history. But I wasn’t a politically committed artist. I reacted to those times I had to live in in a very indirect way. With humour, ease and in some ways with philosophy. I consistently avoided dark tones and drama in my works.

If I disregard the oppressive effect of the ideology of that era, my joys were also those of solitude and loneliness. Something that people can experience under oppression but also in the greatest freedom.

(source: Endre Tót: Semmi sem semmi [Nothing Is Nothing], retrospective 1964-1994 Plan for the exhibition, cologne, 1993)

(English translation by Krisztina Sarkady-Hart)

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