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The History of Exhibitions: Beyond the Ideology of the White Cube (part one)

Course in art and contemporary culture

19/10/2009 - 30/11/2009

When Attitudes Become Form

Presented by Yves Aupetitallot
16/11/2009 - Auditorium MACBA – 7 pm


When Attitudes Become Form
(Works, Processes, Concepts, Situations,

22 March to 27 April 1969, Kunsthalle Bern

An exhibition sponsored by Philip Morris Europe

Attendance: 7001

Tour venues:
Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, 9 May to 15 June
The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 28
August to 27 September 1969

Artists: Carl Andre, Giovanni Anselmo, Richard Artschwager, Thomas Bang, Jared Bark, Robert Barry,
Joseph Beuys, Alighiero Boetti, Mel Bochner, Marinus Boezem, Bill Bollinger, Michael Buthe, Pier
Paolo Calzolari, Paul Cotton, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbets, Ger van Elk, Rafael Ferrer, Barry
Flanagan, Ted Glass, Hans Haacke, Eva Hesse, Douglas Huebler, Paolo Icaro, Alain Jacquet, Neil
Jenney, Stephen Kaltenbach, Jo Ann Kaplan, Edward
Edward Kienholz, Yves Klein, Joseph Kosuth, Jannis
Kounellis, Gary B. Kuehn, Sol LeWitt, Bernd Lohaus, Richard Long, Roelof Louw, Bruce McLean,
Walter De Maria, David Medalla, Mario Merz, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Dennis
Oppenheim, Panamarenko,
Panamarenko, Pino Pascali, Paul Pechter, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini, Markus
Raetz, Allen Ruppersberg, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Robert Ryman, Frederick Lane Sandback, Alan Saret,
Sarkis, Jean-
Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Keith Sonnier, Richard
Richard Tuttle, Frank
Lincoln Viner, Aldo Walker, Franz Erhard Walther, William G. Wegman, Lawrence Weiner, William
T. Wiley, Gilberto Zorio

Curator: Harald Szeemann

“When Attitudes Become Form (Works, Concepts, Processes, Situations, Information)” appears to lack
unity, looks strangely complicated, like a compendium of stories told in the first person singular. We
might ask the justifiable question: Are we here concerned with a new edition of Tachisme, with a
subjective art, with a reaction against geometry which has reigned supreme in recent years? Certainly,
the majority of artists exhibiting here might be seen as part of an artistic development to which the pre-
experienced workprocess of Duchamp, the intensity of Pollock’s gesture, and the unity of material,
physical exertion and time in the Happenings of the early ‘60s also belong. And yet for some of these
artists the desire to create does not spring from
purely visual experiences. It was inevitable that
Hippie philosophy, the Rockers, and the use of
drugs should eventually affect the position of a
younger generation of artists. It is significant that
some of the major exhibitors come from the West
coast of America, an area particularly open to
Eastern influences. Many anti-social ideas, on the
one hand the tendency to contemplation, and on
the other the celebration of the physical and
creative self through action, can be seen at work in
this new art. Additional parts of the pattern can be
found in Europe: the lack of a real centre has
persuaded increasing numbers of artists to remain
in their home towns and to work against all the
ideas and principles of the society in which they
found themselves. Evident at the same time is the
desire to break down the ‘triangle in which art
operates’ – the studio, gallery, and museum.
(...) Noticeable is the absolute freedom in the use
of materials, as well as the concern for the physical
and chemical properties of the work itself. (...) The
major characteristic of today’s art is no longer the
articulation of space but of human activity; the
activity of the artist has become the dominant
theme and content. It is in this way that the title of
the present exhibition should be understood (it is a
sentence rather than a slogan). Never before has
the inner bearing of an artist been turned so
directly into a work of art. Naturally enough it has
always been the same. Mondrian and Pollock gave
form to their inner bearing, but always in terms of
the finished product, the autonomous object. The
artists represented in this present exhibition are in
no way object-makers. On the contrary, they
aspire to freedom from the object, and in this way
deepen the levels of meaning of the object, reveal
the meaning of those levels beyond the object.
They want the artistic process itself to remain
visible in the end product and in the ‘exhibition’.”
Harald Szeemann “About the exhibition” in the
original catalogue of “When Attitudes Become


“Step by step in accord with the artists of his

generation [Szeemann] devised new forms of
presentation, at the same time expanding the
notion of art. The new art of the first twenty years
after World War II focused on the question of
presenting and experiencing space. One thinks of
Pollock, Newman, Kaprow, Serra, Beuys, Nauman,
De Maria, Flavin or Judd. The 1969 exhibition
When Attitudes Become Form at the Kunsthalle
Bern, which laid the ground for Szeemann’s
renown as exhibition maker, was so important not least because, unlike other curators, he found a new
way to display the new art shown at this exhibition. He endeavoured to reflect the experimental,

BEZZOLA Tobia; KURZMEYER Roman (ed.). Harald Szeemann with by through because towards despite, Catalogue of all Exhibitions 1957-2005,
Zürich: Voldemeer, 2007, pp.225-226.
gestural attributes of the works in their presentation by getting the artists to work at the exhibition,
opening up the display area to the town, and interpreting as a work situation not only the time of
setting up the exhibition, but also the exhibition itself. Indeed, some pieces were not installed until after
the opening. The works were closely packed. The photos by Balthasar Burkhard and Harry Shunk,
taken with Harald Szeemann’s consent and filed in his archives, show that the exhibits were meant to
be seen in juxtaposition. The exhibition emphasised the process of its own creation and the temporary
nature of the items on show. The
museum had been turned into a studio.
The sculptures were no longer on
white plinths lined up along the walls
like beads on a string, but placed
confronting each other out in the open,
sometimes standing directly on the
floor. Harald Szeemann saw the
exhibition as a force field and not as a
documentary record”. Tobias
Tobias Bezzola
and Roman Kurzmeyer2

From the press

“As a matter of fact, the human beings,

the visitors to the Kunsthalle Bern are
the only works of art to be seen in this
exhibition.” Reinhardt Stumm, Basler
Nachrichten, 1 April 19693

Yves Aupetitallot
A historian of modern and contemporary art, curator of exhibitions, art critic, lecturer and author of
publications on contemporary art, Yves Aupetitallot has been director of Le Magasin–Centre National
d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble since 1996 and has taught at the École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon since
1994. From the mid 1980s to 1990 he directed the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Nevers, the Espace
d’Art Contemporain in Saint-Etienne, and the Department of Contemporary Art of the Council of
Europe in Antwerp. He conceived and organised the “Projet Unité” in Firminy (1993-94), an exhibition
which had considerable impact on the international contemporary art scene. From 2001 to 2006 he
worked at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lausanne on the construction of the project for a cantonal
museum of modern art. He has organised and edited over a hundred exhibitions and publications. He
regularly gives talks in France and abroad (Santiago de Chile, Madrid, Venice being among the most
recent). He was made a Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters by Catherine Tasca, Minister of Culture
and Communication, on 14 July 2000.

Op. Cit., p.7.
Op. Cit., p. 226.
Selected bibliography
“Neuf ans d’activité à la Kunsthalle de Berne” (interview), Gazette de Lausanne 160, 12/13 July 1969

“L’agence H. Szeemann: Une interview exclusive”, L’Art Vivant 10, April 1970, pp. 17-20

“Austellungsmacher”, in Karin Thomas (ed.), Kunst Praxis heute, Köln: DuMont, 1972

“Harald Szeemann” (interview by Otto Hahn), Art Press 11, May 1974, pp. 28-29

“ A Conversation with Harald Szeemann”, Domus 603, February 1980, pp. 49-50

“Harald Szeemann: Fabricant d’Expositions” (interview by Serge Lemoine and François Grundbacher),
Beaux Arts 5, September 1983, p.46

“Harald Szeemann” (interview by Bernard Blistène), Galeries Magazine 41, February/March 1991, pp.

“When Attitudes Become Form, Bern 1969,” in Bernd Klüser / Katharina Hegewisch (eds), Die Kunst
der Ausstellung, Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 1991, pp. 212-220

“Mind over matter: Hans-Ulrich Obrist talks with Harald Szeemann,” Artforum, November 1996, pp.

“Estamos saturados de arte occidental” (interview with Harald Szeemann), El País, 8 June 1999, p.64

“Ritorno al futuro” (interview with Harald Szeemann by Jens Hoffmann), Flash Art 228, June-July
2001, pp.120-122

BELLASI, Pietro; LONDEI, Danielle (eds). Harald Szeemann, Ravenna: Danielo Montanari, 1995

BEZZOLA, Tobia; KURZMEYER, Roman (ed.). Harald Szeemann with by through because towards
despite, Catalogue of all Exhibitions 1957-2005, Zürich: Voldemeer, 2007

BEZZOLA, Tobia. “Natürliches Pathos: Harald Szeemann (1933-2005), Parkett 73, 2005, pp. 173-175

DERIEUX, Florence (ed.). Harald Szeemann: Individual Methodology, Zürich: JRP Ringier, 2008

DOUROUX, Xavier; AUPETITALLOT, Yves, “A propos de Harald Szeemann: Tentative d’épuisement

de l’autre,” Art Press 226, 1996, pp. 26-31

DURINI, Lucrezia De Domizio. Harald Szeemann: Il Pensatore Selvaggio, Milano: Silvana Editoriale,

EICHENBERGER, Rolf. “Dr. Harald Szeemann: Kunstgigant oder Scharlatan?”, Schweizer Illustrierte,
21 August 1968

GRAMMEL, Soren. Ausstellungautorschaft: Die Konstruktion der auktorialen Position des Kurators bei
Harald Szeemann, Frankfurt am Main: Revolver, 2005

GUASCH Anna Maria. “When Attitudes Become Form”, in Anna Maria Guasch (ed.), El arte del siglo
XX en sus exposiciones: 1945-1995, Barcelona: Ediciones del Serbal, 1997, pp. 173-177

HEINRICH, Nathalie. Harald Szeemann: Un cas singulier, entretien, Paris: L’Echoppe, 1995
MÜLLER Hans-Joachim. Harald Szeemann: Ausstellungsmacher, Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2006

SZEEMANN, Harald. Écrire les expositions. Bruxelles: La Lettre volée, 1996

SZEEMANN, Harald (ed.). When Attitudes Become Form: Works – Concepts – Processes – Situations –
Information / Live in Your Head, Krefeld: Museum Haus Lange, 1969

SZEEMANN, Harald. “Objekt ‘When Attitudes Become Form,” Werk 10, October 1970, p. 670

References of images: BEZZOLA Tobia; KURZMEYER Roman (ed.). Harald Szeemann with by through because towards despite,
Catalogue of all Exhibitions 1957-2005, Zürich: Voldemeer, 2007

Document edited by Florence Ostende