Subject: dunaújvárosi Acélszobrász Alkotótelep
Date: Mon, 6 Sep 2004 11:33:31 +0200
From: "Dunatáj Kiadói Kft." <>
To: <>

To György Galántai, artist

Dear Mr Galántai,

You may remember that the International Sculptors' Colony and Symposion in Dunaújváros will be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of its establishment this year. On this occasion, I would like to write some articles for the Dunaferr weekly. I was glad to discover a photograph in the 1996 catalogue of you and the Forward brigade. As far as I know, you are a member of the Dunaferr Danube Iron Works Staff. I would be very grateful if you could answer the following questions.

In your work as an artist so far what role does the time you spent in Dunaújváros play?

How did you see your staff membership?

What ties do you have with the town?

What is your opinion about the Sculpture Park in Dunaújváros as a collection of fine art?

What is your focus as an artist these days?

We would like to publish your answers in Dunaferr weekly as an interview.

Thank you for your answers.

Yours truly,

Éva Kaszás

Dunaújváros, 1 September, 2004

Subject: Re: [Fwd: dunaújvárosi Acélszobrász Alkotótelep ]
Date: 2004. szeptember 10. 19:31:23 GMT+02:00

Dear Ms Kaszás,
Thank you for contacting me.
I was happy to answer your questions. Please find them attached.

György Galántai

Dear Ms Kaszás,
I'll try to answer your questions but suddenly everything seems so distant, as if none of it actually happened to me.

Dunaújváros, and the Iron Works in particular, play a determining role in my “life works”. I not only mean the works I made there but rather the impact they had on my art. I reused a great many of the works I made in Dunaújváros as “inventions” on my later works such as stamps, rubber stamps, paintings, collages and a whole range of Mail Art projects. I also made concerts and sound works, and these were only the art objects, i.e. the material manifestations of that period.

Regarding the opportunities available to me in Dunaújváros at the time, I could not have imagined a more life-saving place than Dunaújváros, in an intellectual sense. I was very much attracted to the environment, which was rich in information thanks to the constantly changing heaps of iron parts accumulated daily in the loading hall for recycling. I didn't have any major technological needs and I always used techniques that were the easiest to execute. I didn't insist on the ideas I had come up with at home, so my works were mainly determined by the local conditions. I used the waste materials that the ironworks had no use for, and I even used the scrap metal that was left after my own sculptures. I tried to exploit the labour and resources capacities at my disposal as efficiently as possible; in other words, I only worked on my sculptures in the production intervals. During the six six-week periods I spent at the artists' colony I virtually created my entire oeuvre as a sculptor, for which I am indebted to all those who rendered their help.

My most memorable year in Dunaújváros was 1979, when by chance I had the opportunity to work with the maintenance staff in the coal coking works, the most remote and dustiest part of the factory. Out of the then seven members of the Forward brigade six were young people. I arrived by car with one of the leaders of the “Work-competition office”, who introduced me to the leader of the brigade and asked him to enter all the requests of "artist Mr Galántai” on the job-sheet. After the official left, there was tension in the air, since the young workers were somewhat at a loss in such an unusual situation. I broke the silence by asking them about their work, and later they began asking questions about art. Since there was no maintenance work for them to do around that time, we spent three days talking. First we discussed the art in Dunaújváros, but we eventually got as far as cave drawings and finally I told them what kind of plans I had. During the following four weeks I made thirty-six sculptures, for which – upon their request – I provided some commentary, but later there was somewhat of a role reversal and they explained the works to me. It was great to see these workers with their common sense approach turn into art enthusiasts. They all came to the exhibition premiere in the Uitz Hall, dressed up like you do when attending a special event. The officials who were also there at the event did not understand what “these workers” were doing at an art exhibition, so I told everyone the story of our brigade. I also wanted to use the opportunity to arrange some extra pay or just a written acknowledgement for their contribution, but my request fell on deaf ears at the “Work-competition office”.

(I realised my plans for a written acknowledgement for the brigade members in January 1983, as a kind of “compensation”. Thanks to my efforts, the people who erected my statue entitled 1/2X=V, dated 1979, on the Danube bank (they were not the Forward brigade, because the brigade no longer existed then) were given an official certificate of recognition and acknowledgement signed by president István Kiss of the Association of Fine- and Applied Artists and Tamás Vígh of the "Prognostics Committee". With this action I also tried to pressurise those people who prevented my work in Dunaújváros because of the fears/presumptions they had.)

I was told about the final chapter of the story of the “Forward brigade” from Laci Erdész in 1981 (he was the organiser of the symposium that year), when I was not invited to the artists' colony. After this great brigade heard (why) I was not coming, they went to the “Work-competition office” and requested that their name be changed. They wanted to become the “György Galántai brigade”. Changing a brigade's name was not prohibited by any decree, but they were not allowed to take on the name of a living person. Having found out about this they would have liked to have kept their original name but the “authorities” did not approve and said that they should take on a name suggested to them by the office if they wanted to change it so badly. After this the brigade ceased to exist, and I never met the brigade members again, nor did I manage to find out anything about them.

(I should tell you as a background to this story that in autumn 1979 I was going to give a lecture and slide show about art events I organised in Balatonboglár in the fine arts workshop run by István Birkás, but it was banned by the secret police. The banning procedure was arranged in such an awkward way by the police that the local leaders were utterly confused about me. As a result of this, for example, they had my statue entitled “1/2X=V – which was authorised to be erected at the fork of the road leading into the town (the northern entry point into Dunaújváros off highway 6) and which was even delivered to the site – to be transported to the Danube bank. The explanation was quite creative: the statue would have “cuckold the town”. Fortunately, the statue works quite well in the Danube bank environment, where sports events are organised and there is a statue park.)

As a result of my "mail action" of 1983 concerning the above-mentioned official document of recognition and acknowledgement, I regained some of the trust invested in me, so I was again allowed to work in the maintenance workshop. In 1985, at the 35th anniversary of the foundation of Dunaújváros, I entered the competition with a project for a monumental statue entitled “Gate to the Future”. Nine of my sound sculptures were also made at this time. Gate to the Future was not realised, for which the official explanation was a shortage of raw materials. In 1975 I already had a large-scale statue which was placed in the Steel Sculptor Workshop in a half-ready state. It was called “Materialized Life-Project (an iron plate sculpture). The Nature of Contradictions”, dated 1977, was smelted down because of a shortage of skilled workers – it’s absence from the town is really conspicuous(!). “Gate to the Future” would have been the third time that I couldn't complete a statue, but I didn't accept it. In 1987 I came close to finishing it but the Cuban guest worker - whom it was entrusted to – made a mistake so it was smelted down. Finally, I suspended my scholarship in West Berlin in 1989 because of a “temporary creative project”, and I received special permission and assistance for my “Gate to the Future” to be accomplished.

In those days people who had worked at the same place for five years received a service recognition award, which was an expression of acknowledgement, and they might have been paid some loyalty money, too. Then it occurred to me that in 1985 it was the fifth occasion that I had worked on the steel sculptors' colony, and since only I and Enikő Szöllőssy returned to the colony notoriously, she was the first person with whom I talked about my service recognition award idea. Enikő liked the idea and we agreed that in the spirit of the relaxed (inebriated) state we would be in after the exhibition opening we would have our ceremony where she and I would receive a service recognition award. Following my suggestion, the ceremony went like this: everyone signed two twenty-forint banknotes, which functioned as the loyalty money and the certificates, and the president of the council handed one to Enikő and one to me.

I hope I answered all your questions.
If not, please send me more questions.

György Galántai

Notes: I did not answer the question about what my focus as an artist is these days. In any case, I did not receive any more questions and I was not even informed about the publication of the article, so I assume my answers did not fit in with your preconceptions. I believe that the person who asked the questions, should have responded in one way or another, even if it had been an expression of regret that I had the wrong take on things because only the fond memories can be remembered when we celebrate. But allow me, how else could I explain the statues I made in Dunaújváros or my whole life’s work? I would say this if I had the chance, because the values I created in Dunaújváros can primarily be interpreted in the context I provided in my answer. I described what life was like with the happiest brigade, which in my opinion fits in with the mood of happy celebrations: that time was a real celebration for us because we had the chance to work well.

So, what my focus as an artist is “these days”? Well, perhaps it is not too late yet to face our cultural past, especially because it seems that in Hungary it has become a kind of tradition to loyally cling to an arrested and untouched state – i.e. a total lack of interest in artistic progress.

(I accidentally came across this unpublished publication of 2004 on 11 April 2005, the writing and data search for which took me three days, so I think it is worthwhile to share it with the wider public. Gy.G.)

see also:újváros