Quote of Note | Claes Oldenburg

“The audience was made to suffer. At one performance the only person allowed to sit was Duchamp. He said, ‘I am very old, and I cannot stand, please let me sit down.’ I thought, ‘Maybe it’s a trick. But then again, he was very old.’ I think Duchamp went to everybody’s performances. ‘Nekropolis I’ ended with us all becoming mice, dressed in burlap bags. We crawled out into the audience slowly; we couldn’t see. Then we were supposed to just drop somewhere and not move until they went home. According to the story I wound up on the feet of Duchamp. But I couldn’t see who it was. It’s a good story, but as time goes by you wonder, ‘Did this really happen?'”

-Artist Claes Oldenburg recalls for Carol Kino what actually happened at the Happenings, in an article published in today’s New York Times. A critic writing in 1962 described “Nekropolis I” as enjoyable for “the heavy slow clamor of these bulky creatures crawling and messing around in that bulky ‘environment’ of burlap, paper, paint, and other assembled junk.” Oldenburg was singled out for having “made wonderful nondescript jungle sounds and heaved his considerable weight from mound to mound like a natural denizen.”

Pictured: Lucas Samaras, left, and Oldenburg in a scene from “Nekropolis I,” from 1962. (Photo Claes Oldenburg; All rights reserved Robert R. McElroy/VAGA, NY)



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