Happening !

Jean-Jacques Lebel / Ben & Fluxus

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 – 8pm
Cinéma Le Méliès

In the presence of Jean-Jacques Lebel and Jean-Michel Humeau


“Jean-Jacques Lebel’s happenings are the exact point at which theater explodes.” (Jean Paul Sartre.)

Jean-Jacques Lebel, visual artist, writer and, in 1960, the great initiator of happening in Europe, conceived happening as a subversion of mental structures and a preparatory laboratory for the political and revolutionary transformations of his time. It’s from this vital perspective that we open this cycle of films and videos devoted to Insurgés du corps!

Happening and politics
by Jean-Jacques Lebel (excerpt, 10′)
In his presence

The invention of the happening (what happens there, here and now), as a spontaneous art form and “ephemeral community of cultural and political agitation”, corresponded to a transformation of the relationship between art and life, placing the body at the center of the action as well as the absence of separation between artists and spectators.
“Temporary situations based on desire”, between the erotic impulse and the upheaval of social space, the unconscious and the imaginary, Lebel’s happenings have often been seen as prefiguring the events of ’68.
In 1967, Jean-Jacques Lebel organized a counter-festival with other underground filmmakers at Exprmtl 4, the Belgian experimental film festival in Knokke-le-Zoutte, which had rejected his film, l’Etat normal, as well as those by Yoko Ono and Pierre Clementi. Together with Yoko Ono, he took part in the election of Miss Exprmtl, a happening and total intervention that exploded the festival.
An icon of the ’68 movement, which he, among others, described as “the greatest happening of all time”, he was one of its spearheads, along with the Mouvement du 22 mars (March 22nd Movement), particularly during the takeover of the Odéon theater. A happening cannot and will not replace a strike, a sexual act or psychoanalysis; it is not a spectacle, but a collective dream. To apprehend such an experience, you need to accomplish something that blows the doors of perception open,” wrote Jean Jacques Lebel, Carolee Schneemann, Jocelyn de Noblet, Daniel Pomereulle and Erro in 1964.

He! Viva Dada
by Jean-Michel Humeau (1965, 39min)
In his presence

Preceded by an unseen surprise film

“From happening to pantomime, every form of total art has been successively tried. (…) we felt that these documents were proof of our generation’s desire to do away with taboos, false pretenses and the poo-poo of our society. We felt that the testimony of poet Allen Ginsberg was necessary to shed light on this approach, which is close to that of Artaud or Michaux, and which, through this mess, this shattering of moral structures, aims at total art for the renewal of mankind.
Beautifully filmed by Jean-Michel Humeau, “Hé! Viva Dada” is a report on the second Festival de la libre expression, a “laboratory of sensations” organized by Jean-Jacques Lebel at the Centre américain des Artistes, boulevard Raspail, in May 1965.
Happenings and pieces by Fernando Arrabal, Roland Topor, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Charlotte Moorman, and Jean-Jacques Lebel’s famous Déchirex, “a bacchanal of nudity, spaghetti and poetry”! (Distribution Le peuple qui manque)


Since music can do anything, because everything is music, we have to change everything. The instruments must no longer be placed in the same places. You can’t make the same sounds. You can’t make a sound at all. You have to chase the pianist. The musicians have to hide in the trees. You have to get the audience to play. The musicians must play while walking. Bind and gag the audience. We must do nothing. (All) Ben, Il faut que la musique change, 1966

Interior Actions
by Ben Vautier (1959-1972, 20’)

The visual artist Ben, famous today for his writing and poetic slogans inspired by everyday life, has been recording his indoor actions, total theater shows and concerts in Nice since 1959.
In 1963, he hosted the tour of Fluxus, a mythical group of artists born in New York in 1961 that spread throughout Europe and Japan. Ben and his friends, such as Serge III, play the surrealist anti-art scores and “classical concerts” of Fluxus artists La Monte Young, Nam Jum Paik, George Brecht and Robert Maciunas, engaging in music/actions or anti-music happenings (nailing piano keys, destroying violins, burning scores, etc.), while involving the audience. Actions d’intérieur showcases these actions as well as Ben’s own creations, such as Calmez-vous sinon on s’arrête, Regardez-moi cela suffit, Publik variation 3, Ben va secouer quelqu’un qu’il n’connais pas dans la salle…
With humor and iconoclastic poetry, Ben mixes gags with the details of life, in keeping with the Fluxus perspective, which consists, in his words, ”in exhausting all the possibilities/limits of “everything is art” and then, in a second stage, in going beyond this “everything is art” with a Non-art, Anti-art attitude”. Robert Maciunas wrote in the Fluxus manifesto: “Purge the world of bourgeois life. Promote the reality of NON ART so that it can be grasped by everyone… Dissolve the structures of cultural, social and political revolutions into a common front with common actions.”


Curating & texts : Kantuta Quiros & Aliocha Imhoff