Re-enactment of Oh What a Lovely Whore (2008)
Nought to Sixty commission for the ICA's 60th birthday celebrations.
Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth with the Boyle family
'In the mid sixties the English artists Mark Boyle and Joan Hills organised a number of important events and performances in London, including several at the ICA. These performances exemplified the emergent psychedelic liberalism of the period, most notably the infamous Son et Lumiere for Bodily Fluids and Functions (1967), wherein a couple who had not met before made love on stage whilst wired up to ECG and EEG monitors, their heart beats and brain patterns projected onto the screen above them.
In 1965 the Boyles arranged Oh What a Lovely Whore, an event not carried out by the artists themselves, but orchestrated by guests invited to the ICA, who were presented with a series of props and invited to make their own happening happen. A DIY affair, it signified a paradigm shift that characterised the art of the sixties: the transferral of responsibility from the artist to the viewer.
The Boyle's happenings are scores that can be replayed and reinterpreted. The audience and its participation is paramount; it makes up each event anew. The happenings are, potentially at least, as much a part of the ICA's present as they are of its past, and this raises questions worth considering in relation to this re-staging by Coleman and Hogarth.
What happens when a happening happens amidst an audience armed with the hindsight and cynicism of today? Knowledge or experience of the origins of performance might now prevent openness to invitation, and the invitation to play certainly has different connotations. In the current climate - one dominated by the ideology of the artist as facilitator or cultural services provider - the scripting and directing process is more managerial than it once promised. Given this, will today's audience respond with the same degree of enthusiasm and autonomy as their mid-sixties equivalent? If it's possible that the free-play and anarchistic spirit of the inaugural happening might be inhibited in these more self-conscious times, then it's just as likely that it might prove to be a powder keg for a frustrated fraternity. What's certain, either way, is that it will be as effective an acid test of the current cultural climate as it was in the mid-sixties.'
Text by Neil Mulholland