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artists' books collection

Die Malträtierte Fregatte I-IV, by john bock

John Bock, Die Malträtierte Fregatte I-IV. (Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König; [Vienna]: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, [2006])

German-born multi-media artist John Bock’s practice––an intermedial constellation of lectures, built environments, and film work––joins distinctive features of Fluxus, Dada, European Actionism, and Happenings that engage artist and audience in an absurdist tête-à-tête. Issued in a simple bubble wrap enclosure in a limited edition of 500, each “cover” a striped men’s shirt of Bock’s design, Die Malträtierte Fregatte (The Maltreated Frigate), also known as the “shirt series,” is the material commemoration of an hour-long action premiered by Bock at the storage space of the Staatsopera Berlin in the fall of 2006. 

Arranged as a ten-scene drama based on the infamous wreck of the French ship Medusa in 1816, the performance invited spectators into an “a-logical” adventure in rock opera and theatre of the absurd, featuring animated sculpture and puppets. The handwritten libretto of Bock’s performance––printed in four colored notebooks––includes the artist’s stream of consciousness additions, corrections, and colored illustrations, revealing the mechanics of his creative process. Bock’s writing “explodes in linguistic fireworks and tumbles down to the ground, solid in its earthiness, ready to be constructed into a jumble of awesomely bizarre and whimsical neologisms––a vivid testimony to the artist’s zest for expression.” Die Malträtierte Fregatte offers “a violent ride on a machine from hell, stirred by an idiosyncratic inner logic.”