Wolf Vostell

Here is the Wolf Vostell film, EdHR, that we saw yesterday. By some magical Youtube trick, the longer version of the video has disappeared. However, this version does have the added benefit of telling you what EdHR stands for: Elektronischer dé-coll/age Happening Raum. Alex will confirm that “Elektronischer” is German for electronic and “Raum” is German for room, but it can also denote space, for instance, Raumfahrt = space travel. Décollage is an artistic style – think the opposite of collage. In collage, you take random or not so random things and smatter them together. We all remember, with varying degrees of nostalgia/dread, making collages in kindergarten/first grade. In décollage, you do the opposite. You take a whole picture and strip away layers of it, thereby revealing what is underneath. Here’s a good example:

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A “happening” is a very loose term signifying an artistic event whose artistic quality lies somewhere within the event itself. The following contrast should make this clear: if I paint a picture of the Mona Lisa, I have created a work of art; if I get one hundred people to stand outside Baltimore city hall and smash portraits of the Mona Lisa over their heads, I have created a happening. So, to put it all together, what we saw yesterday was an electronic décollage happening room.

I do not doubt that Vostell’s piece is both electronic and in/about a room. But why do you guys think he called it a décollage and a happening? Indeed, Vostell’s piece is not only a décollage; it is a dé-coll/age, a word whose dash and slash hint at the very process of décollage itself. What does Vostell’s work peal away? What does it reveal/conceal? And why does entering into the space of this work constitute a “happening”?

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