“The happenings of Jean-Jacques Lebel are the exact point where the theatre explodes.” Jean Paul Sartre.
Jean Jacques Lebel (b.1936) is a surrealist French artist and writer who grew up alongside the more internationally famous Marcel Duchamp and André Breton.
In the 1960s, he became known for his “happenings” – performances which were described by Lebel as “not spectacle but collective dream…which makes jump the doors of perception.”
One of these happenings was performed in Paris on 4th April 1966 as a protest against censorship. It included two models being spanked on the bare bottom to the tune of the French national anthem ‘La Marseillaise’!
In January of this year, an exhibition at The Barbican in London (Seduced: Art and Sex from Antiquity to Now) included pictures of this spanking. Having seen it mentioned in a review, I looked online but didn’t find anything.
Now the excellent French blogger Fesseur has posted what I believe is a shot of Lebel’s 1966 performance. Fesseur’s own information is a little sketchy, but he does say that the picture comes from the magazine Paris Match and dates from the “early 1960s”. The spanker, who is dressed in a cloak and mask, certainly looks like Lebel.
The long-haired model is wearing 60s style white boots. Her face is not seen but her bottom is clearly marked and reddened. There was supposedly a second model who was being spanked alongside, but the picture doesn’t show any sign of this.
This event was an interesting and probably unique example of spanking being featured in performance art. Lebel continues to work in France today.
His spanking days may be behind him but the beard is still intact.