Archiving Performance Art in The Artpool Art Research Center – Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

An Interview with Julia Klaniczay and Gabriella Schuller (Artpool)

Kata Krasznahorkai
György Galántai; Artpool Art Research Center; Chapel Studio at Balatonboglár; Hungary; archive; performance art; Impossible Realism.

KK: When did Artpool1 start collecting, archiving and documenting performances?

JK/GS: The core of the Performance Collection concerns György Galántai’s curation and documentation activities in the Chapel Studio at Balatonboglár. This was an artist-run venue, working outside the state-supported structure between 1970 and 1973, when the police closed it down. Among other things (such as exhibitions, poetry readings, film screenings, etc.) happenings and actions were performed there. Galántai wrote accounts and took hundreds of photos of the events at Chapel Studio. The performative events at Balatonboglár are heavily researched nowadays. From 1979 Galántai continued his curation and documentation within the framework of Artpool, the organisation he founded with his wife Júlia Klaniczay, and many important performances were documented during the previous decades. Between 1979 and 1989 Artpool was operating as an illegal art archive, but after the political transition it became an official research institute with a non-profit institutional background.

Regarding the terminology, it is worth noting that artists only began to use the term and concept of ‘performance art’ from the early 1980s onward; prior to this, only ‘happenings’ and ‘actions’ took place in Hungary.

KK: How is Artpool ‘doing’ performance art history – that means, what is happening with a performance when entering Artpool‘s collection?

JK/GS: We make the collected materials available to researchers as soon as possible and also use them in our own research and exhibitions. We have a detailed database of all performative events from which all available documentation at Artpool can be located. This includes photos, videos, scripts, descriptions and bibliographies. We ask researchers to provide us with a copy or the documentation of the outcome of their research (be it an article, a work of art, a performance, etc.), or even copies of missing documents, which also serves to enlarge the body of our collection.

KK: There is a “Live List” published by Tate Modern2 governing how to manage performances in public collections. How do you relate to this in terms of Artpool`s work and do you have your own list?

JK/GS: The Tate Modern`s work in this area is commendable, but the Artpool Art Research Center is foremost a research institute with an archive and not a museum, so we don't have such a list as we don't contribute to the museumisation of performance art. For us, the description from the outset should be simpler. We collect materials and information, and make them available to researchers. In the long term, time provides the answer as to which events should be described or researched in detail.

KK: Artpool is a concept based on being an ‘actor’ and an ‘observer’ at the same time. How do you work with performances after they have been archived?

JK/GS: We collect some basic data: the place, date, participants and a short description of the event. Also, if available, photos and videos (or the contact information as to who has them). When putting together exhibitions, we use documents in our curatorial work (for example, documents are screened or records are played in the exhibition space) using the concept of “Active Archive”.

KK: What are the principles of performance-archiving in Artpool?

JK/GS: The main principle is to collect as much useful information as possible in order to document the event and make it available to future researchers. All our colleagues at Artpool pay close attention to the contemporary art scene to document the most inspiring events.

KK: How does Artpool define what a performance is, how do you categorise live-based art forms in the archive?

JK/GS: We don't need a strict definition of performance because in the archive and the database we have the possibility to use more than one category at the same time. Besides the label ‘performance’ we also use (sometimes for the same event): concert, lecture performance, event, video performance, happening, action art, land art, photo action and exhibition opening performance.

KK: Did this categorisation change when Artpool started performance-archiving?

JK/GS: No, it hasn’t, because a broad concept was used from the start.

KK: How has the archival-documentational policy of performances changed since the question of archiving performances has become a hot topic of established high-profile museums, such as MoMA in New York or Tate Modern?

JK/GS: We don't have in-depth knowledge of the policies of these museums. As we mentioned earlier, Artpool is a research institute with an archive and not a museum. We can only say that it is always important that the person who is documenting is sensible to the event and has an ‘eye’ for it – and from this point Galántai as an observer was certainly not neutral and often caught scenes not noticed by others.

KK: In recent years, there is a new ‘storming of the archive’ from scholars, who convincingly argue for a de-patriarchised, embodied-archive based on performance (for instance, Diana Taylor, Rebecca Schneider). Can you relate to that concept in your archival work in Artpool – or is this an academic discourse far from your daily experience of actually ‘doing performance art history’?

JK/GS: During the socialist era the media was strictly controlled by the authorities. Oral genres were virtually the only tools with which to memorise and recall instances of event-based art forms and the most prominent personalities of the underground art scene, who would become legends during their lifetimes. There is nothing novel for us in the idea of Taylor's understanding of orature and storytelling as a means of keeping memory alive besides the written documents. But collecting and storing material traces of the underground art scene, also self-historicizing was a completely new phenomenon in the 1970s.

Initially, Artpool was an illegal private archive that could be researched by visiting the founders – it was far from being an authoritative institution. Though its status changed at the transition, even nowadays the researchers coming to us are given material documents and have the opportunity to meet the witnesses of the events and enjoy personal stories of Galántai and Klaniczay as they are still active members of Artpool's staff. At the same time their research may serve as a starting point of artistic projects. So “situating the archive as another kind of performance”3 is part of our everyday practice.

KK: What do you think about the concept of ‘performative archive’ – often related to Fluxus and related groups?

JK/GS: The concept of ‘Active Archive’, a foundational idea for our archive, is similar to this which has been reflected in the practice of the institution during the decades. As Galántai stated: “Active Archive does not only collect material that already exists ‘out there’, but the way it operates also generates the very material to be archived.”4 A good curatorial example of this was the “Impossible Realism” exhibition.5 For this, Galántai made a Hungarian version of Kosuth’s Chair, a reconstruction of Maciunas’ FLUX Ping Pong table & Rackets, and an interpretation of Duchamp’s Trébuchet.6 Subsequently an Australian artist group was inspired by the Ping Pong table so they asked for permission to recreate Galántai’s reconstruction, and invited artists for a competition to design rackets for it.7 So the information stored in the archive can be seen as part of a network of performative acts.

KK: Are you ‘networking’ the performance archive in Artpool Art Research Center with other archives, and what kind of interaction has been there in terms of new contexts, categories and actors?

JK/GS: We have established a global network with similar institutions to cooperate and exchange information but, in our experience, the copyright of photos and videos remains unclear and often this becomes an obstacle. A settlement should be arrived at concerning the creative commons-like licenses of photos and videos in the public domain.

KK: Archiving ‘live’ events helps save them from ‘dying’, but archiving is also a survival strategy for the archive itself. What does Artpool`s integration with the Museum of Fine Arts mean for its future in terms of what is documented and archived as performance art and how this can be achieved?

JK/GS: We think that ‘forgetting’ or ‘falling out of our memory’ are terms that better describe that process. The integration with the Museum of Fine Arts did not change Artpool’s archiving policy but improved our professional conditions: more art historians have been employed, the infrastructure has improved. Also, we have more financial possibilities to enlarge our library, several important on and offline articles and books are now being published. Among them we are preparing a comprehensive publication on the Hungarian performance histories based on Artpool’s collection.

Kata Krasznahorkai
University of Zurich

Júlia Klaniczay
Artpool Art Research Center – Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Gabriella Schuller
Artpool Art Research Center – Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest


Júlia Klaniczay is cofounder of the illegal Artpool in 1979 (with artist György Galántai), since 1992 director of Artpool Art Research Center. Last published: The Mukhina Project. Interpretations of Being in György Galántai’s Oeuvre (Budapest: Vintage Galéria 2018).

Gabriella Schuller is researcher and archivist, focusing on theoretical questions and history of performance art and performativity and the countercultural practices during the Kadar era. Member of the Committee on Theatre Studies and Cinematography at Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Kata Krasznahorkai is Gerda Henkel Senior Researcher at the Slavic Department of the University of Zurich. Artists & Agents. Performance Art and Secret Services (ed. with Sylvia Sasse, Leipzig: Spector Books 2019). Forthcoming: Operative Art History or Who is Afraid of Artists? (Spector Books: Leipzig 2020).

Suggested Citation

Krasznahorkai, Kata. 2020. “Archiving Performance Art in Artpool Art Research Center – Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. An Interview with Julia Klaniczay and Gabriella Schuller.” 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:


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