Happenings & Collages


Panamarenko’s career started in the 1960s as the inspirer of several happenings, playful street performances that he orchestrated in the centre of Antwerp.

Happenings are not restricted to a single artistic discipline. They take place in small spaces, in the open air and sometimes even in several places at the same time. The underlying principle of a happening is not so much art as life itself. Since it focuses on human action, and chance plays a major role, the outcome is not usually known in advance. In the wake of May ’68, Panamarenko, Hugo Heyrman and others set up the Vrije Aktiegroep Antwerpen (VAGA, ‘Antwerp Free Action Group’). This was an informal group of individuals who raised difficult social and ecological issues. One of its aims was to proclaim the Conscienceplein in Antwerp a car-free zone. Panamarenko had the idea of stacking blocks of ice in the form of a cube so that they froze to the ground and formed a natural barrier to traffic. This ‘ice-block action’ was a success, because the city council finally gave way and banned cars from the square.

The avant-garde magazine Happening News first appeared in September 1965 on the initiative of Panamarenko, Hugo Heyrman, Wout Vercammen and Yoshio Nakajima. It mostly contained photocopied collages rooted in Dadaism and Surrealism. Although at first sight they appear spontaneous, many of these collages were thoroughly planned and, after some decipherment, turned out to refer to previous happenings. A total of six issues appeared, with an average of sixteen pages. After the first three, the format was enlarged, the price went up considerably (from 25 to 100 Belgian francs) and the title was changed to Milkyways. The singular collages of words and images that Panamarenko designed for Happening News often consisted of illustrations and extracts from American scientific periodicals and magazines, including Scientific American, Popular Mechanics and Mechanic Illustrated. This not only demonstrated Panamarenko’s feeling for composition and detail, but also revealed several of the fascinations and sources of inspiration that were to recur and be materialised in his later oeuvre.



Items View all

Actors View all