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ACTIVE DUTY: THE ART OF FRANZ ERHARD WALTHER

Franz Erhard Walther, 1. Werksatz in Lagerform (First Work Set in Storage Form), 1963–69, canvas, foam, wood, mixed media. Installation view, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, 1992. Photo: Emmanuel Ammon. © Franz Erhard Walther/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.

IN THE SUMMER of 1972, at Documenta 5, Franz Erhard Walther demonstrated the use of the fifty-eight discrete objects of his 1. Werksatz (First Work Set), 1963–69. Now iconic, the 1. Werksatz exemplifies the type of art for which Walther is best known: wall-hung or floor-bound cloth works that are meant to be activated in particular ways by visitors, or “users.” Documenta 5 presents a historic moment in the changing attitudes of institutions and the public toward participatory or action-based art. Curated by Harald Szeemann under the rubric “Questioning Reality,” the exhibition marked the culmination of an already decade-long artistic interrogation of traditional models of contemplative spectatorship. In Kassel, Joseph Beuys opened his Organization for Direct Democracy by Referendum, David Medalla and John Dugger set up a “People’s Participation Pavilion,” and Anatol Herzfeld

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