Allan Kaprow (1927–2006) is one of the most unknown famous artists of today. He has always rejected the mechanisms of the world of exhibiting without making this a goal in itself. His model of an artist is the ‘un-artist’ who in a positive, actionist way returns with all his ambitions to life. His paintings, sculptures and collages grew into space consuming assemblages of everyday objects, which finally lead to entire environments.
By the end of the fifties, Kaprow coined the term ‘happening’ by introducing theatrical categories into traditional art works. Having studied the radical new musical compositions with John Cage at the School of Social Research, Kaprow’s methods of chance conquered the work process. People viewing his works were no more mere spectators, they became participants. Soon after, ‘happening’ became itself a style of the sixties. Kaprow reacted in his own way by transforming his works into ‘activities’ or ‘enactments’. It lies in the nature of Kaprow’s time- and performance-related work that in principle a repetition of a happening, or an ‘activity’ as he called his work later on, is not possible – and also not wished by the artist. Nevertheless, Kaprow himself re-enacted a larger number of pieces on several occasions. According to Kaprow, activities and happenings don’t grow old over the years; it is not nostalgic to repeat works but rather a challenge to adapt them to the moment, to the issues, the themes, maybe even the fashion of today. As long as the ‘central metaphor’, as he called it, was maintained, there was no problem. By this the works stay contemporary, comparable to the transmissions of content in oral history.
At the end of his life, Kaprow gave permission for the re-interpretation of his scores (lists of procedural actions constituting a ‘happening’) by other artists. This exhibition aims to create a context and direct engagement with the work of this historical figure by involving local and international artists directly with his work.
May 4, 8pm
Audio lecture by Snowden Snowden followed by a screening of ‘Pee Wee’sBig Adventure’
May 4 & 5, 2–6pm
The Emancipated Spectator: A two-day workshop looking at the intricate relationing between the role of spectator and performer led by Frederique Bergholtz. NB: Signing up is necessary.
May 21, 8pm
Screening programme of Allan Kaprow works on the roof.
This exhibition is a collaboration between Contemporary Image Collective [Cairo], Kunsthalle Bern [Bern] and Objectif Exhibitions [Antwerp].
This exhibition is made possible with the support of Pro Helvetia Cairo (Swiss Arts Council).
Additional support by Mondriaan Stichting [Netherlands], British Council, Flemish Community [Belgium] and the Ford Foundation [Cairo].
With thanks to the Allan Kaprow Estate represented by Hauser & Wirth Zürich–London and special thanks to Barry Rosen and Sylvia Bandi.