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Monday, June 30, 2008

What's Happening? It's All Happening, Baby!

Lucky for me, my sister knows how to coax me out the house, otherwise I would have turned down her invitation to accompany her to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) this weekend, and would have missed a very interesting exhibition. At the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, my sister and I caught Allan Kaprow - Art is Life, a fascinating retrospective of Kaprow's career.

Unfortunately for you, the exhibition closed today (I'm anticipating my link to the exhibit will disappear any second), however if you'll indulge me, I'd love to share some of the broad strokes with you.

Allan Kaprow was an artist who in the late 50s and 60s became a leader of the performance art movement commonly referred to as Happenings. He found art in every day actions, and sought to score, or conduct events into art pieces. The pamphlet that accompanied the exhibit explains that a Happening is "a staged event or situation meant to be considered as art." Some of his Happenings were very closely scored, with specific actions planned and directed by him well in advance. Others were more improvisational. Kaprow said, "What is a Happening? A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing."

That sense of play is exactly what I enjoyed most about the exhibit, and Kaprow's art. There is something exciting about being let loose in one of Kaprow's Environments designed to encourage freedom of movement and expression.

Many of these Happenings were recreated by MOCA staff in honor of Kaprow, and some of the "scores" for the events were available to pick up on the way out of the exhibit. One of my favorites is a Happening called Fine!:
Parking cars in restricted zones.

Waiting nearby for cop.

Snapshot of getting ticket.

Detailed report.

Send pix, reports, fines to cops.
Or there's also Transplant, (1969):
Choose a stone in the desert
Mark the spot with a large white arrow
Carry the stone miles away

Find the matching stone
Put it next to it
Mark the spot with a large white arrow

Carry the matching stone to the first stone's spot
Mark the spot with a second large white arrow
Imagine the possibilities in each of those Happenings! What would it look like to watch? What would it feel like to participate? What kinds of spontaneous actions could occur?

In many ways writing can be created with the same sense of improvisation and fun as a Happening. My outline is Kaprow's score, but the writing is the actual Happening. When I sit down in front of the blank page with only the skeleton of the outline to guide me, anything can happen!

This is just another example of how going out in the arts community can inspire and assist in your craft. There are plenty of museums and fascinating exhibits in your own cities and towns, just waiting to inspire you! Have at it!

1 comment:

stu said...

Still up there. An intriguing concept, if the sort of thing that doesn't seem like it should work in a gallery. You're right though, most people do have galleries and museums right on their doorsteps, but how many really make use of them?