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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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Permanent Anti-Gallery – series of exhibitions

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Date: 1968-1969

Participants and organizers: Július Koller (b. 1939), Peter Bartoš (b. 1938)

Location: The display window of the Hosiery Express Repair shop – Výklad komunálnej rýchloopravy pančúch, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

Let’s imagine a pedestrian casually walking along Klobúčnicka Street in Bratislava near the end of 1968. It’s late November; traces of the August disturbances that were provoked by the occupying army invasion are still visible. The display window of the communal Hosiery Express Repair shop becomes an exhibition space for ”anti-pictures” by Július Koller and photo paintings by Peter Bartoš. Koller and Bartoš continue to exhibit their work regularly here between 1968–69. For the two young artists, this presentation of their own work in an informal setting dissolved the boundaries between art, advertising, and merchandise. The exhibition space was called the Display Window or The Permanent Anti-gallery. Although not their most their spectacular show, in terms of their later work, it represented a crucial shift toward presenting work and ideas in a non-traditional way, in alternative exhibition spaces..


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The Legality of Space – plein air installation by Ewa Partum

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Date: 21–23 April 1971

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizers: Ewa Partum and BWA Gallery, Łódź[1]

Location: Freedom Square (plac Wolności), Łódź

The installation appeared in an open space between two houses near Freedom Square in the center of Łódź. Ewa Partum exhibited numerous boards with prohibitions: actual traffic signs and others, created by the artist, bare absurd messages—for example, “Prohibiting prohibited” or “Permitting prohibited.” For the opening, invitations were sent out. Since the road-signs had been borrowed officially from the Transportation Department of the city, they were guarded by the police, and some of the passersby took it as an exhibition of traffic signs. During the opening, Partum drove around the square and from the car with a megaphone shouted the captions placed on the tables. The artist published a catalog of the performence in 150 copies. Her installation was not granted any attention from the official Polish art world. The local media reacted with curiosity and compared Partum to Dalí, the Spanish Surrealist, because her work was equally “crazy.”


[1] Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych [Office of Art Exhibitions] was the name of the city galleries in Poland in the ’80s.


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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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The City as a Site of Plastic Happening – The Proposal Section of the 6th Zagreb Salon

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Date: May, 1971

Organized by: 6th Zagreb Salon

Concept by: Željka Čorak

Participants: Boris Bućan, Braco Dimitrijević, Jagoda Kaloper, Ivan Kožarić, Boris Ljubičić, Nada Orel, Goran Trbuljak, Marija Ujević, et al.

The beginning of the 1970s in Zagreb saw a number of curated projects that commissioned new artistic productions to be realized in public space. At the time, texts written by art critics expressed strong enthusiasm and belief that such artistic practices were able to “democratize” art and reshape the social environment, by developing communication between the urban space and its inhabitants.

The City as a Site of Plastic Happening, conceived by art historian Željka Čorak, was the first invitation for artists to use the city as material for their art. The event was the first iteration of Proposal, the newly established section of the Zagreb Salon, whose very title pointed to the primacy of idea over realization: artists were commissioned to submit proposals, only some of which could be realized. Seventeen authors/groups submitted twenty-four proposals, which were all exhibited at the Student Center Gallery. [1] The idea of a socially-engaged art that uses the city and the public space as a site of confrontation with the audience itself constituted a radical proposal—a desired ideal of social and aesthetic transformation. Some of the works that became widely known were first produced for this event, such as the Grounded Sun by Ivan Kožarić, a large abstract golden sphere placed on one of the neighboring squares in the city. The work’s elusive, abstract shape and its bold placement in one of the busiest areas in the city spurred controversy and even incited aggressive reactions. Another provocative work was Braco Dimitrijević’s series of large-scale photo-portraits of “casual passers-by,” which hung at the representative site of the city’s main square facade. Monumental portraits of anonymous citizens mimicked similar representations of political leaders and occupied the square on which official political gatherings were held.

Taking place three years after the neo-leftist 1968 student revolts in Yugoslavia and immediately after the nationalist Croatian Spring revolts in 1971, Proposal marks the era when the urban space was developing into a site of articulation and visualization of political and aesthetic contestation. By the end of the 1970s when the New Art Practice was already being historicized[2], many of the critics initially enthusiastic about art’s interaction with the urban space now expressed disillusionment, identifying the failure of art in public space to truly succeed in its effort to reach the people. They also noted the indifference of the public and the failure of social institutions to take advantage of the artists’ “offer” to act in the name of the public good.
Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


[2] Through exhibition projects such as New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1968-1978, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (1978), Innovations in Croatian Art of the Seventies, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (1982), New Art in Serbia 1970-1980. Individuals, groups, phenomena, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade (1983).


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AUTOBUS – A3: Action and Anonymous Attraction (Street Happenings and Rock Culture)

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Date: 1972-1973

Participants and organizers: A3 – Risto Banić, Mladen Jevđović, Dobrivoje Petrović, Nenad Petrović, Jugoslav Vlahović and Slavko Timotijević

Location: Belgrade, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Skoplje

The actionist exhibition Autobus by A3, performed in the Belgrade city center in 1973, presents one of the early examples of performative street action within the New Artistic Practices, affiliated with Student Cultural Centre – Belgrade (SKC). The A3 – The Group for Action and Anonymous Attraction worked together between 1970 and 1974 and its members were Risto Banić, Mladen Jevđović, Dobrivoje Petrović, Nenad Petrović, Jugoslav Vlahović and Slavko Timotijević (who joined later in 1972, and, as the only art historian among the members of the group, became important for the articulation and positioning of A3 exhibition work).

The A3 group have been less interested in the context provided by the Gallery of SKC; the space of their operation were rather the streets and city public space, or, in their own words – “the life itself”. Timotijević wrote: “The goal of the group was to produce attraction by means of a sudden, unexpected action”. The group always insisted on their intentionally marginal positioning and ephemeral works and actions, signing up as alternative or amateur actors on the scene of New Art and considering their work as part of broadly understood “rock culture”. The latest conclusion may also stem from the fact that the two members of the group – Dobrivoje Petrović and Jugoslav Vlahović – participated in the controversially perceived installment of the musical Kosa (Hair), taking place in Atelier 212 in 1970 (in which some of the actors occurred naked on the stage for the first time in Belgrade’s theatre) and played in different music bands of the time.

The action Autobus assumed the construction of wooden scaled model of a bus (200x400x150cm), which was handheld from the inside and “driven” by the walk of its passengers, while rolling on small wheels on the front and back. The point was to produce a social event or attraction by engaging “casual passengers” in ludistic dialogue and estranged behavior. Some of the casual participants of the action commented on the bus as a “hippie vehicle”, mocking its DIY structure and the look of artists, while others ironically prized this “ecological ride” due to its natural ventilation (being without glass on windows), the possibility of stretching the legs on the way to work and for the absence of the gas pollution. Participants were exhibited to each other, their comments were immaterially exhibited “in the air” of the city.

Autobus is a skeleton of the off the wall idea, a nutshell within the social idiocy of perfect industrialism and technocratism. By material unfinishedness and ideatory perfection Autobus enables involvement of its participants in the realization of the idea […]This is anti-autobus of the Traffic Enterprise A3, a children’s toy, the dream of children’s megalomania and manifestation of the desire for air-conditioning of the people during the summertime. Autobus offers freedom, enables creation of various versions of the idea, depending on the level of participation. By avoiding the possibility of one definite classification, the way to realization of the project is secured by the Tolerance. AUTOBUS IS TOLERANCE. As difference from static interventions in the urban space Autobus realizes as estranged appearance, visual unexpectability in the spatial circulation.

(exhibition statement of the A3 group)

Slavko Timotijević connects the work of A3 – The Group for action and anonimous attraction with the various forms of rock music, alternative theatre, fluxus mass culture, happening and street action: “It is the fact that the members of A3 have always been well informed about rock music and had a lot of conversations on that matters – we did rely on the sensibility brought about by rock culture. We didn’t have to play music in order to be a rock band. We were the rock band by itself.”


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Procession – performance by Teresa Murak

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Date: 1974

Participant: Teresa Murak

Location: streets of Warsaw, Poland

In the very early spring of 1974, the artist put on herself a cress seeds coat grown earlier (the working method being a reference to the tradition of handiwork and “female labor”), and set out on a Procession through the streets of Warsaw, thus introducing the figure of Mother Nature into a realm of specifically belonging to culture. This gesture, primarily referring to the relationship between the feminine and the natural being—also a main focus essential to feminism, albeit differently—present in corporal feminism, was at the same time a political one, an intervention in urban space which manifested a sensitivity extremely different to that officially valid in the People’s Republic of Poland.

The cress seed, a small fast-growing plant with a distinctive smell, became Teresa Murak’s trademark. Co-existing with the artist, in most cases the plant becomes the subject of her examination and the object of care while her art practice connected with the seeds is based on the idea of co-existence.

The action was documented on photos as well as it exists as oral history. A young Polish artists, Anna Lesniak, made a project Fading Traces (2011), in which she asked the female artists who were active in the 1970’s in Poland to tell about their practices. While we hear from the off Murak’s story, we see the track of her walk filmed by the Lesniak contemporary.


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Emphatic Portraits – poster action by Ewa Partum

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Date: 1978

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizer: ZPAP [Association of Polish Artists and Designers] Festival of Fine Arts in Warsaw

Location: Streets of Warsaw

Ewa Partum took part in the ZPAP Festival of Fine Arts in Warsaw with posters which connected different aspects of her previous works. The statement from her 1971 poem, “My touch is the touch of a woman,” was transformed into “My problem is the problem of a woman,” which was printed under the photo of her performance Change at Address Gallery in Łódź (1974) in which she let half of her face be artificially aged. 600 posters of Emphatic Portraits were put up all around Warsaw. In 1979 she repeated a similar poster campaign.

Her intervention—public display of an old woman’s face instead of an attractive young girl usually used in advertisements—was intended to point out that the urban space was the place of an artificial self-identification of women. It was not understood in that way though, and her action met a critical response in a weekly, popular magazine published in Poland in those years, Kultura. Written in sarcastic tone, the review accuses the artist of trivializing existential human tensions and narcissism.[1] Partum responded in the same magazine, stressing that the aim of her action was to articulate the consciousness and individual feature of the feminine problematic: “I consider feminist art important as that which gives the opportunity for the self-definition of a woman artist through her experience in ‘being woman’ in a patriarchal society.”

Document: Ewa Partum: “Ewa Partum’s Real Problem” – A Reply (1979)


[1] Andrzej Osęka, “Prawdziwy problem Ewy Partum” [Ewa Partum’s Real Problem], Kultura 37 (1979).


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