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HAPPSOC: Happening and Society

Basement Gallery

HAPPSOC IV. Travel in Space / HAPPSOC IV. Vesmírne cestovanie, 1967

Offset print, pen, paper

Courtesy The Slovak Gallery, Bratislava

Many of the addressees of this message in Bratislava in 1965 had no idea at all what it was all about. They received a strangely printed invitation card to a series of happenings entitled HAPPSOC and due to take place in the city between May 1 and 9. Each of these days was proclaimed an independent part of this action, and there was an added appendix that looked like some kind of statistical report and seemingly arbitrarily listed numerous features of the city. This document begins with a list of the numbers of all women, men, dogs, and apartments in the city, and becomes particularly paradoxical with its final elements entire Bratislava 1” and Castle 1.”

It was also for notable action that Filko became more widely known in the 1960s. He conducted it together with Alex Mlynárčik. The term HAPPSOC is an artistic assertion, put together from parts of the words happening” and society,” and can be seen as a genre akin to conceptual art, action art, and Fluxus. Shortly after the action the explanatory HAPPSOC Manifesto (1965) was published, declaring that the action intended to observe found reality.” Within a limited spatial and temporal framework, activities to recognize the limitless scope of existing coherence” were set in motion.

HAPPSOC I. (1965) is above all a space of opportunity, whereby the time period given is key. Both of these days were national holidays in real-socialist Czechoslovakia and they were politically connoted. May 1 is Labor Day, and on May 9, the date of the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army, large military parades took place. HAPPSOC resists this ubiquitous political interpretation and instead emphasizes the everyday reality of life beyond demonstrations of political power.

This project developed to become a series over several years, with three further editions and various spin-offs. HAPPSOC II. (1965) entailed the paradoxical demand to spend a from day to day increasing period of time during the days between Christmas Day and New Year in a not clearly determined train station in Bratislava. HAPPSOC IV. (1967) demanded going as best as possible into outer space, both in mind and body, so that here the project finally left behind any real spatial context. Like the artistic practice of Joseph Beuys, this group of works is based on a very broad concept of art that above all refers to an understanding and shaping of social conditions.

HAPPSOC I., 1965 (with Alex Mlynárčik)
Invitation card, offset, typing, paper
1413,71530 cm

HAPPSOC I., 1965/ca.1995
Offset print, pen, felt-tip pen, paper
7050 cm

HAPPSOC I. (SPORT) / HAPPSOC I. (ŠPORT), 1965/​ca. 2000
B/W photograph, pen, paper
14,7 × 24 cm

HAPPSOC IV. Travel in Space / HAPPSOC IV. Vesmírne cestovanie, 1967
Offset print, pen, paper
30,521 cm

Interpretation HAPPSOCLand Art from the series Transcendency / Interpretácia HAPPSOCland art zo série Transcendencie, 1967/1978
B/W photograph, whitening liquid, pen, paper
17,2 × 21,7 cm

All works Courtesy Linea Collection, Bratislava; Layr, Vienna