The Construction of Boston, 1962, by Beate Kemfert

The Construction of Boston – Rauschenberg, de Saint Phalle, Tinguely ©2016 Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg Berlin, Kunst- und Kulturstiftung Opelvillen Rüsselsheim and authors [and translators!]The Construction of Boston, Rauschenberg, de Saint Phalle, Tinguely, Opelvillen, Rüsselsheim, Kunstsammlung Jena, Leopold-Hoesch-Museum Düren Boston The Construction of Boston

The Construction of Boston is a performance on the stage in continuation of the collaboration by Rauschenberg, de Saint Phalle, and Tinguely [that] had begun at the Théâtre de l’Ambassade des États-Unis in Paris the previous year. During the world premiere of Kenneth Koch’s play about the building of the city of Boston at New York’s Maidman Playhouse on 4 May 1962, several actions by the artists took place on the stage simultaneously. Koch had been brought on board at the initiative of de Saint Phalle (fig. p. 35). The Construction of Boston

(… …) Boston The Construction of Boston

The artists were to be characters in the play – and to play parts themselves. Together, they thought about what roles the artists wanted to play: ‘Rauschenberg chose to bring people and weather to Boston; Tinguely, architecture; and Niki de Saint-Phalle, art’. In the view of Niki de Saint Phalle, who shot at her plaster object Vénus de Milo (fig.p.32) during the performance, the play was ‘organized schizophrenia’. Tinguely insisted, namely, on playing Mae West. But his English was too poor to allow him to read the script: Henry Geldzahler therefore spoke for him. Geldzahler was subsequently Tinguely’s voice and an actress his mind, while Tinguely was himself and built a wall. The audience’s view of the stage was blocked by the brick wall.* Even though the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham was the director, all participants were constantly having new ideas: ‘Jean wanted to be a transvestite, that was not in the script. He insisted on being Mae West. We had terrible fights. I had a dream about being Napoleon Bonaparte. I said if I went on stage I’d go as Napoleon.’ She did indeed appear as a young Bonaparte, while Tinguely, in a white ball gown, continuously dragged bricks onto the stage. The Construction of Boston

‘She was terrific’, Jean Tinguely recalls and tells of the cannon that was fired after de Saint Phalle had shot at the Venus sculpture: ‘Paint was running down her face. People were fainting. It was a fantastic assassination.’ (… …) Boston
The Construction of Boston
* In the German text (which is printed alongside!): “Zum Schluss war dem Publikum der Blick auf die Bühne vermauert.” My accurate translation had been: “The audience’s view of the stage was bricked up at the end.” The version that went to print has nothing to do with the German text’s intention. The audience’s view of the stage was not blocked by the brick wall throughout the play. The Construction of Boston

More Niki de Saint Phalle: At Last I Found the Treasure. Working with Niki, by Rainer von Hessen Boston

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