Allan Kaprow

  • THE MEANING OF LIFE

    TWO MEN ARE DRINKING IN A BAR. BETWEEN THEM IS A HALF BOTTLE OF WHISKEY. ONE OF THEM, A PESSIMIST, SAYS IT’S HALF EMPTY. THE OTHER, AN OPTIMIST, SAYS IT’S HALF FULL.

    The experimental artist today is the un-artist. Not the antiartist but the artist emptied of art. The un-artist, as the name implies, started out, conventionally, as a Modernist, but at a certain point around the ’50s began divesting her or his work of nearly every feature that could remind anyone of art at all. The un-artist makes no real art but does what I’ve called lifelike art, art that reminds us mainly of the rest of our lives.

  • THE REAL EXPERIMENT

    Guide: “There are no pictures here.”

    “I see,” said the blind man.

    WESTERN ART ACTUALLY HAS TWO avant-garde histories: one of artlike art, and the other of lifelike art. They’ve been lumped together as parts of a succession of movements fervently committed to innovation, but they represent fundamentally contrasting philosophies of reality.

    A supposed conflict between art and life has been a theme in Western art at least since ancient Rome, resolved if at all in the dialectics of the artlike artwork. For example, Robert Rauschenberg’s statement, “Painting is related to art and life. Neither can be

  • Participation Performance

    LIVE RADIO AND TV audiences participate by clapping and laughing on cues from the host, until they do them spontaneously. Some of their members are invited onstage to carry props around, sing, answer questions, or act in skits and competitive games. They thus pass (for a time) from watcher to doer; they are inside the action, generating it. Yet they know they have a relatively minor role. The show is being directed by someone else. They will return, sooner or later, to their seats in the audience. In fact, they never leave their seats in their thoughts.

    Such participants are a sort of mobile

  • Non-Theatrical Performance

    I

    Traditional theater: an empty room except for those who’ve come to watch. The lights dim. End of performance. Audience leaves.

    WEST BERLIN, 1973. WOLF VOSTELL arranged a Happening called Berlin Fever. It involved close to a hundred participants. Driving from various parts of the city, they converged on a vast empty area near the wall dividing its western and eastern sectors. Above the wall in a tower were armed border guards.At another edge of the field were small gardens of flowers and vegetables tended by local residents. The field itself had been cleared of the ruins of buildings bombed in

  • Video Art: Old Wine, New Bottle

    THE USE OF TELEVISION AS an art medium is generally considered experimental. In the sense that it was rarely thought of that way by artists before the early sixties, it must be granted a certain novelty. But so far, in my opinion, it is only marginally experimental. The hardware is new, to art at least, but the conceptual framework and esthetic attitudes around most video as an art are quite tame.

    The field has customarily been divided into three main areas: taped art performance, environmental open-circuit video, and documentary or political video. In the first, some artistic event performed by

  • The Shape of the Art Environment

    ROBERT MORRIS’S ARTICLE ON Anti Form* identifies some formal problems that remain unresolved. The first is suggested by the title itself. Despite its dramatic promise, there is nothing militant in either Morris’s words or in his works; nothing that could be construed as taking a stand against form. So, it is not clear what is meant by “anti form,” unless it means “non form,” and if that quieter term is what is implied, it should be obvious that although someone might be “against” form from an ideological standpoint, his non formal alternative is no less formal than his “formal” enemy. Literal

  • The Happenings are Dead—Long Live the Happenings

    HAPPENINGS ARE TODAY’S ONLY underground avant-garde. Regularly, since 1958, the end of the Happenings has been announced––always by those who have never come near one––and just as regularly since then, Happenings have been spreading around the globe like some chronic virus, cunningly avoiding the familiar places and occurring where they are least expected. “Where Not To Be Seen: At a Happening,” advised Esquire Magazine a year ago, in its annual two-page scoreboard on what’s in and out of Culture. Exactly! One goes to the Museum of Modern Art to be seen. The Happenings are the one art activity