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Happenings (Karow)

Happenings (Karow)

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Published by Jonathan Shelper

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Jonathan Shelper on Jan 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/17/2011

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Happenings (Alan Kaprow)
The book 'Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life' by Alan Kaprow and edited byJeff Kelly begins with an introduction where Jeff Kelly describes an Americanphilosopher who he thought greatly influenced Kaprow, in terms of 'time' and fareastern philosophy, the artist career as being the inventor of 'Happenings' "a late-fifties art form in which all manner of materials, colors, sounds, odors, andcommon objects and events were orchestrated in ways that approximated thespectacle of modern everyday life" .After which the writer describes how Kaprow had written extensively about thenature of experience and its relationship to the practice(s) of art in our time. Theyshow a development of the artist Kaprow as well as contemporary art from his pointof view. Jeff also notes that television had not taken over our private space and thatcomputers were primitive at best at the time Kaprow wrote his essays.Jeff later mentions Greenberg in terms of someone who might of created a"modernist 'law' that spoke about conventions that are not essential to the validityof the medium being 'discarded as soon as they are recognized', and that whatKaprow did was to turn that prescription on its head- not by resorting to chaos butsetting out to systematically eliminate precisely those conventions that
were
essentialto the professional identity of art (a reverse renunciation). In their place heembraced the conventions of everyday life- brushing teeth, getting on a bus,dressing in front of a mirror, telephoning a friend- each with its own formal, if provisional, integrity."Later in the introduction Jeff points out that 'The Legacy of Jackson Pollock' (1958)as being the first important essay written by Alan Kaprow, and gives a little insightinto what in entails, and then states that for some the essay is the most seminal of Kaprow's essays. Jeff writes more about what Pollock did, the influence on Kaprowthis had, and how Jackson Pollock's death at the hight of his career had beenparabolic with the fate of Modernist art. There was a limit to how far you can gowith modernist art that Kaprow felt Pollock must of felt he was on the verge of butcouldn't get to.Kaprow is described as wanting to 'avoid making art of any kind' in his later essay"Un-Artist", he wrote about nonart-lint gathering on the floor, the vapour trail of amissile- something that is seen and inspires artists but that hasn't been accepted asart yet, made with the avoidance of making any art, of letting go, so art might loseits self, the un-artist's goal.Jeff writes that for Kaprow the task ahead meant one of restoring "participation inthe natural design through conscious emulation of its non artistic features." Later inhis second "Un-Artist" essay he charts the course from art to life that begins withcopying, moved through play, and ended with participation. "Non art he said wasthe art of resemblance in which 'old something' is recreated as a 'new somethingthat closely fits the old something.' In other words, its thoughtful form of copying.Moreover, because life imitates itself already - city plans, for instance, are like the
 
human circulatory system and computers are like the brain- nonart is a matter of imitating imitation. Given the mythologies of originality that underwrite the avant-garde, what better means of escaping "art" than by copying?Play (perhaps just a dirtyier word in the lexion of seriouse art than
copying 
) was keyto what Kaprow did, the work had a child like innocents that contradicted thedullness of working and winning a place in the world Kaprow would write in hisessays that artists "need simply play as they once did under the banner of art, butamong those who do not care about that. Gradually." he concludes,"the pedigree'art' will recede into irrelevance.""Participation- especially when it is catalysed in play- would transform theparticipant as well as the game" Kelly writes "Kaprow likes to remember thosestrains of modernism that keep trying to lose them selfs, playfully, in whatever elsethey are like. As an artist, he holds himself accountable for the thresholds hecrosses. He is a true avant-gardist who actually follows through on the crossings heinvites himself to make- and invites us to participate in making."The american philosopher Kelly writes might of most importantly influencedKaprow to becoming an 'experimental artist'. "Kaprow's definition of experimentalart links it to experiences outside of art, suggesting that he believes in themeaningfulness of all experience and of any art that might account for it. As anexperimental artist he accounts for that meaningfulness with method."having a scientific approach to making, using methods which replace the classicaland romantic approach of art-style with the order and chaos of common experience,which is already full of life style. "Meaning emerges, not from the enactment of highdrama, but from the low drama of enactment- not from the content in art, but fromthe the art in content. Carry enough cinderblocks, follow the plan, and meaning willemerge. That is the common faith that Kaprow has.Kaprow in the introduction has written 'On the Way to Un-Art' and it begins withhim writing this; "Art sometimes begins and ends with questions. A big question forme in the mid 50s and 60s was What is Art?" Kaprow then describes that hethought the answer to that question was the
 Happening.
The he goes on to describethe freshness that he felt these happening posed, and the decisions he made to keepit fresh. These included not exhibiting in galleries or institutions connected to art,but to purposefully stray away from these and instead to create Happenings in loftspaces, disused shop unit, elevators, streets, and to make thses one night only events.It is important to note that during the week from nine to five (so to speak) Kaprowworked in the art institution as a educator so he describes peoples opion of him ashaving one foot in the past and one in the future."I had a job fortunately, and so I was able to experiment. My audience (never large)was reduced further to a handfull of participants plus the accidental passerby whowas invitd to join the activity. Participants would voulenteer to take part in a task explained in advance:

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