Where Art Happens

With Allan Kaprow.

bird on brown wooden fence

Here’s an idea: painting as performance, art as ritual. The focus shifts from the object to the process of creation. Against commodification––of all objects, here is an act of resistance.

After a long illness, the unreachable, maddening, metaphysical itch. It points to some connection with the art, but why? The finality of form, some speculate, casting it tragic. But look again. Notice the balance in these compositions. Unable to step back from the work, the artist is in it.

This is not a painting, but an environment; not the caged pheasant, observed at some remove, but the deafening scream of all beings in cages. If the price of admission into art’s space is surrender of distance, the loan of consciousness, then only a participant may observe. When this happens, there are no free hands left for clutching any claims of objectivity, and there is nothing to do but leave these scattered on the floor like the debris from the blown-out fourth wall. 


In honor of the birthday of artist Allan Kaprow, (1927-2006), I spent some time with his 1958 essay On the Legacy of Jackson Pollack. Kaprow is known as a pioneer of performance art who staged many one-time immersive events, or “Happenings” which were inspired, at least in part, by Kaprow’s interpretation of Pollack’s legacy. The caged pheasant is a reference to this 1956 Kaprow painting.

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

2 thoughts on “Where Art Happens”

  1. Next time I have a writing session at Starbucks, I’ll tell them they should charge admission. People can buy a coffee and watch me noodle on my laptop. 😉

    1. This is brilliant, Jeff. Put a big “Jeff Cann: Happening Now” sign. Writers need to be getting creative about this these days. : )

Leave a Reply