June 2, 2010 - Museum Morsbroich - Das Theater ist auf der Strasse: Wolf Vostell’s Happenings
June 2, 2010

Das Theater ist auf der Strasse: Wolf Vostell’s Happenings

The airport as concert hall
An action during the Dé-coll/age-Happening
In Ulm and around and about Ulm, 7.11.1964
Photograph, b & w, Junta de Extremadura
Consorcio Museo Vostell Malpartida

Das Theater ist auf der Straße
Wolf Vostell’s Happenings

6 June – 15 August 2010

Gustav-Heinemann-Strasse 80
51377 Leverkusen


Wolf Vostell (born Leverkusen 1932 – died Berlin 1998) realised more than fifty Happenings between 1954 and 1988 that turned spectators into participants. By moving out of the studio and onto the street, Vostell was taking what constituted a pioneering step for European action art, by incorporating his fellow citizens into the artistic process. This retrospective show presents Vostell’s collage-like happenings as a multimedia nexus of pictorial, artistic, musical, and theatrical expression.

The nucleus of the exhibition is the so-called Happening Archiv Vostell that the artist systematically built up over time and is now kept in the Museo Vostell Malpartida. The Museum Morsbroich and the Museo Vostell have joined together to investigate how the heyday of the Happening — for which Vostell is the absolute byword among German artists — might be documented and evaluated from a present-day vantage point. The exhibition — comprising the scores and manifestos from Happenings, photographs, film and sound documents, invitations, and posters from the archive, as well as relics from various actions, images and drawings devised in context, objects, sculptures, and environments — shows Vostell to be the ubiquitous, universal driving force behind this holistic project that integrated life and art.

For Wolf Vostell, Happenings were instruments to raise awareness of temporal phenomena. Vostell countered the objet trouvé of the Dadaists with his concept of the vie trouvée. The order of the day was to expand not only the concept of art, with its rigid and traditional forms, but also, and above all else, life itself: “Duchamp declared the object to be art, I have declared life itself to be art.” In this way, Vostell realised the first European Happening in the form of Das Theater ist auf der Straße, in the streets of Paris in 1958, followed by the first Happening on German soil, in the form of Cityrama (1) in Cologne in 1961.

The experience of reality concentrated and consolidated itself through a participation in these Happenings and, at the same time, Vostell’s inherent critique of society, culture, and the media became clearly delineated. Nevertheless, the events themselves always remained ambivalent, poised between a certain randomness and control, between playfulness and seriousness, and life and death. In their very openness, Vostell’s Happenings instigated and catalysed the intensification of a personal ability to perceive, to experience, and to recognise.

A catalogue will be published by Kerber Verlag (about 336 pages, with around 700 illustrations) in both German and Spanish. It will contain four introductory essays, an interview with Mercedes Vostell, and an appendix with a pictorial and textual documentation of all the Happenings. The evaluation of the Happening Archiv and its publication is intended to promote a new, academic engagement with the phenomenon of the Happening.

The exhibition will be curated by Fritz Emslander (Museum Morsbroich) and José Antonio Agúndez García (Consorcio Museo Vostell Malpartida). The exhibition will subsequently be shown at the Consorcio Museo Vostell Malpartida (October 2010 – February 2011).

The exhibition represents a collaboration between the Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen and the Consorcio Museo Vostell Malpartida, under the auspices of the project series “Europäische Partnerschaften” initiated by the Kunststiftung NRW and the Goethe-Institute.

Opening: Sunday, June 6, 2010 at noon
Press Conference: Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11 am

Please note that the Museum Morsbroich will change its opening hours, from June 8, 2010 to: Thursday 11 am – 9 pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday to Sunday 11 am – 5 pm

Museum Morsbroich
Phone: +49-214-855 56-0
Fax: +49-214-855 56-44
E-mail: museum-morsbroich@kulturstadtlev.de

Museum Morsbroich

Museum Morsbroich
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