Portable I2 Museum

Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Actionism in Hungary during the 1960s (1956 – 1976). [Excerpt]

Tamás St.Turba
NETRAF; Portable Intelligence Increase Museum; Pop Art; Conceptual Art; Actionism; Hungary; 1960s.

Reporter: Tell us about the 1960s.

Timothy Leary: Whoever remembers the 1960s wasn't there.

What is certain is the need to re-evaluate the entire legacy of our recent past, and we could do no better than start with the forgotten, neglected, suppressed, distorted and disrupted cultures of Central and East Europe.

(Henry Meyric Hughes. London, October 1999)


After WWII the assumption of power of the new Hungarian government that was cobbled together by the Muscovites through fraudulent elections – as was also the case in the other Soviet Bloc countries – was consolidated through the establishment of the socialist and then communist institutions of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

After the appropriation of private property by the State, the dictatorship of the proletariat eliminated or obstructed everyone and everything that served or seemed to serve the restoration of slave owners, aristocrats and bourgeois interests. These classes’ real or supposed representatives or collaborators, or at least who hadn’t escaped the country in the years after the war, were eliminated in secret or show trials. Nazis, Trotskyists, anarchists, homosexuals, Gypsy slackers, the mentally ill and all non-conformist thinkers were segregated and denied legal equality, economic communality and cultural freedoms by being jailed, put in labour camps, deported, or locked up in mental institutions. And to make this self-contradictory social state of affairs complete, the entire population was treated as an opposition – even workers and peasants were suspect – and subject to constant surveillance and intimidation by the gigantic, international functioning military-mercantilist, informant-network of the maniacally obsessed communist party. This was so up to the breakout of the 1956 revolution and the bloody reprisals following its defeat, which resulted in a new wave of several hundred thousand refugees, through to 1989 and the final, complete capitulation of the supporters of the Soviet Empire's legal-economic-cultural system.

Of course, not even in this devastating and deathly boring system did the autonomous, yet, contextually situated working imagination die out – one which strives to go beyond everything current and existing, i.e., the actualisation of an alternative utopian aesthetic.

Rather, by the 1960s the possibilities opened up by the earlier 20th century avant-garde grew ever stronger and appeared en masse on a global scale, and the aesthetic/mental accumulation reached a critical mass: Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Actionism transformed into a mutation of the iconoclastic tradition. Due to its international status and as a consequence of its historic development, it became a part of a global phenomenon, appearing in repressive-tolerant bourgeois democracies, as well as repressive-intolerant socialist democracies: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary, etc. That the romantic-depressive, centralised kitsch-cultural politics didn't recognise in its original ideology a suitable art, i.e. a renewed socialist realism, and that it mobilised a separate artistic censorship and secret police to eliminate “cultural imperialist machinations” (which were, ironically, backed by the CIA) was proof of the apparatchiks necessarily over-bureaucratisation, corruption, and stupefaction.

Jackson Pollock died in 1956, and his antipole actualised: Pop, Act, Idea. In Hungary, the first signs came at the end of the 1950s and in the early 1960s, with electronic music, musique concrѐte and pop-like poetry. Then, from the mid-1960s: pop-and conceptual-influenced art, or poetry, intermedia and non-art-art, happenings, action, flux-concerts, action-theatre, action-music, followed by mail-art, rock ‘n’ roll, film-films, not-stone theatre, Neo-Socialist Realism, etc. By 1976 this period came to an end: Punk, New Wave, Neue Wilde, Neo-Geo, Bad Art, Appropriation Art followed; then Post-modern torso-complexity, and finally, the last varieties became saturated and then emptied: the monomaniacal movements came to an end. Truth died, long live Truth!

The bombastic exhibit, “The Sixties – New Tendencies in Hungarian Visual Art” organised by the Hungarian National Gallery in 1991; and the even more bombastic international exhibit, “Aspects/Positions – Art in Central Europe 1949 to 1999”, mounted in 1999 at the Stiftung Ludwig Modern Art Museum in Vienna, and in 2000 also at the Museum of Contemporary Art - Ludwig Museum in Budapest, barely – and even then in a tendentious, phoney context – covered the art produced in Hungary that characterised the 1960s.

Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art Since the 1950s (Museum of Modern Art, NY), did not cover any post-1950s Hungarian art which developed in synchrony with international trends, since Hungarian art historians and curators had failed to inform the public about domestic and foreign developments before and after the 1989 coup. Hence, Hungarian artistic developments between 1950 and 1989 are not worked up, appreciated, archived or popularised and consequently the artistic common knowledge is truncated and mutilated.

The NETRAF (Neo-Socialist. Realist. International Parallel Union of Telecommunications’ Global Contra-Art-History-Falsifiers Front) – Andrea Tarczali, nurse, András Szőnyi, Tamás Kaszás, and Schmidt “Motor” Péter computer assistance, Tamás St. Auby, agent. In order to fill this neglected gap NETRAF has put together a collection of dozens of multiples, hundreds of multimedia and projected works and documents by some 70 artists, and is presented by the Portable Intelligence Increase Museum, with the subtitle “Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Actionism in Hungary During the 1960s”.

Budapest, 1–13–2004  

Translated from Hungarian by Csaba Polonyi

Tamás St. Turba, IPUT/International Parallel Union of Telecommunications, 2007.

Tamás St.Turba
IPUT’s Trustee in bankruptcy, NETRAF-agent, BBB’s-sexton


Tamás St.Turba is a Swiss-Hungarian non-art-artist based in Bácshegy (Hungary). He founded a) International Parallel Union of Telecommunications (IPUT) after starting the propagation of Happening&Fluxus in Hungary (1966), b) Subsistence Level Standard Project 1984 W (1974 – 1975), c) Neo-Socialist Realist IPUT's Global Counter Arthistory-Falsifiers Front (NETRAF) (2001), d) Basic Democracy – Basic Income Basilica (2009).

Suggested Citation

St. Turba, Tamás. 2019. “Portable I2 Museum. Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Actionism in Hungary during the 1960s (1956 – 1976). [Excerpt].” Sandra Frimmel, Tomáš Glanc, Sabine Hänsgen, Katalin Krasznahorkai, Nastasia Louveau, Dorota Sajewska, Sylvia Sasse (eds.). 2020. Doing Performance Art History. Open Apparatus Book I. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17892/app.2020.0000.188

URL: http://www.apparatusjournal.net/

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