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Performance for yourself
School of Visual Arts Collection, BFA Fine Arts Department events: Performance for Yourself, Performance with Another, Performance with Friends: Stories of Allan Kaprow’s events in (his) everyday life (1984).
May 20, 2011

Performance for yourself

Allan Kaprow, innovator of the Happening, the Environment, and the Activity, brought his expanded view of art to conceptualism and post-modern art in general. His application of commonplace words to the art lexicon implied and encouraged participation by spectators, merging avant-garde sensibilities with quotidian activities to create unexpected results.

This silkscreen poster for a talk he gave at SVA in 1984 features an image from Yard, an Environment originally staged in 1961 for which Kaprow filled a garden with a mountain of used tires and invited visitors to climb and crawl through the pile. Kaprow executed nearly 200 Happenings from 1958 until the time of this lecture; the press release for the event describes their conception:

In Kaprow’s form of the Happening, ordinary people, ordinary time, and everyday spaces of streets and supermarkets were frequently merged into nearly (but not quite) ordinary activities such as wallpapering a room, digging ditches and taking a pulse. Fantasy was never absent, but there was always a strong commitment to common experience. Art and life were blurred.

In 2008, MOCA in Los Angeles restaged 23 Kaprow Happenings for Allan Kaprow: Art as Life. For more on Kaprow’s legacy, see these remembrances from The Brooklyn Rail.