Mao-Hope March

Öyvind Fahlström

São Paulo, Brazil, 1928 - Stockholm, Sweden, 1976
  • Date: 
  • Edition/serial number: 
  • Media description: 
    16 mm film, also transferred to video (DVD)
  • Duration: 
    4 min. 30 sec.
  • Colour: 
    Black and white
  • Sound: 
  • Category: 
    Film, Performance
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 
  • Donation of Sharon Avery-Fahlström, 2009

The film Mao-Hope March covers the street march organised in 1966 by Öyvind Falhström: seven people marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue carrying placards showing six photos of American comic Bob Hope and one of Mao Tse Tung, which bear a disturbing similarity to one another. Radio personality Bob Fass recorded people’s comments and the answers to the question “Are you happy?,” alluding to its pursuit as set down in the United States Declaration of Independency. The relationship between the two iconic images contains a subtle revolutionary discourse, characteristic of Fahlström’s work, revolving around the unrest that would eventually lead to the protests of 1968. The film is also an example of his personal take on performance, which had developed since his arrival in New York in 1961, influenced by the Living Theater, the work of John Cage and popular art. The performance can be seen simultaneously as an acidic commentary on the propaganda strategies of the most orthodox Pop Art, which was beginning to dominate the art system, and as an attempt to call people’s attention to the way the images of political leaders and showbiz celebrities were interchangeable, at a time when the political world was becoming mixed with the entertainment industry. Mao-Hope March was filmed on September 1, 1966 in New York City. It was originally made to be incorporated into his theatrical work, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine –also in the collection, – staged during 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, October, 1966, at the 69th Regiment Armory on 26th Street in Manhattan, an event organized by Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). By 1973, Fahlström had decided to present Mao-Hope March as an independent work of art.

Cristina Cámara Bello