Támas St.Auby

Article Bio Projects
irony, satire
Action art (Fluxus)
Europe, Eastern
created on:
January 21, 2007
last changed on:
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Támas St.Auby
Támas St. Auby. Courtesy of the artist.


A st.riking non-art artist

It seems to be his life’s motto to reject the performance principle in one way or the other. Tamás St. Auby, also known as Tamás Szentjóby, Tamas Stjóby, Tamas Stauby, Tamas St. Aubsky, Emmy Grant, Emily Grant, Tamas Staub, Tamas Taub and Kurt Schwitters, was born in Hungary in 1944. St. Auby began his artistic career with its end. Already in 1966 the non-art artist wrote his last poem and bade the muse farewell. Since then, he has created an extensive oeuvre made up of actions, happenings, poems, compositions, sculptures, thoughts and mail art, known internationally mainly to the happy few. But St. Auby is not elitist at all and deems himself a neo-social realist. In the history of Hungarian art, St. Auby holds a key position. This is partly due to his not easily consumed but very influential art or non-art and partly to his essential role in disseminating happenings and Fluxus throughout Hungary.
In 1966, together with Gábor Altorjay, an artist and former schoolmate, he was inspired by a happening of Salvador Dalí to bring about the first of its kind in Hungary. ´Az Ebéd – In Memoriam Batu Kán (Dinner: – In Memoriam Batu Kán ´) shows the artists attacking the surrounding materials. Objects are torn apart, the artists are shown eating, drinking brine and vomiting. The press response was immense and equally annihilating, as usual at such events in East and West. Even the secret police appeared on the scene and wrote detailed reports. But St. Auby (known then as Szentjóby), in spite of innumerable repressions, continued with his happenings and actions.

In 1969, St. Auby organized the first Fluxus concert to take place in Hungary. A print of scores - in this case the Flux-Festival Sale by St. Auby´s friend Altorjay – sufficed to perform them in public. A further Fluxus concert, banned shortly before it was due to be held in 1973, was held twenty years later. The tickets were still valid.

An action, whose photographic documentation in Hungary became an art-historical icon, was the ´Auto-Therapeutic Exercise for the Preventative Treatment of Prejudice´ (1972). It took place in the chapel studio of Balatonboglár, a temporary site of independent art-practice. St. Auby sat there daily for a week with a tin pail over his head and a list of questions for visitors to choose from on a wall. One of them was: ´Can one create a society with other folk without being free oneself?´ Another was: ´Is action a sin?´

Already in 1968 St. Auby founded the ´International Parallel Union of Telecommunication´ (IPUT). First he invented the cover-name ´Parallel Course / Line of Learning´, since the party bureaucracy was ‘allergic to grass-roots initiatives’. With IPUT, he created a parallel universe, a fictive organization, in which he still holds a number of posts. His position as ‘dispatcher’ was followed by the present one as ‘superintendent’ of the organization. Since 1972 he has been concerned with the notion of strikes and he then began working on the ´Existence Minimum Standard Project 1984´, to be implemented step by step. The main idea was that everyone should be guaranteed a minimal income, to be financed by money siphoned off from the army budget.

After years of political repression in Hungary and his being jailed (1974) for Samizdat activities, he was thrown out of the country in 1975 and surfaced in Geneva in Switzerland with a Swiss passport. Here, he got to know the businessman and art-collector Huilliers who guaranteed him a minimal income by continually buying his works. In 1977 he broke off ties with commercial galleries and since 1980 has been organizing a non-art strikes. His Geneva strike dogma from 1981 is:

1. Against divine punishment – for the body´s immortality.
2. Against alienation through working – for a minimum income.
3. Against undervalued work – for respect.
4. Against unpaid work – for money.

In 1981 in the Fribourg Church of St. Borromée, he began the third phase of the ´Existence Minimum Standard Project 1984´. This consisted in founding the 24th Swiss canton, in which ‘folks live conscientiously objecting to the army or to over-consumption of the forbidden fruit.’
After the radical political change in 1991 St. Auby returned to Hungary and briefly led the gallery Bartók 32. Since then he has been teaching at the intermedia faculty (‘Intermedia Kindergarten’) of the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts and has had a notable influence, especially on younger artists in Hungary.

In 1992 he took up a suggestion from his artistic colleague Julia Lorrensy and transformed the Statue of Liberation on Mount Gellért into the ‘Statue of the Soul of Freedom 1992 W’. The monumental memorial was manipulated easily by draping it in a huge white cloth with two black blobs. It turned into a ghost for four days with the permission of the authorities.

In 1996/97 St. Auby presented the fourth phase of the ´Existence Minimum Standard Project 1984´ in the form of the exhibition ´Soteriological Katabasis´ in the Budapest Art Hall. Showing 3334 ´Baddrawings with Badtitles´, it was meant to show how a strike or conscientious objection can lead to total affirmation.

St. Auby has recently been doing what Hungarian and international art historians might have yet to do. As an agent of the ´Global Front of Anti-Art History Falsifiers of the Neo-Social Realist IPUT´ (NETRAF), founded by him in 2001, he has created the ‘Portable Intelligence Increase Museum’. This interactive object makes the Hungarian avant-garde (from 1956 to 1976) accessible for the first time through objects, photos, films and documents.

As an artist or rather non-artist, St. Auby has reached the enviable position of being virtually independent of galleries and institutions without having sacrificed his personal integrity to do so. In general this position can be reached either by being extraordinarily successful or, in his case, by having no interest in traditional criteria of artistic success. He has been able to make do with a minimal income and does not strive for a high level of recognition of one kind or another.
Author: Petra Stegmann


1944 born in Fót, Hungary
living in Budapest
Tamás St. Auby (alias Szentjóby, Stjauby, Emmy / Emily / Grant, St. Aubsky, T. Taub and so on) began as a poet and cartoonist before becoming a neo-social realist. In the summer of 1966, together with Gabor Altorjay, he organized the first happening in Hungary, then in 1968 he founded the ´International Parallel Union of Telecommunication´ (IPUT), which he superintends. In 1969 he organized the first Fluxus concert in Budapest and in 1973 planned a second concert, which was then forbidden at short notice and held twenty years later. In 1972 he began to take an interest in the notion of strikes, which led in 1974 to the program ´Existence Minimum Standard Project 1984 W: Make a Stool!´ In 1974 he was jailed on account of his Samizdat activities and in 1975 thrown out of the country. In Geneva he opened a new headquarter of IPUT, where he developed LSP 1984 further and took part in Fluxus events like a concert for George Maciunas in 1980. That same year he began organizing several ´non-art artists´ strikes´, then in Geneva in 1987 he opened the gallery ´Ruins´ for non-professionals with no profile and no profit.
In 1991 he went back to Budapest and became a lecturer at the newly created intermedia faculty at the College of Visual Arts. In 2001 he founded the Global Front of Anti-Art History Falsifiers of the Neo-Social Realist IPUT (NETRAF), in whose name he presents the Portable Intelligence Increase Museum.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Europe Now | Europe Next

(01 August 06 - 31 July 07)