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HAPPSOC I. – sociological happening

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Date: 2–8 May 1965

Participants and organizers: Stano Filko (b. 1937), Alex Mlynárčik (b. 1934)

Location: Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The legendary “HAPPSOC I.” Was a pivotal work by Stano Filko and Alex Mlynárčik that took the form of an invitation card. Those invited were asked to participate by turning the city of Bratislava into a work of art for seven days between May 2–8, 1965. This is the time where two important national holidays are celebrated: Labour Day and Liberation Day. The invitation for “HAPPSOC I. “ contained a list of all things found in the city (including their statistical number) that were to be used to produce the artwork. The list included the total number of: women, men, dogs, houses, balconies, agricultural estates, plant buildings, flats, water supply in flats, water supply out of flats, kitchen ranges electric, kitchen ranges gas, washing mashines, refrigerators, Bratislava as a whole city, a castle, Danube in Bratislava, street lamps, TV aerials, cemeteries, tulips, theaters (including amateur theaters), cinemas, chimneys, trams, motorcars, inns, trolleys, buses, typewriting machines, broadcasting sets, shops, libraries, hospitals, etc.

In collaboration with Zita Kostrová, Filko and Mlynárčik wrote a manifesto to accompany the happening titled “What does HAPPSOC mean? Theory of anonymity that in twelve points defines their intentions.


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The Lunch (in memoriam Batu Khan) – the first happening in Hungary

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Date: 25 June 1966

Participants and organizers: Gábor Altorjay, Tamás Szentjóby (with the cooperation of  Miklós Jankovics and István Varannai, with the help of Enikő Balla, Miklós Erdély, and Csaba Koncz)

Location: The cellar of István Szenes, Budapest

The happening was organized in the cellar of a private house by Gábor Altorjay and Tamás Szentjóby.
There were about sixty viewers. In addition to a short film and several photographs there are three detailed written descriptions of the happening: a review of the happening published by László Kamondy in the weekly magazine, Tükör; the recollections of Gábor Altorjay published two years later as an appendix to the article by Ottó Tolnai entitled “On the Newest Hungarian Poetry” in the Novi Sad Hungarian language magazine New Symposium; and a secret police report also written in 1968. All three texts differ at points regarding how and what happened, and what sense it made.

Documents:
Gábor Altorjay: The Lunch (in memoriam Batu Khan) (1968)
Anonym secret police officers: Summary report and action plan regarding happenings (1968)
The Lunch (in memoriam Batu Khan) – The first Hungarian Happening – n/8, b&w film, camera: László Gyémánt.


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Colouring the Elephant – happening

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Date: 24 April 1971

Participants: Ülevi Eljand (1947), Tiit Kaljundi  (1946-2008), Ando Keskküla (1950-2008), Vilen Künnapu (1948), Leonhard Lapin (1947), Avo-Himm Looveer (1941-2002), Kristin Looveer (1947), Jüri Okas (1950), Jaan Ollik (1951), Sirje Runge (Lapin) (1950), Andres Tolts (1949), et al.

Location: Children’s playground in Pelgulinn, Tallinn

The opening of the 1971 exhibition of independent student works at the State Art Institute in Tallinn culminated in the happening “Colouring the Elephant” in a nineteenth-century suburb of Tallinn. During the happening, a large group of art and architecture students repainted a run-down children’s playground that had a wooden elephant slide in the middle. The event was initiated by artist and design student Andres Tolts, who had a studio in the neighborhood. It was officially sanctioned as a renewal project and paint was provided by the local municipal housing committee. The happening is documented in Jüri Okas’s film Elephant (8 mm, color, 15 min.).

Happenings, walks through neglected areas and wastelands of the city—“places abandoned by socialism that had themselves abandoned socialism,” as Lapin put it—and interest in strange and uncanny encounters had all been among the practices of a group of young architecture students since the late 1960s. In 1972, a year after “Coloring the Elephant,” architect Vilen Künnapu and poet Juhan Viiding published their article “A Proposal” in the main cultural newspaper. The article called for a rediscovery of the neglected spaces of Tallinn—its anonymous courtyards and wooden dwellings—and suggested that they “modestly supplement them with beautiful vibrant colors.” Emphasizing the aesthetic value of elevator shafts, staircases, external plumbing, and ventilation ducts as anonymous works of art, they pleaded for them to be enhanced with color. The blank walls of industrial structures were to become exhibition spaces filled with posters and images.

The happenings and walks initiated efforts to revive these urban spaces, but resisted uniform redevelopment. Characteristic of these happenings was the use of playfulness as a specific tactic to counter the rational and normative aspects of everyday life and as a reaction to the seriousness of prevailing art forms and dominant powers. (One should not overlook the ironic appropriation of subbotnik—Soviet “voluntary” community work—in “Coloring the Elephant.”)

In his speech “Art Designing the Environment” at the same exhibition of independent student works, Lapin proclaimed that “the human living environment has become the central concern for contemporary culture.” Lapin criticized “beautiful art” as merely a decorative form of commodity, and confronted it with art that contributes to the production of new environments. Both design and happenings were intended to help achieve this goal. Ideas such as those announced by Lapin would define art practice during the following years; among the defining characteristics of these practices was their interdisciplinarity.

Document: Vilen Künnapu, Juhan Viiding: A Proposal


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Performances at unofficial avant-garde music festivals in Riga

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Date : April 1976–October 1977

Location: Latvian Art Academy hall and the student club of the Polytechnic Institute in Anglican Church, in Riga

Participants and organizers: Alexei Lubimov, et. al.

The first significant experience of contemporary music for musically conservative Riga was the concert series “Twentieth-Century Music” by Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov during the 1975/76 season. Although the series was banned, architecture student Hardijs Lediņš and violinist Boriss Avramecs encouraged Lubimov to play his intended program at an unofficial festival. Its culmination was a concert at the Art Academy, where Riga and Moscow musicians performed works by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, and others. There were also performance elements presented by the musicians and selected audience members, as well as a happening after the second part of the concert with spontaneous improvisations, provocative acts, and absurdity. “It was fun but it ended in scandal, because it broke all the rules and notions about high-minded art,” recalled Avramecs[1].

The festival also took place the following year, officially sanctioned as “The Days of Music” dedicated to music by contemporary Soviet composers and the sixtieth anniversary of the Great October Revolution. But hidden under the acceptable name were works by avant-garde Soviet composers, including Vladimir Martinov’s Easter Cantata, which was not part of the approved program. Deemed to be “religious propaganda,” this work served to justify the state’s repression of the musicians and organizers and a complete ban on playing similar music, either officially or unofficially.


[1] An interview with B. Avramecs in May, 2011.


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The Old House – happening by Andris Grīnbergs

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Date: 1977

Participants: Irakly Avaliani, Džonītis (Jānis Silenieks), Laima Eglīte, Mudīte Gaiševska with son Dāvids, Andris Grīnbergs, Inta Grīnberga, Anita Kreituse, Māra Ķimele, Leonards Laganovskis, Ingvars Leitis, Po (Juris Brīniņš), Eižens Valpēters, and Māra Zirnīte

Organizer: Andris Grīnbergs

Photographers: Māra Brašmane and Jānis Kreicbergs

Location: House at 21 Elizabetes (formerly Kirova) Street, Riga

The actions organized by Andris Grīnbergs mainly took place in private locations and had no connection to the institutional art scene or Soviet reality. They were almost always collective, involving Grīnbergs’s friends, associates, and occasionally strangers, who turned the initial idea or impulse into situational spontaneity and made the narrative (characters, atmosphere) into a living fact. The actions were both provocative and romantic, with frequent displays of nudity as a manifestation of personal freedom.

The happening “The Old House” was held in a once-grand but now-abandoned house and served as both a farewell to the place and as a celebration of changing times. The participants, either naked or in clothes, visualizing the emotional narrative, enlivened the abandoned interiors with improvisations, music and poetry. These activities seemingly merged bygone times and existence outside of time through interpretations of various emotional stages and ambiguous identities.


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Models – Māris Ārgalis’s solo exhibition

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Date: November–December 1978

Participant: Māris Ārgalis

Location: Exhibition hall of the Republican House of Science, Riga

This was the first solo exhibition for 25-year-old Māris Ārgalis. At the time he was one of the most creative artists, who openly provoked the authorities both through his work and personal attitude.

Ārgalis came to the attention of the art world thanks to his surrealist and hyperrealist graphics. His visionary urban-environment plans, photo collages, and spatial objects were just as original, breaking boundaries and pointing towards collaborative art practices. In the “Models” exhibition, the artist playfully turned the surrounding environment into an equal partner in the artwork, involving the viewers and provoking spontaneous actions.

The various segments of the exhibition synthesized into a whole and the artworks “stepped out” from the illusionary world into the physical space. For instance, the graphic works were complemented by spatial-cube modules that the viewers could shift around, thus becoming coauthors of the work. The city landscape visible through the glass of the windows that the graphics were displayed on also became part of the artwork. The photomontage series Bizarred Riga by Ārgalis’s informal Emissionist Group was a rare example of unambiguously critical, ironic commentaries and interpretations of the urban environment in 1970s Latvian art.


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