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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

By: bethkleber

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.