Allan Kaprow: How to Make a Happening
Simple in construction, yet profound in context, How to Make a Happening is Allan Kaprow delivering 11 rules on how, and how not, to make a Happening, an movement begun by Kaprow in the late fifties that is known for its unpredictability, open scores, and constantly-evolving form.
On the first track, Kaprow speaks plainly into a microphone, delivering a private cut-to-the-chase style instruction on Happenings that is both informative and contradictory. Kaprow, known as a great teacher of the avant-garde (from Rutgers to Cal Arts to finally University of California, San Diego), delivers both a practical and theoretical how-to with an oftentimes dead-pan humor.
On the second track, which is constructed like the first, Kaprow reads the program and notes of three recent Happenings (Soap, Calling, and Raining), which serve as loose instruction, as they involve improvisation and forces beyond human control, such as acts of nature and other uncontrolled environmental forces. These elucidations further provide a clear, if somewhat circumstantial, distinction of what does and does not constitute a Happening.
Perhaps, one of the more astonishing values to this recording is that it reflects and informs on a movement that fifty years on has come be seen as a seminal shift in postwar contemporary art and performance, yet is discussed by its founder without this hindsight—it lacks sentimentality and most of all it lacks a sense of its relevance within this history. In fact, Kaprow shrugs off its place in the arts—its rejections of their strategies become a starting point if not a hallmark of the Happening, as he claims in rule number one:
Forget all the standard art forms—don’t paint pictures, don’t make poetry, don’t build architecture, don’t arrange dances, don’t write plays, don’t compose music, don’t make movies, and above all don’t think you’ll get a happening by putting all these together.