Forget all the standard art forms,” said artist Allan Kaprow in his 1960s lecture “How to Make a Happening.” “Don’t paint pictures, don’t make poetry, don’t build architecture, don’t arrange dances, don’t write plays, don’t compose music, don’t make movies, and above all, don’t think you’ll get a happening out of putting all these together. … The point is to make something new, something that doesn’t even remotely remind you of culture.”
Kaprow is credited with inventing the art form known as a happening in late ’50s. One of the first such events was called 18 Happenings in 6 Parts and took place at Reuben Gallery in New York. The gallery was divided into different rooms in which performers executed a series of prescribed actions, like squeezing oranges and lighting matches. In conceiving of the happening, Kaprow’s aim was to inject both the familiar rhythms and the unexpected detours of life into art. In Assemblages, Environments and Happenings, he wrote, “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible. … By avoiding the artistic modes, there is the good chance that a new language will develop that has its own standards.”
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