Fall , Degree Critical. Having repeated many of his early pieces with self-imposed rules to safeguard against tedium, Kaprow authorized a precise re-doing of his most time-sensitive creation mere weeks before he died. He draped the set in Christmas tree lights as instructed, and arranged seats on which the audience would play a very tightly controlled, non-competitive musical chairs between observing the robotic movements of a dozen participants extracting art out of common yet displaced gestures, such as bouncing a ball, squeezing oranges, and reading from a scroll of words orphaned from their context. Like factory work and public school classes, the performances began and ended with the sound of a bell. Context, as postmodern theory both warns and celebrates, changes everything. One major change in this re-creation was the lackluster cast compared to the original, which included John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg.
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By Richard Dorment. They were also remarkably austere. If marijuana was ubiquitous at these entertainments, it may have been because they were so tedious that audiences needed to anaesthetise themselves before watching them.
I know this because over the weekend I went to one in the Festival Hall. By the time he came to make this hugely influential piece, Kaprow was already 32 and something of a Renaissance man. Kaprow was also the director of an art gallery and taught art history at Rutgers University in New Jersey. This academic background surely accounts for his fanatical attention to detail.
Everything the audience saw or heard in 18 Happenings in 6 Parts was scripted, scored and annotated in hundreds of handwritten pages. Kaprow designed the original set, which consisted of a wooden grid of three separate but interconnecting rooms containing simple props such as a chair, a table and a ladder.
Philippe Parenno, Serpentine. Tristan Perich: he's a one-bit wonder. Before the performance started, Kaprow gave each participant a set of written instructions telling them to do simple everyday things — paint a picture, squeeze an orange, sweep the floor, climb a ladder, shout a political slogan, or sit on a chair. He wrote each instruction on a separate index card and told the performer exactly how many minutes and seconds he or she had in which to do the action required.
At intervals, a bell rang to tell the participants to stop what they were doing, look at the next card and start the next action. As a student of John Cage, Kaprow put chance at the centre of his creative process. Happenings were not rehearsed and participants did not know before reading their instructions what they were going to do next — indeed, since Kaprow shuffled the index cards before he handed them out, neither did he.
Once a happening was over, it was never performed again. In the late Fifties, for an artist to ask an audience to watch people performing pedestrian activities was a radical innovation. Kaprow placed his performers in situations that came from the real world and not the imagination.
The grid is also a very New York form of architecture. Kaprow believed that the intervals, when the audience relaxed, talked and smoked some more dope, were as important as the performance.
In his will, Kaprow permitted other artists to re-stage his work. So for the Hayward show the curator, Stephanie Rosenthal, asked Rosemary Butcher to reinvent 18 Happenings in 6 Parts in ways that preserved its structure but changed most of the details. Dispensing with the grid, Butcher used an open-plan set made out of irregularly shaped plywood frames so the performers could move fluidly from one space to another as multiple events unfolded at the same time in multiple spaces.
The British artist Pablo Bronstein draped swags of heavy rope over the frames, making them look a little like curtains in a theatre. The experimental composer Edwin Burdis was responsible for the sound. Just like Kaprow, before the piece began Butcher gave each of her four participants a set of written instructions.
Now, however, they were told to imitate, drop, scold, accuse, shake, manhandle and hug their fellow performers. Spaces were trashed, paper and objects scattered, and at one moment an actor lay on the floor like a corpse in a mortuary.
Yet simply by using the actors she did — an older man and woman with a younger male and female couple — Butcher set up the possibility of a narrative. We were watching a play in which parents and children interact emotionally by arguing, loving, hating and forgiving. This is precisely what Kaprow did everything in his power to avoid. And yet, works of art must evolve or become they will petrify. The result was so ludicrously old-fashioned that it all but creaked. So, it was not a bad idea to update Kaprow, I just wish it had been done differently.
Terms and Conditions. Style Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Wednesday 03 June Richard Dorment loves the idea but hates the result. Something of a non-event: Kaprow's 18 Happenings in 6 Parts receives an unsatisfactory new airing at the Festival Hall. Related Articles. Art Reviews. In Art Reviews. Read more Art news here. Culture Galleries. More from the web. More from The Telegraph.
Allan Kaprow Artworks
Baby is an action collage, made from randomly assembled objects juxtaposed with cut-up pieces of Kaprow's own paintings. The only coherent and ordered element in the composition is in the formal arrangement of the elements into vertical strips. Kaprow produced the work in a frenzied, ritualistic process, influenced by the gestural quality of Pollock's action painting. Kaprow echoes the "combines" of Robert Rauschenberg in his synthesis of Pollock's technique with Cage's influence. Kaprow had moved toward an "unbound," three dimensional form, and was increasingly using found objects and everyday materials in an attempt to reconcile art with everyday experience, which would end up being his ultimate goal. Paper, metal foil, pieces of carpet, oil and plastic paint, chalk, linen on hardboard - Museum Moderner Kunst Ludwig Vienna. This work represents a shift from the art object to the surrounding environment.
Allan Kaprow's 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, Festival Hall, review