When yet another Senate-sponsored art series appeared in July, the West Berlin public showed a surprising openness towards the most invasive and challenging work appearing across the city during B-750. While the Berlin Senate was spending millions on the Sculpture Boulevard and Mythos, the Department for Cultural Affairs reserved 250,000 deutschmarks for the series called THE DIRECTIVE, featuring over a hundred artists connected to the city’s independent “free scene.” The relative indifference among West Berliners toward THE DIRECTIVE is captured in a headline from DerTagesspiegel which announced, “Art is temporary. Regarding a provocation that wasn’t."
For THE DIRECTIVE co-organizer Gero Gries, the greater public outcry surrounding the Sculpture Boulevard public art series was a reflection of a different criteria for judging high art versus art from the independent “free scene.” Unlike actions tied to THE DIRECTIVE, the sculptures from Vostell and Metzel were seen as out of place on the Kurfurstendamm and contradicted the district’s new identity as a space for entertainment and consumption. This response also suggests the failure of the 1970s “new cultural politics” to establish a space for modern art outside the museum or gallery space that would have made people’s encounters with the Sculpture Boulevard less threatening.
Christian Hasucha's Herr Individual Geht
During THE DIRECTIVE in July 1987, Berlin native Christian Hasucha staged his first performance of Mister Individual, walking (Herr Individual Geht) in Berlin-Charlottenburg, not far from the Kurfurstendamm. The performance featured an ordinary looking man carrying a shopping bag and walking along conveyor belt installed at the top of an eight-foot-tall pedestal within the median of a busy intersection.
Throughout the day, “Mr. Individual” received a variety of catcalls, questions, and commands from the baffled passersby, such as: “Are you a robot or what? Are you thirsty? Aren’t you tired? Do you know the film ‘The living Dead? Are you sort of like a zombie? You bum! You idiot!”—and in a thick Berlin dialect impossible to convey in translation: “That’s great. Truly. I’ve never seen that. Great, totally wonderful! How much are you making to do that?” Hasucha’s Mister Individual, walking literally placed one of the most quotidian of acts, i.e. walking while holding a shopping bag, on a pedestal, and applied the goal of action artists to merge art and life to an exaggerated and absurd extreme.
Benoit Maubrey's Audio-BVG
Action artists involved in the festival transformed quotidian acts and rituals into actions and performances, prompting audiences to repeat the same question raised by the Sculpture Boulevard protesters, though in a less hostile tone: is that art? For his action in the West Berlin subway, Benoît Maubrey persuaded the local transit authority to loan out official uniforms for what he initially described as a “theater performance.” Instead, Maubrey sewed speakers into the uniforms and staged the inaugural performance by Audio-BVG.
During the action, Maubrey and other members of the Audio-Gruppe roamed the subway stations and train cars in their wired BVG uniforms, as their hidden speakers played back the pre-recorded phrases of the Berlin subway, “please board” and “stay back, please.” At the Wittenberg Platz station, actual BVG employees caught on to the action and asked Maubrey and his group to leave immediately. The group moved above ground to the busy Wittenberg Platz, and down to the posh KaDeWe department store to continue the performance.