Happenings

DEFINITION

A name used to describe unplanned multi-media theatrical events intended to break down the division between art and life, it was a movement that took hold in America in the 1950s, but had been practiced in Europe and Japan. The term was explained by originator Allan Kaprow as "an assemblage of events performed or perceived in more than one time and place. . . . an environmental artwork activated by performers and viewers." Composer John Cage was a strong influence with his classes at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and then at the New School for Social Research in New York. Kaprow first used the name to describe his show in 1959 at Reuben Gallery in New York, calling it "18 Happenings in 6 Parts". The 'happening' occupied three rooms and included persons reading texts, posing mime-like, playing music and painting on canvas. On cue, the audience was moved through the rooms and became active participants rather than passive viewers. Kaprow also challenged them to make sense of seemingly disconnected events, offering involvement but little assistance in resolution. Artists who became part of Happenings did not have formal organization, which likely led to more diversity of expression. Names linked to the movement in addition to Kaprow are Red Grooms, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Carolee Schneemann and Robert Whitman. Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Alfred Leslie participated in the first Happening with Kaprow. A forerunner of Happenings is the Dada movement "with their chance-derived arrangments". Related to Happenings are Fluxus and Performance Art and a successor is Pop Art. Source: Robert Atkins, "Art Speak"; http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/5422/kaprow.html

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