Reading: ‘Happenings’ in the New York Scene


I have always felt attracted to all sorts of ephemeral arts and events. I think people have a particular attitude to everything that doesn’t endure over time, be it an art piece, a place, or a person. A creation born to die soon often makes us relate to that object more closely, trying to get the most out of it, using all our senses more intensely. And since our interaction with that object is limited, we reconstruct it in different ways in our memory according to our subjective perception and our personal experience.

The idea behind ‘Happenings’ had this in mind, and used it to produce works of art based on events in which viewers had an active and spontaneous participation, in order to achieve liberation through emotional expression and collective representation and break the barrier between the viewer and the creation of the art piece.

In contrast to art from the past, as Allan Kaprow explains, Happenings had no structured beginning, middle or end. Its form was open and fluid. There was no concrete pursuing and therefore nothing was gained by the artists except the satisfaction of a number of situations and events held successfully. They only occurred once and then disappeared forever. For me, this is the purest expression of ephemeral art.


The importance of these temporal and perishable events was that they established an understanding of art as a dynamic process rather than as an immobile result. The public is no longer a passive observer. They must remain active, think and participate. The artwork is not complete until the visitor is part of it. This idea seems even more relevant today, with the emergence of new media and digital technologies being used by artists to create works based on interaction, socialization and appropriation of spaces through events and experiences. Thanks to the immaterial data flows and the constant use of mobile devices, we can now create new kinds of situations and qualitative experiences based on the ephemeral using images, sounds, smells, memories, creating a new merge between artwork and viewer.

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