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Workshop Samuel Adams



von 14:00 bis 15:30




Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Vortragssaal Raum 242, II. OG, Katharina-von-Bora-Straße 10, 80333 München

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Workshop Samuel Adams: Niki de Saint Phalle at documenta IV

Niki de Saint Phalle at documenta IV


In 1968 a group of protesting artists led by Wolf Vostell crashed the press conference for the fourth documenta exhibition in Kassel. Smearing the microphones with honey, they blasted the organizers for privileging market-ready Pop art while excluding Happenings and Fluxus. The following night, as part of the exhibition’s off-site programming, Niki de Saint Phalle premiered a theater piece titled ICH at the Staatstheater Kassel. The drama follows a heroine’s battle against patriarchy, as she murders her parents in order to unlock her personal and professional potential. Saint Phalle designed eleven scenes, including film projections and elaborate set pieces such as a monumental painting of a vagina and mutilated baby dolls roasting on a spit. These works were all destroyed following the production, inadvertently satisfying Vostell’s demands for ephemeral, un-merchandisable, live art. Critics who attended the premiere compared the aesthetics of the stage to both Pop art and Happenings. Although Saint Phalle thus conjured the tensions surrounding documenta, critics also derided her drama as “girlish,” and none considered it to be politically engaged. The dismissive response to Saint Phalle in Kassel signals wider problems in West Germany that would plague the New Left and the project of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. In this talk I will sketch an argument that Saint Phalle used the theatrical format to frame pressing concerns about democratic society that were not to be found at either the official documenta exhibition or in political discourse at large.

Dr. Samuel Adams