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Happening und Fluxus - A Prerequisite Study


Happening und Fluxus curated by Harald Szeemann and Hans Sohm at the Kölnischer Kunstverei Cologne, Germany, 1970 is considered the first major attempt at bringing the umbrella of Fluxus art and its countless characters into one exhibition. Part retrospective, part experimental process, the exhibition was ambitious in its efforts to accommodate collaboration between curator, artists and audience. Artists were given a cubicle to present their works[1] which predominately focused on the history of their practise. No artworks were commissioned, though some artists activated the space through happenings or performance pieces[2].

Allan Kaprow cover of brochure for Happening & Fluxus, 1970

The exhibition antagonised audiences, conservative politicians, the Catholic Church, led to the dismissal of staff within the Kölnischer Kunstverei and works by Muehl and Nitsch were removed[3]. Szeemann exemplified provocative, avant-garde curation by collectively driving artists away from individual, artistic autonomy by privileging the dominant art institution. The irony is not lost that this exhibition embodied the very reductive characteristics which Fluxus initially fought to radicalise. Despite its limitations, Happening und Fluxus, is still poignant because it heralded a new, more globalised way of seeing art.

Last page in the Happening & Fluxus Catalogue by collective, Zaj

In responce to the exhibition, I created a website which sits within the democratised and mediated mode of perceiving through the seductive excess of the internet; a reflection on the complex, multi-faceted structure of this exhibition: http://curatoriallab.wix.com/happeningundfluxus

[1] Poinsot, Jean Marc, 1996, ‘Enunciating Projects and their Aesthetic Values’ in Thinking about Exhibitions, R. Greenberg et al. Routledge, London, pp 33-35

[2] Obrist, Hans Ulrich, 11/01/1996, interview with Harald Szeemann, ‘Mind over Matter’, Artforum International, viewed 24/08/2015 http://umintermediai501.blogspot.com.au/2008/01/mind-over-matter-interview-with-harald.html

[3] Ursprung, Phillip, 01/12/2011, ‘More than the world can tolerate: Otto Muehl’s Manopsychotic Ballet’, Tate Etc Online, viewed 25/08/2015, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/more-art-world-can-tolerate


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