In the 50’s and 60’s, the artist (or non-artist as he would call himself), Allan Kaprow pushed the definition of art. He sought to work daily life into the art world through non-conventional measures. He started small with first making paintings rearrangeable, and ended with his larger scale happenings. To him a happening is:
“A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing.” -Kaprow
These Happenings brought focus to the beauty and art that is life in the present. Through his work, Kaprow combined different parts of life and the audience became the artist. With each different happening different emotions were enticed, different senses were utilized, and an all-round different experience was achieved for each participant.
Happenings and Activities
Kaprow’s goals were clear for these happenings. The participants completed the given tasks which ranged from building a structure of ice blocks – “Fluid”, jumping around a room full of tires – “Yard”, to transporting barrels found behind a chemical plant – “Transfer” (above). In completing these tasks, not only would the objective be met but also got to really appreciate the moments. In “Transfer” the given task was repeated multiple times after taking a picture and then spray painting them a different color over three days. In this day and age that just seems like time that we don’t have to waste.
As it was important to Kaprow that each of the happenings were documented photographically, there is a great deal of different images to still be seen and admired creating art itself. For “Transfer”, the photographer was specially asked to photograph each time the barrels got relocated rather than the process of relocating. This is what he called their “triumphs”. By documenting mainly the triumphs they achieved, it is a boost of confidence that they can keep going, and can relocate these barrels another time. That is where the art of this Happening came from, these men’s sense of accomplishment with each triumph and perseverance through the seemingly endless task.
“The young artist… will discover out of ordinary things the meaning of ordinariness. He will not try to make them extraordinary. Only their real meaning will be stated.” – Kaprow
To me Kaprow’s work is inspiring and eye-opening. With his work he challenged the conventional definition of what art is and broadened its horizons to so many new ideas. To me one of the best things about this is the fact that everyone will take Kaprow’s work in differently. No two experiences are the same. This really shows how many different views there are to all art forms and no one interpretation is correct.
Myself, I have always seen the beauty and art in life. Be it taking the time to sit outside and look at the stars or looking at the Yosemite mountains in the horizon on a really clear day here in Fresno. In that sense that has always been art but only in a single-sensory way. But to put it in the context of Kaprow’s works, art could also be in the many hikes I have done in Yosemite. There all senses are being used: sight, smell, sound, touch, and even taste if you happen along a (safe) berry bush.
This just really goes to show that if you take the time to appreciate it, anything can be considered a work of art.
“even when things have gone ‘wrong’, something far more ‘right,’ more relavatory, has many times emerged.” – Kaprow