Sohm Archive: The Happening

In 1962, Wolf Vostell published the first edition of the magazine »décoll/age« with texts and musical scores by George Maciunas, Addi Köpcke, Nam June Paik, Benjamin Patterson, La Monte Young and others, thus founding a compendium of inter-media art. Six further editions were produced by 1969, and today - due to the Joseph Beuys chocolate multiple appearing in the fifth issue - »décoll/age« is a rare collectors’ item: irony of the history of an anti-art movement whose aim was to attack the mechanisms of the market economy. The magazine and the acquaintance with Wolf Vostell were what inspired Hanns Sohm to begin archiving the ephemeral artworks of the period at the moment of their origination, forming a collection in which nearly every relevant protagonist of this movement is now represented.

In his 1958 essay on »The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,« the American Allan Kaprow proclaimed the expansion of the »dripping« technique into space as the only possible future for art. He began to put his theories into practise in actions of an everyday, wholly unmystical nature, involving the members of the audience. He called them »happenings,« a term which soon spread like fire. Unlike most American action artists, Wolf Vostell - the most important practitioner of the new art form in Germany - conceived of the happening as a demonstration of political sentiment. He used the term »dé/collage« (= airplane crash), which he had allegedly found by pure coincidence in a Parisian newspaper, to designate not only actions in which he tore down posters and smeared illustrated magazines - the latter inspired in good part by the Nouveaux Réalistes and Robert Rauschenberg’s »combine paintings« - but also those attacking the destructive component of contemporary processes (e.g. »in Ulm und um Ulm herum« of 1964, in which a military airfield with whining jet engines was declared a concert hall). [ IC ]

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