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The very diverse artistic attempts to allow occurrences to «happen» culminated in the period around 1968. However, the inherent crux of these concepts was that occurrences cannot be planned. The happening artists solved this problem by turning either to staged actions and performances, which often operated with a decided anti-television impetus, or else to more specifically media-oriented actions in and outside the framework of television. Content was not presented specifically to meet the demands of television, but instead as part of a process-based situation that demonstrated the media conditions under which television operates. The success of an action was measured against the viewer ‹participation› documented in the form of protest letters or phone calls. If an action was ‹lost› during broadcasting and did not ruffle the monotonous harmony of television consumption, it was deemed to be a failure or, in some cases, was translated back into an art context in order to be noticed in the first place.
As delineated by Umberto Eco in his influential book «The Open Work,» published in 1962, live
broadcasts harbored the potential for real-time participation. («Exposition of Music and Electronic Television»). Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini's pioneering television happening «Black Gate Cologne» (1968) illustrates the extent to which the wealth of options to act and intervene could be undermined by artistic concepts and produce a passive audience response. The requirements of television, which was continuing to serve mere consumers on the ‹other› side, thwarted the actions in the television studio involving audience and artists in front of and behind the camera as both art and technical directors. In the course of the production, a concept planned as a potentially mindexpanding happening involving a studio audience turned into a visual bombardment of the viewers—whether in the studio or at home—with collage-like impressions, superimposed and manipulated images. All the same, this experiment (produced for WDR by Wibke von Bonin) importantly displayed the boundaries of directly transferring to a media context the happening-based forms of the theater and exhibition space. Television functions according to its own laws and conditions, which «Black Gate Cologne»