Time Matters 10.37198/APRIA.03.02.a17
“At the end I thought, now we can start.”
On a small Californian beach close to San Diego, one evening in April 1968, the American artist Allan Kaprow1 gathered a group of his students to participate in his ‘happening’ called OVERTIME. Following his instructions, the group collectively moved a 200 foot (approximately 60 metre) wooden snow fence2 1 mile westwards at intervals of 200 feet.3
Fifty-one years later, on the evening of May 25, 2019, to be precise, nomad artist, researcher and educator Sophie Krier re-staged Kaprow’s happening OVERTIME on the Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro in South Tyrol (Upper Adige), in Italy. Again, the goal was to move a 60 metre snow fence 1,6 kilometres along with the collective efforts of 31 ‘happeners’ in the course of one night.
The following text documents a series of exchanges between Sophie Krier and curator and writer Christel Vesters. In these exchanges, they reflected on the different ways in which time is an operative element in artistic practices – both as a prerequisite for the creative process and as a neoliberal entity for measuring productivity; on boundaries and divides and how to bridge these, and on the deep mapping of a place by evoking its lost memories and forgotten knowledges.
PART ONE. TAKING THE LONG ROUTE
Before we delve into your re-staging of Allan Kaprow’s happening OVERTIME on the Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro, I would like to talk about your practice in general, and how you engage with the places and contexts you work in. You describe yourself as a ‘nomadic artist, researcher and educator’, and in your career you have developed site-specific projects across the western hemisphere. But rather than just dropping by like a tourist, you choose to engage with each location for longer periods of time. Can you explain why this longer-term engagement with a place is important to you?
In addition to having a research-based nomadic practice that makes use of a variety of pedagogical formats, I see myself as a ‘relational artist’, and in order to establish a relation with a place, a person, or a context, I need time to explore and to invest in that relationship. This is probably one of the reasons why I struggle with the default ‘project framework’ which requires that budgets, deadlines and sometimes even outcomes are set months in advance.
To give an example, in 2010, I was invited to participate in an exhibition in Casablanca, Morocco.4 We managed to stretch our stay and budget into a four-month residency, which gave me time to really open up to a completely new cultural context and to try to move beyond my ‘First World’ sensibility.
My aim is to get to the core of what a given place is all about, and what I, as an artist, can contribute to its resilience, its livelihood or its conviviality. In the beginning you run through clichés – and it takes a long time before you encounter the thing that needs to be addressed. And once I have found that, again, it takes a long period to figure out with whom to address these issues, who the local agents and knowledge keepers are with whom I could collaborate. To build a meaningful relationship with a place, you need time.
I am interested in how you describe that this project-driven model makes you feel confined or ‘limited’. When I think about my own creative process, I need a sea of time, or at least the idea of an abundance of time, to dwell and wander, and to not feel the pressure of fixed deadlines.
Yes, I think this psychological boundary is certainly one reason why I have been resisting the term ‘project’, and why I prefer to call them ‘works’. You are right; thinking about our practices in terms of projects has become standard. Even a seminar like Time Matters, which I attended last March at ArtEZ, has project-like aspects. For instance, in the way that very urgent issues such as our alienation from natural temporalities and intimate relations with other life forms still needed to be condensed, to be literally framed into keynote templates. Even the term ‘urgent’ implies that time is being compressed…5 And recently, in an online course I was following, I heard my lecturer repeatedly say: ‘Let us move on, in the interest of time.’ Of course this sentence isn’t actually a plea for time, as in time being an entity ‘needing something’. But that’s how I interpret it. I confess that I have used that phrase too when I was in a hurry, but speaking to you now, I wonder: What is time’s interest, intrinsically? What if we could think from the perspective of time?
I am currently reading the book Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy and the Making of Worlds by the Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar.6 In it he talks about the struggle of the indigenous Nasa and Misak people from the Norte del Cauca region in Colombia – their struggle to defend their unique vision on and way of life, which in my mind could offer an alternative to our neoliberal discourse around time management and productivity. Rather than thinking about the organisation of labour in terms of ‘projects’, the Nasa and Misak people think in Planes de Vida (Life Plans). Escobar describes these as ‘strategies of re-localization, that is, strategies for the persistence of the place-based and communal weave of life.’7
I see Life Plans as the tracks you make during your life; your practice. They are the long routes, rather than the short sprints taking you to the next biennial or opening. For me, this concept allows me to understand my practice as a longer-term commitment to certain topics or themes, which unfold through different projects. Each project becomes a stepping-stone for the next, and as such, no project ever needs to feel finished or completed.
Another way to describe it is that everything I do is part of an iteration and re-iteration. Each step is an effort to allow knowledge to accumulate or deepen in order to become more precise. What comes to mind is this image of an eagle drawing circles in the sky, big circles at first and then smaller and smaller (although the predator-prey metaphor may not be the best one).
On the outside, my career looks like an eclectic mix of projects. But when I look deeper, I can see that with each project, I am doing the same thing, over and over again: walking in circles, or rather in spirals, inching closer and closer to the core of what it is I am exploring.
One of the reasons why I said yes to working with Lungomare, the cultural foundation in South Tyrol where I conceived the School of Verticality, was that their residencies are stretched out over longer periods of time.8 They didn’t want me to come for two or three months and merely respond to something I noticed in the area, but they urged me to come several times over a longer period. In the end I went about ten times and the residency lasted a year and a half. The journeying to and from South Tyrol, the back and forth movement, immersing myself and then taking a distance again, was in fact fundamental to the development of my ideas for School of Verticality. I think the conditions set by Lungomare are very atypical from ‘conventional’ residencies – the ones that consist of a generic empty room with a desk you can put your laptop on. Instead, Lungomare offered an incredible network of local people, of expertise, of knowledge about the history of the place, the local agriculture etc.
In the beginning I wanted to learn everything about everything, and over a period of time, out of this sea of information and possibilities, some things started to surface which triggered my attention and that I wanted to work with, like the garden, the seeds, the traditional bread making, the different kinds of boundaries I sensed in this complex territory, and so on.
I can relate to what you’re saying. I also see my practice as a curator [/] researcher [/] writer, developing along ‘long routes’; most of the stuff I am interested in requires longer-term commitments that allow for insights and ideas to unfold and come into sight. But alas, as you mentioned earlier, that’s not how artistic or curatorial work is organised (and managed!) these days. Funding bodies especially demand clearly outlined content, planning, outcomes and results, they even want predictions of the added value of the project. I think it is striking how this neoliberal ideology around time, labour, production and result assessment has been superimposed onto the realm of art, research and creative thinking, which I think are the disciplines that need open-endedness and the freedom to seek out their own rhythm in order to thrive. But somehow, we live in a society where the value of what we do, our work, is measured against the amount of time we invest, in particular the economic value of our labour. Time is money.
Yes, I agree. That’s why I prefer to talk about ‘works’; not meaning work as in object; but bodies of work; things, questions, intentions I am working on. But let’s be honest, my practice runs on projects too – that’s what I do; that’s how I earn a living as an independent, one-woman company; that’s how funding bodies and institutions operate. That’s why I like this notion of Life Plan so much, because it offers a different sense of ‘finality’, but also because it implies a different value system, a different understanding of what ultimately is the most important thing: the movement of Life.
This different sense of finality, or in my case resisting finality, plays an important role in the development of any of my works. Be it in terms of their concept, their material execution of their public presentation, I try to keep things open for as long as possible. This openness also defines the process of translating the field research into the work, which often becomes a site-specific intervention. Hardly any of the decisions do I make on my own. I always involve others, either because of their specialist expertise, their skills, their local knowledge, or because of they are the spokesperson for communities I work with.
For instance, for the first iteration of School of Verticality, called ‘Weaving Gardens’9, I proposed to introduce a vertical loom in the Orto Semirurali, a communal garden in Bolzano. I assembled a team of people, each with their own specialist knowledge, to help me design and build the loom: a carpenter from Bolzano and one from Calabria, who both are part of Akrat, a local organisation providing sheltered employment; women from the local intercultural women’s organisation Donne Nissà, and of course, albeit some reluctantly at first, the gardeners themselves. They all became co-creators and simultaneously the public I wanted to address. It took a week to build the loom on site, carefully considering each decision, each option, for example the type and provenance of the wood, the specific location of the loom in the garden.
I need this time to establish a space where encounters can take place, and to allow these to influence the final shape, colour, but also its use. For instance, at first the gardeners of the ‘Orto Semirurali’ were passive bystanders rather than active participants, but after a couple of days we started talking and it turned out that they were keen to have a construction with a roof where they could hold meetings, garden concerts and take shelter in case of bad weather. So that’s when we decided to place a roof over the platform on which the loom was placed.
I wouldn’t be comfortable with just stepping into a context and dropping my ‘art object’ into it. I always aim for my work to be reciprocal, or at least based on dialogue, and I hope that by integrating these multiple functions, the project will live on after I have left.
So in a way your aim is to conceive, develop and contribute something to a place that starts to trace its own Life Plan, even after you have left…
Yes, that is a nice way to put it. But, whilst I am saying that, I must say that I also struggle with this idea of longevity and the eternal. Should we really want things to last forever?
PART TWO. OVERTIME: WORK IN PROGRESS
Allan Kaprow certainly didn’t mean for his happenings to last forever; at least not in a physical way. In the participants’ memories, maybe… Was it this kind of temporality that attracted you to the art form of happenings?
I first ‘discovered’ Kaprow and the Fluxus Movement through the work of Robert Filliou, who wrote a book on teaching and learning as art that I love.10 When I was in Blois, a small town a two hours’ drive south of Paris back in 2017, I made it my mission to visit the Fondation du doute (the doubt foundation), which is an art centre dedicated to the private collection of French artist Ben and the Fluxus movement. At the museum I encountered some of the posters Kaprow made for his happenings, and I was completely in awe; because of their simple design, the absurd, playful and totally democratic but also poetic phrasing of the announcement and the instructions… It marked the beginning of my fascination with Allan Kaprow and his happenings.
This is also when I first saw the poster he made for OVERTIME and I was immediately hooked by the image of the fence, which almost becomes a graphic element, like a barcode. OVERTIME has been on my mind ever since, long before I decided to do a re-enactment of the happening in South Tyrol.
Allan Kaprow’s instructions were very always precise and to the point, maybe even a bit didactic, like a cooking recipe. Can you elaborate on Kaprow’s objective for his happenings?
In 1966 Kaprow recorded a lecture titled ‘How to make a Happening’, in which he explains what a happening is in eleven rules, and one of the rules is that a happening happens with happeners.11 A happening has no public, and therefore it is not a performance (a performance is still organised following the hierarchy of point to mass-communication, involving senders and receivers, a stage, a clear beginning and end).
When Allan Kaprow conceived his happening OVERTIME in 1968, he thought of it as a critique of the capitalist organisation of labour and work. How important was this critical message to you when you decided to organise a re-staging of the happening?
I don’t know if Allan Kaprow was influenced by the late 1950s writings of Hannah Arendt on the subject of what makes a vita activa, an active meaningful life, but to me her texts are an important reference, especially the distinction she makes between ‘labour’ and ‘work’.12 Like the word used for women giving birth, labour according to Arendt is a natural, intrinsic part of life. It is about creating something, engaging with this world, whereas ‘work’ is related to ambition, success, status, things you (think you) want to achieve.
What I do know is that Kaprow conceived OVERTIME around the same time that he realised another ‘wall’ happening, called Sweet Wall,13 for which the instructions were to build a wall and to break it down again immediately. For OVERTIME the instructions were to erect a 200-feet snow fence, and to move it, ‘maintaining direction’, for one mile, between sunset and sunrise. Both happenings were conceived in 1968, prior to the student protests in Paris, but also in New York. I have been talking a lot with my collaborator Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro about the possible relation between the revolutionary spirit of these protests and the reason why Kaprow choose a wall, and the time frame of the night, as the score for his happenings. But all we know is that Kaprow was looking into different types of walls in the months before and after OVERTIME.14 In the happening Fluids (1967), blocks of ice were stacked forming a wall which would then melt away. Fluids is actually quite a famous happening and has been re-enacted a number of times15, whereas OVERTIME has only been executed that one time by Kaprow and a group of his students on the beach in San Diego. According to the Allan Kaprow Estate, it has been reinvented only once so far, by us, on the Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro.
But to come back to your question whether OVERTIME is a critique of capitalist labour, for OVERTIME PAPER number one, Stéphane and I interviewed Philip Ursprung, an art historian at the ETH in Zürich who has re-enacted Kaprow’s happenings before. His interpretation is that OVERTIME is about ‘working after hours, working at night’. He says, with OVERTIME ‘you could ask, what is work, what is alienated work? It’s obviously useless to do this work, to push this fence towards the sea… I always read Kaprow to issues of economy, human labour and work … Effectivity, productivity…’16 To me, OVERTIME has to do with working beyond required hours, as Ursprung mentions, but there are also people who interpret overtime as extra time, free time, bonus time.
When Kaprow executed OVERTIME in 1968, he chose a beach close to the San Diego campus – I understand that he initially wanted to stage the happening in New York but needed to postpone the event due to the student protests. You chose a different setting, namely the Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro in South Tyrol (Upper Adige). Why did you choose this particular spot?
The name of the place already holds an important clue: Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro. It contains both the German and the Italian parts of this region as equal parts, divided or connected by a long dash, depending on your perspective… It says a lot about one of the borders, or boundaries, which is very tangible in everyday life in South Tyrol and plays an important role in how society and education is structured, that is, the linguistic one.
It is interesting that in terms of governance South Tyrol is an autonomous region, with its own tax system etc. In my mind, I equate autonomy with a certain harmonious, balanced whole; yet, during my time there I encountered so many different borders and boundaries. Take language; the people of South Tyrol speak fluent Italian and German, but depending on the altitude either one of the two is the dominant language. So in the cities of Bolzano or Merano, which are located in the valleys, you will find that language and culture are more Italian-oriented, while the higher up you go, in the smaller mountain villages, language and cultural habits tend towards the, earlier, Germanic roots.
Another very clear border that defines the area are the age-old geological frontiers formed by the mountains, which shape natural demarcations between different areas. When you arrive in Bolzano by train, you enter a landscape that is literally partitioned by vertical walls. And a less visible geological border is the one between the European and African tectonic plates that have formed the landscape over long, long periods of time (interestingly, there is a so-called ‘window’ in South Tyrol where the African continent can been seen lying on top of the European continent).
So to me, the South Tyrol region is defined by its borders and boundaries: geological, natural, linguistic, cultural. But there are also other borders that were more painful to witness, for instance the immigration border. South Tyrol has become a bottleneck for immigrants from Africa and the Middle East who are trying to get to northern European countries like Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Even if they enter Europe in the south of Italy, they will encounter another border between Italy and Austria at the Brenner–Brennero frontier, which is increasingly militarised and even locked down at times. And last but not least, there is the ecological boundary across nature and culture that is slowly shifting the landscape from a traditional polycultural way of farming to an industrialised monocultural use of the land.
And this ecological border also demarcates the different economies, the different ideological systems of ‘working the land’, and of different value systems, maybe…
Yes, these ‘value borders’ are very visible in the landscape; the valleys are predominantly taken up for the cultivation of grapes and vines, but higher up, in the mountains, you can still find pastures. In the last century the Alms – which translates as ‘pasture’ in the sense of historical ‘commons’, used and maintained by a community to herd their sheep and cows – have been pushed to higher grounds in order to make way for industrial systems farming and for tourism that are slowly but surely moving up the mountain slopes.
So is the Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro where you re-staged OVERTIME still in use as a commons?
Yes, in part, but it is also one of the most privatised and commodified places in South Tyrol where the locals go to recreate, hike and bike (on electric bikes!)… The ridge where we executed OVERTIME is the last bit that is actually still a commons. But the farmers’ private fences keep moving up year after year…
What your research, which you shared in the four editions of the OVERTIME PAPERS,17 shows is that this interplay between visible and invisible borders that is shaping the land, the culture, society and everyday life, is quite a dynamic one, and that borders are not just fixed spatial or material entities but also have a temporal dimension… they change over time.
I think this is something that Kaprow also wanted to bring across through his happening; not just as a visible statement, that is, a fence being moved across one mile, but as an embodied experience: together we (can) move borders, we can shift the landscape, both in a literal and physical sense, but even more so, metaphorically, in a political way. In OVERTIME the long duration of these geological or historical shifts in our natural and social landscape, take place overnight…
I would like to talk a bit about this juxtaposition between, on the one hand, the changing borders and boundaries, which are situated on the surface, on a horizontal plane if you like, and on the other hand the changes that take place over time and that can be understood as vertical layers, strata.
The reinvention of Kaprow’s happening was the third iteration of School of Verticality, the overarching work I developed during my residency at Lungomare. In short, School of Verticality is a public program about listening and learning from embodied, situated forms of knowing. It investigates questions like: Where on earth do we belong? Which forgotten, deeper nurturing practices can we bring to light and reinvent, together? The programme tried to tie together various biographies (human, animal, territorial) and temporalities (of geology, history, biology, dreams, memory). And Kaprow’s proposal to use a snow fence, so a human-made artefact, operating on the surface of the earth as a kind of momentary interruption of a much longer and cyclical natural process (snowfall), was interesting to me in that sense – it points to those coinciding processes, which you could describe as vertical and horizontal, yes.
So if the moving of the snow fence touches the issue of boundaries in their spatial manifestations, that is, as markers of surfaces and territories, how did you touch on, or mobilise those deeper domains? And what kind of deeper layers did you mobilise?
I think the act of erecting a fence is what humans do. It’s how we inhabit the earth, by creating safe enclosures, marking of our territory, protecting our homes and livelihoods. So doing that, redoing that, connected us to ancestral gestures. To answer your question more directly, one of the ways we addressed these ‘invisible boundaries’ was by bringing together an assembly of people who all represented a different ‘body of knowledge’ to take part in the re-staging. In the end, the group of ‘happeners’ we invited was a carefully created constellation, including a local fence builder (Sepp Gasser) who knew the site in a very hands-on way as he has herded cows there (without fences!) for sixteen years; Sepp Kusstatcher, the former mayor of Villanders–Villandro, who knew what the Alm was like before it became a commercialised tourist site filled with signage, roads, summer houses; Robert Gruber, the director of the underground mining museum; Marianne Erlacher, a local architect who strives to bring about more dialogue between the neighbouring valleys and villages; and other participants included a historian, archaeologist and anthropologist who brought a more academic but also intuitive type of knowledge to the event.
The whole idea was to collapse the boundaries between these different forms of knowing through the action of moving the snow fence together. Which I think also really happened, not in the last place because the weather was so bad and everyone got soaking wet in the middle of the night, literally losing their marks because of the darkness… We were all in it together. It was physically quite intense.
The other way of mobilising and bringing to the surface these deeper layers, deeper divides was through the OVERTIME PAPERS as you said; this was a kind of reader, which we sent by mail to the participants in the weeks leading up to the happening. Each paper focussed on a different theme that we felt was connected to OVERTIME: Deep Time; Shared Time; Political Time and Ancestral Time. On the night itself, an intimate ritual was carried out to invoke the permission of our ancestors – those who walked the ridge before us, and the mountain itself. The ritual took place by an old stonewall. I can recall stepping aside from the action, taking a sip of schnapps, and being asked to give one drop back to the ground. I remember that at that very moment it started to rain. The next day I hiked back to the same spot to document the traces of the happening. And just as I approached, a drizzle started. It opened up something or moved something inside me, which still ‘labours on’…
Maybe Kaprow chose to stage OVERTIME at night because it is one of our last temporal retreats in a 24/7 economy. What I find so nourishing about the night is that masks fall off; roles dissolve. With the tiredness and the dark, everyone becomes deeply, or simply, human. In the eastern spiritual traditions, the night, like the moon and rivers, stands for feminine energy (yin), for mourning, for remembering. But also for letting go; for allowing ourselves to be supported by what we do not know yet; to go along with that what time makes available for us.
- Arendt, Hannah, “Labor, Work, Action”. In Amor Mundi: Explorations in the Faith and Thought of Hannah Arendt. Edited by James W. Bernauer. Boston College Studies in Philosophy. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987.
- ———, The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.
- Filliou, Robert, Teaching And Learning As Performing Arts. United Kingdom: Occasional Papers, 1970 / 2014.
- Hauser & Wirth, “Allan Kaprow – Artists | Hauser & Wirth,” accessed November 13, 2020. https://www.hauserwirth.com/artists/2811-allan-kaprow.
- Kaprow, Allan, “Allan Kaprow”, accessed 10 December 2020. http://www.allankaprow.com/about_reinvetion.html.
- ———, “How to Make a Happening” (side 1), 1966, Mass Art Inc., MP3 audio, 12:09. https://primaryinformation.org/product/allan-kaprow/.
- Krier, Sophie and Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro, eds., Overtime Papers, Bulletin 3: Political Time. Bolzano: Lungomare, 2019.
- Occasional Papers, “Robert Filliou: Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts”, accessed 10 December 2020, https://occasionalpapers.org/product/teaching-and-learning-as-performing-arts/.
- “Time Matters IV. Ecological Time: Natures that Matter in Activism and Art.” Seminar held at ArtEZ, Arnhem, March 2020. https://timematters.artez.nl/.
- Widewalls, “Robert Filliou”, accessed 10 December 2020, https://www.widewalls.ch/artists/robert-filliou.
American artist Allan Kaprow (1927-2006) was interested in blurring the boundary between life and art: ‘The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible’ (“Allan Kaprow – Artists” Hauser & Wirth, accessed November 13, 2020. https://www.hauserwirth.com/artists/2811-allan-kaprow).
A snow fence is a temporary barrier intended to stop drifting snow from accumulating on a road or other passageway. In line with Kaprow’s prompt to think practically, for OVERTIME, Krier and Verlet-Bottéro borrowed a snow fence from the local ski club in Villanderer Alm–Alpe di Villandro. This lightweight variety consisted of a bright orange/pink textile net and stakes at regular intervals. It remains unclear why Kaprow specified the use of a snow fence for this particular happening – perhaps because of the fact that a snow fence stops a natural process (snow) in favour of a cultural one (traffic) fascinated him.
As Sophie Krier and her collaborator Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro worked out the details of the seemingly straightforward instructions formulated by Kaprow in 1968, they realised: a) that 1 mile = 5280 feet, meaning that covering 1 mile in iterations of 200 feet = 26.4 moves and b) that the fence needed to be displaced “maintaining direction”; but which direction, they wondered?
Set up as a residency period in answer to the initial brief for a Dutch Design exhibition by the Dutch consulate of Rabat, ‘ICI Casa Ville Inventive’ (HERE, Casa Inventive City) produced new work in the space of two months, in collaboration with a local team of designers, students, workers and artisans. The residency resulted in an exhibition structured as a city within a city. A programme of debates about local issues (the unacknowledged value of the petits métiers (small jobs); the regeneration issues of the tramway project, and the precarious status of Casa’s architectural heritage) connected the exhibition to local stakes. The Dutch design team included Sophie Krier, Bas van Beek, Erik Wong, David van der Veldt, Sjoerd Jonkers, and Dawn Ray. The team was enriched with Khadija Kabbaj, Jamal Abdennasser, and Meryem Aboulouafa as well as artisans and students living in Casa. In total a crew of almost 50 people were involved.
“Time Matters IV. Ecological Time: Natures that Matter in Activism and Art” (Seminar, ArtEZ, Arnhem, March 12, 2020. https://timematters.artez.nl/)
Arturo Escobar, Designs for the Pluriverse:Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2018).
Ibid., pp. 73-74. The Life Plan of the Misak people is explained in terms of ‘the construction and reconstruction of a vital space in which to be born, grow, persist, and flow. The Plan is a narrative of life and survival, the construction of the path that enables the transit through life; it is not a simple planning scheme’ (Cabildo, Taitas, y Comisión de Trabajo del Pueblo Guambiano, quoted in Escobar, p. 73).
The first episode of School of Verticality, ‘Weaving Gardens’, was defined in close collaboration with the Donne Nissà association and the gardeners of the Orto Semirurali garden of Bolzano. Together with social association Akrat, Sophie Krier installed a vertical loom in the garden, with the intention to create a collective fabric that would depict the cultural stories and memories of the garden.
Robert Filliou, Teaching And Learning As Performing Arts (United Kingdom: Occasional Papers, 1970 / 2014). ‘A “work in continuous progress”, as Filliou called it, Teaching and Learning remains an essential primer on the artist’s still radical ideas on participatory art making and teaching’ (“Robert Filliou: Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts”, Occasional Papers, accessed 10 December 2020, https://occasionalpapers.org/product/teaching-and-learning-as-performing-arts/). Robert Filliou’s (1926-1987) ‘artistic oeuvre also includes film-making, “action poetry,” and sculpture, fittingly placing him amidst the burgeoning Fluxus movement’ (“Robert Filliou”, Widewalls, accessed 10 December 2020, https://www.widewalls.ch/artists/robert-filliou).
Allan Kaprow, “How to Make a Happening” (side 1), 1966, Mass Art Inc., MP3 audio, 12:09, https://primaryinformation.org/product/allan-kaprow/. Rule number 5 states: ‘Break up your time and let it be real time. Real time is found when things are going on in real places. It has nothing to do with the single time, the unified time of stage plays or music. It has even less to do with slowing down or speeding up actions because you want to make something expressive or because you want it to work in a compositional way. Whatever happens should happen in its natural time. […] [Why] not let the amount of time you do something depend on what is practical and convenient for the particular actions in the happening. You can waste an awful lot of time trying to coordinate things.’
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958); Hannah Arendt, “Labor, Work, Action”, in Amor Mundi: Explorations in the Faith and Thought of Hannah Arendt, ed. James W. Bernauer, Boston College Studies in Philosophy (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1987).
In reality, Sweet Wall was carried out in 1970, in Kreuzberg, West Berlin, as a parody of the idea of a wall. It consisted of building and destroying a wall made of mortar bricks, bread and jam, close to the Berlin Wall.
Happenings conceived by Kaprow and pertaining to walls include Fluids, 1967, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California; OVERTIME, 1968 (April), commissioned by State University of New York, New Paltz (not realized); OVERTIME, 1968 (May), sponsored by University of California San Diego; Barreling, 1968 (September), presented for the Sixth Annual New York Avant-Garde Central Park West from 95th to 67th Streets; Sweet Wall, West Berlin, 1970.
Rather than re-enacting, Kaprow refers to ‘reinventions’: ‘I say reinventions, rather than reconstructions, because the works […] differ markedly from their originals. Intentionally so. As I wrote in notes to one of them, they were planned to change each time they were remade. This decision, made in the late 50s, was the polar opposite of the traditional belief that the physical art object—the painting, photo, music composition, etc.—should be fixed in a permanent form’ (Allan Kaprow, from 7 Environments (1991), p. 23, quoted in “Allan Kaprow”, accessed 10 December 2020, http://www.allankaprow.com/about_reinvetion.html).
Sophie Krier and Stéphane Verlet-Bottéro, eds., Overtime Papers, Bulletin 3: Political Time (Bolzano: Lungomare, 2019), p. 27.
The happening was preceded by the OVERTIME PAPERS, a critical reader in four parts that puts Kaprow’s work in dialogue with the local context. Gathering photographs, interviews and text excerpts, the OVERTIME PAPERS addressed notions of deep time (geological boundaries), shared time (common boundaries), political time (national boundaries) and ancestral time (transcending boundaries).