Humanities and Arts

Concrete Violence – Wolf Vostell’s Disasters of War

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Doi: doi:10.1093/oxartj/kcab014



Wolf Vostell is best known for the intermedial interactive events he staged on the streets of West Germany throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Berlin/100 Ereignisse (Berlin/100 events, 1965) exemplifies his work from the period, whichhe preferred to call ‘events’, ‘happenings’, ‘actions’, and ‘demonstrations’, thus blurring the boundary between art and life while affiliating artistic practice with political activism.1 Berlin/100 Ereignisse involved driving around the Western sector of the city in a car and making one hundred stops: to bury a clock in the rubble of Go¨rlitzer train station, meet a naked woman wearing a gas mask, confront a sign prohibiting loitering with ‘der realita¨t einer straße’ (the reality of a street) by wielding posters with current headlines as lowercase slogans – ‘weinender U.S.-soldat im vietnamkrieg!’ (crying US soldier in the Vietnam War), ‘straßenkampf in rhodesien!’ (rioting in Rhodesia), ‘rocker mit motorra¨-dern!’ (bikers with motorcycles) – pour out a bag of sugar near the Berlin Wall, and perform an array of other more ordinary activities like eating and waiting, all for a ‘Zufallspublikum’ (chance public).2 These ‘events’ indicate the ambivalent politics and site-specificity of Vostell’s work, which often explored the topography of post-war Germany