It Was 40 Years Ago Today

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A research project devoted to uncovering and archiving the history of Performance Art in Wales.

Prosiect ymchwil i ddadorchuddio ac archifo hanes Celf Perfformio yng Nghymru.

Winner of the David Bradby TaPRA Award for Research in International Theatre and Performance 2011.

If you have any information on performance in Wales that could be of use to the project, please get in touch!

Whether you are an artist who has made performance work in Wales, or an audience member who once witnessed a performance (voluntarily or involuntarily!), we would be pleased to hear from you.
Any material will be of interest - from actual pieces of documentation to vague memories of events caught out of the corner of one's eye.

Cysylltwch â ni os oes gennych unrhyw wybodaeth am berfformio yng Nghymru a allai fod o ddefnydd i'r prosiect!

Efallai eich bod yn artist sydd wedi gwneud gwaith perfformio yng Nghymru, neu'n aelod o gynulleidfa a welodd berfformiad unwaith (o'ch gwirfodd neu'n anwirfoddol!). Pwy bynnag ydych chi, hoffem glywed gennych.
Bydd unrhyw ddeunydd o ddiddordeb - o ddogfennau gwreiddiol i atgofion amwys am ddigwyddiadau a welwyd o gornel y llygad.
Mae'r manylion cyswllt wedi'u rhestru dan 'Cyswllt' yma, neu gallwch anfon e-bost i'r cyfeiriad hwn:

Project Director Cyfarwyddwr Prosiect: Heike Roms
Dept Theatre, Film and Television Studies, Aberystwyth University
Adran Astudiaethau Theatr, Ffilm a Theledu Prifysgol

Contact: Professor Heike Roms
Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies
Adran Astudiaethau Theatr, Ffilm a Theledu Prifysgol
Aberystwyth University
Adeilad Parry-Williams Building
Aberystwyth SY23 3AJ,
UK phone ffon: (+44) 1970 - 621911 (direct uniongyrchol)

Funded by Wedi ei drawsgronni gan:

AHRC logo and link to website

Aberystwyth University Logo and link to website

Arts Council Wales logo and link to website

National Lottery Logo

Copyright © 2011 All Rights Reserved
Hawlfraint © 2011 Cedwir pob hawl

What's Welsh for Performance? Beth yw 'performance' yn Gymraeg?

:15 events from 15 years: 1965

:1965 :1966 :1967 :1968 :1969 :1970 :1971 :1972 :1973 :1974 :1975 :1976 :1977 :1978 :1979


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Pete Brown, Philip Corner, Adrian Henri, Tom Hudson (organiser), Jean-Jacques Lebel, Roger McGough, Jeff Nuttall; Anne Richardson, et al.

Assembly Line / Automatic Welsh Salad with Yogurt [part of the Cardiff Happening 1965]

24 September 1965

Cardiff: Jackson Hall, Westgate Street; started at 10pm in the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre

part of Commonwealth Poetry Conference / Commonwealth Arts Festival 1965

[Photos: Anne Richardson; Western Mail Cover; Philip Corner; courtesy of Tom Hudson Collection, National Arts Education Archive]

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“A screaming black pig was banished by angry National Museum of Wales officials from last night’s “happening” at the Reardon Smith Lecture Theatre in Cardiff, as delegates tried to drag it in to the poetry conference of the Commonwealth Arts Festival. The two-hundredweight pig – its screams interrupted a conventional poetry reading in the early stage of the “happening” – was a Vietnam species hired from a zoo. “It was intended as a lament for the Vietnam war,” said Mr. Trocchi, the organiser. “These poets have been turning the place into a pigsty all week with their feet on the seats and cigarettes ground into the carpeting,” said one official. […]

While a New York composer “tested” domestic utensils for sounds by scraping a microphone across them and pounding them with a hammer, bearded poets reclined on paper to act as human stencils […]. Seventeen-stone [Adrian Henri], of Liverpool, howled an ode across the prostrate body of a girl art student he had just “kicked to death after partial strangling.” […] Sculptor, [Jean-Jacques Lebel] invited us to place our hands through a pierced screen, this to receive a hose-pipe that paint had transformed into a garish python; […]. Mr. Tom Hudson, Cardiff College of Art director of studies, supervised an intricate “aesthetic, satirical assembly line” which passed our entry tickets – humble bits of useless machinery, old clothes, or beer bottles – from artist to artist around the howling room until they emerged as things of gruesome beauty.

“All this, too, has a point and is meaningful,” said festival director Bill Harpe, accepting a toilet seat that had become an unwinking eye.  ”It’s good for Cardiff.” Roger McGough, a comedian who usually performs with Beatle Paul McCartneys’s brother, joined Mr. Henri and jazz-poet Pete Brown on an improvised stage to yell, read aloud about death, and gnash their teeth.

It all ended with the tooting of a flute from behind a curtain as the shouting happening-engineers burst into the street, to continue encouraging their creative urges with enormous quantities of food and drink at a Butetown club.”

['Poetry, paint and toilet seats', by Michael Lloyd-Williams, Western Mail, 25.9.1965]

Lebel asked the members of the audience to bring to the intervention an object which could then be exchanged for another one brought by someone else during the happening. It was this proposition and this action, stressed the artist,  which produced the intersubjective connection and generated between strangers the exchange of signifying objects which have no actual commercial value but highly symbolic ones . This, in turn, created a critical resonance, a contradiction and a counterpoint to Kaprow’s happening Exchange. The playful bartering was a direct reference to the art market and more specifically to Duchamp’s Objet-dard . It enabled Lebel to mock the purely commercial transaction aspect of the art market as well as the hallowed capitalistic laws of supply and demand.
Within a predetermined festival programme the artist, as always, had no preconceived ideas as to the content of his intervention. His only intention was to subvert the host university by shattering all indications of censorship and self-censorship. In bolstering improvisations and spontaneous responses the happening shook up the tacit acceptance of the bureaucratic rules imposed by the university structure and of the hierarchical dichotomy of teachers/pupils, rulers/ruled.

The guests, ‘underground poets’ and English (sic) academics, were very active within the anti-nuclear movement and heavily engaged against the war in Vietnam. Their conference did quickly start resembling a condemnation and this was also what was expected of Jean-Jacques Lebel: an antimilitarist speech, a lecture against war. Yet Jean-Jacques Lebel, feeling that the classic militancy was wholly insufficient, decided to act against the grain by exposing, and I quote him, the old ‘ghostly and rotting’ left as well. The intervention was intended to take place on campus and in the museum but during the collective process of thinking about the happening and in a libertarian guerrilla spirit, Jean-Jacques Lebel was keen to look for an approach with no constraints and outside of institutional rules. With some friends he went to visit a zoo and there borrowed an enormous black pig to whom he gave sleeping tablets and transported it back to the campus. On the sides of the now captive animal he wrote in bright orange paint ‘Vietnam Pig’ and then carefully placed it in a huge cardboard box. When asked to make a speech on the podium he declared that he was going to ask someone to speak for him. When instructed to do so by Lebel, his friends opened the box from which burst through, to everybody present’s great surprise, the ‘Vietnam Pig’! Terrified, the pig started running everywhere squealing shrilly, defecating, jumping on tables, overturning chairs and generally causing mayhem. While the liberation of this animal, rendered hysterical, kept on reaping havoc throughout the university campus, some tried to escape whilst others tried to catch it. The hunt spilt out onto the street blocking traffic. Finally firemen and policemen managed, after its troublesome rampage through the university zoo, to take control of the animal and took it back to the zoo.

Jean-Jacques Lebel had steered clear of a ‘normal conference’ format so as to, he says, act directly on the libido of the audience. The necessarily aborted ‘liberation’ (sic) of the pig was a direct reference to the dead end an insane human being, in Artaud’s meaning of the word, finds himself in. The heartrending squeals of the pig echoed the heart wrenching screams of human beings falling under the napalm bombs dropped by the US Air Force on Vietnamese civilians and the oh-so-real horrors of war.   To have the animal endure a symbolic ‘liberation’ and a public sacrificial ritual which echoed in turn a traditional pig killing ceremony was, for Lebel, the most efficient way to force the participants’ reaction when faced with a pathetic mise-en-scène of the war in Vietnam rather than with the habitual, purely verbal, condemnation of imperialism common to political gatherings of the time.

[Jean-Jacques Lebel, ‘Welsh Automative Salad with Yogurt’, in happenings de jean-jacques lebel ou l’insoumission radicale, ed. by Jean-Jaques Lebel and Androula Michaël (Paris: Éditions Hazan, 2009), pp. 172–175. Translation: Catherine Piquemal]

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For more information on the event and on its available documentation search our database.