Artist of the Week: Allan Kaprow

Allan Kaprow was most influential in developing the concept of performance art. He was devoted to expressing “Life as Art.” In the late 1950s and 1960s he used his talents to create works of art labeled as “Happenings.” The “Happenings” were activities involving the participation of the audience to demonstrate how everyday tasks can be seen as art. In the words of Allan Kaprow, “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible.” Kaprow began a revolution in the world of art by expanding the definition of art.

Kaprow’s art piece that I related to the most is “Fluids” (seen in the photo above.) “Fluids” involves the participation of the audience to build a rectangular structure completely out of blocks of ice. Kaprow saw the reactions of the audience to their experience with the ice blocks as the art. The struggle during the journey to create the final ice sculpture reminded me of a hike I did yesterday with a couple of friends. We hiked Mission Peak, which is a constant uphill climb to reach the summit. This was one of the hardest hikes I have ever attempted, but reflecting on it now I have a better understanding of what Kaprow was trying to evoke from his audience through his artwork. Each “Happening” challenged the participants physically, mentally, and emotionally. The entire hike was an internal conflict between giving up to turn back around and fighting through the pain to reach the peak. I had to keep reminding myself that pain is fleeting. This connects to the temporality behind Kaporw’s ice sculpture, which would eventually be left to melt overtime. Throughout the hike time seemed non-existent. In my opinion this is a luxury so rare to come by. Due to our busy schedules, we are constantly chasing time. During the hike my mind was so focused on how I was feeling and my surroundings that time was irrelevant. I think this is what Kaprow intended to express through the “happenings.” He was trying to isolate experiences in order to stimulate the energy of the audience. He believed that the audience’s reaction to an experience is the art.

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