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Öyvind Fahlström

Kisses Sweeter than Wine (background)

Peter Hirsh and Öyvind Fahlström
In 1961, the Swedish painter, poet and dramatist Öyvind Fahlström arrived in New York and began associating with the artists connected with Happening and Judson Dance Theater.

In the early 1960s, Fahlström did a number of radio works and performances that included Aïda (1962), The Marriage, Ur Mallanöl and Fahlströms Hörna (1964). With the exception of the second work, which was performed in the loft of Yvonne Rainer and Robert Morris, these pieces were presented at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. In them, Fahlström sought “a form that would contain the irrational juxtapositions of the sonorities and melodrama specific to opera — something of the rhythmic processional order of the mediaeval mystery plays with their sudden, unexplained and liberating 'apparitions' — and the contemporary feel of magazines and TV variety shows, with their focus on personalities and quick scans, of idols, extras and the implied masses.” (1)

Fahlström’s interest in media, in political and social events, and in the opera as a model, constitute the leitmotifs to be found in Kisses Sweeter than Wine. He was not so much interested in technology as in its impact on society, and in the way it can breathe new life into theatrical representation. In his previous performances, for example, he had created breaks in rhythm by overlaying the actor’s voice with repeated distortions of recorded speech. While preparing for 9 Evenings, he wrote a veritable political program entitled “Take Care of the World,” imagining a “robot theatre where the elements could be programmed to organize themselves.” (2)

Clarisse Bardiot © 2006 FDL

(1) Öyvind Fahlström, “Après les happenings (1965)” in Pontus Hulten and Björn Springfeldt, Öyvind Fahlström, catalogue d'exposition (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1980) p. 36.

(2) Öyvind Fahlström, “Prendre soin du monde (1966)” ibid., p. 51.