Allan Kaprow

In ‘How to make a Happening’ Allan Kaprow lays out his anti-art thesis, in a call for others to attend to the meaning of experience in the places of everyday life through their own creations. Before his death Kaprow relinquished sole authorship of his scores whereby his initial versions were not seems as originals or permanent works, but ideas to be reinvented: [the reinventor]  is not copying my concept but is participating in a practice of reinvention central to my work.

With others [IPSS] will reintervention



and Calling’

The reintervention of Self Service (for Allan Kaprow)

new actions invented by artists: Tushar Joag, Peter McCaughey, Ben Parry

In 1966 Self Service was a summer-long project with a three-cities menu of activities from which participants could choose to enact onoe or more actitivities assigned to their city. The three cities from ’66 were Boston, New York and Los Angeles. In 2013, Self Service as part of Cultural Hijack takes place across 3 countries: India, United Kingdom and Czech Republic.

Tushar Joag began Self Service with the participatory action Lament for Sparrows which took place on the 24th of May 2013 in Pune, India,

The sparrow a delicate bird affected by the electro- magnetic waves of the cell phones, is hardly seen in cities any more. The population of sparrows has been greatly reduced world over because of the extensive usage of cell phones.

People had the chirping of the sparrows downloaded on their cellphones. People stood, sat on benches, lawns, etc. scattered all over Saras Baug, a public garden in Pune. At a specified time (6.30 pm), the sound of the chirping was switched on by all. The chirping played for 5 minutes after which the people left their places and gathered at the band stand with the sound still playing. The symphony of the sparrows continued for 5 minutes. People switched of their cell phones and dispersed.


1.       ULHAS KAGDE                  9890872360                       

2.       DEEPAK SONAR                9850054725                        

3.       PANDURANG TATHE       9423573634                        

4.       VAISHALI KHUDE             9850294740                        

5.       SHITAL RASKAR                9923699806                        

6.       MANSI GHARE                  9623715535                        

7.       PRAJAKTA GAIKWAD       9623404381                        

8.       SHILPA GHARE                  9689463186                        

9.       RUPALI.V.PATIL                 9823688781                        

10.    SNEHAL.R.KULKARNI        9850330911                        

11.    VARUN DUTT                     9867335345                       

12.    KISLAY                                 9049479725                        

13.   VIJAY SHENDE                    9881648673                        

14.   ROHAN CHANDRACHUR  9850910330                      

15.   ALOK A.SHAH                     9922013355                        

16.   ROHIT SHAH                       9881231243                        

17.   SANYOGITA PALANDE      9823082287                        

18.   NILIMA GOGATE                9394208421                        

19.   POPAT MANE                     9822215179                        

20.   KATTYAYANI JOAG            9819084781                        

21.   RUCHA KULKARNI             8956653130                        

22.   MAKRAND DAMBHARE    9372420070                       

23.   MANISHA CHOUDHARY   7208050133                      

24.   TUSHAR JOAG                    9820234538                                               



A Happening or Activity is an assemblage of events performed or perceived in more than one time and place.  Its material environments may be constructed, taken over directly from what is available, or altered slightly; just as its activities may be invented or commonplace.  A Happening/Activity, unlike a stage play, may occur at a supermarket, driving along a highway, under a pile of rags, and in a friend’s kitchen, either at once or sequentially.  If sequentially, time may extend to more than a year.  The Happening/Activity is performed according to plan but without rehearsal, audience, or repetition.  It is art but seems closer to life.

Essential Features of my Work

There have been three factors at the center of my work since ca.1959:

First. the work is site-specific, leading to the use of streets, forests, public toilets and factories, instead of studios, galleries and museums.

Second. it is impermanent, thus making it possible to use materials like ice and food scraps that disappear naturally.

Third. the value of art itself was doubted, leading to non-art such as a truckload of oranges spilled at random on a street.

These features have evolved gradually over the past decades.  My work cannot be understood if these features are not taken into account.

AK.  04

Allan Kaprow Courtesy Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Wirth

Allan Kaprow Courtesy Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Wirth



Allan Kaprow was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1927. His childhood was spent in Tucson, Arizona, and he returned to the east coast to graduate from the New York High School of Music and Art in 1945. In 1949 he received his BA from New York University, and for the next year worked toward a graduate degree in philosophy. He shifted to the study of art history at Columbia University and received his Master’s degree in 1951 under Meyer Schapiro. While attending college at NYU, he also studied painting with Hans Hofmann in 1947–48. Later, in 1957–58, he studied music composition with John Cage at the New School for Social Research.

In 1952 he co-founded the historic Hansa Gallery in New York where he exhibited regularly throughout the 1950s. Since that time, Kaprow’s work from this earlier period has been shown extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He has had more than 30 one-person exhibitions, including museum and gallery retrospectives at the Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California, 1967; the Bremen Kunstmuseum, Bremen, Germany, 1976; the Fondazione Mudima, Milan, Italy, 1991–92; Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany, 1986; Galerie Donguy, Paris, France, 1992; and the John Gibson Gallery, New York, 1995.

By 1957, Kaprow’s work became exclusively environmental, involving lights, odors, electronic sounds and unusual materials. His first two arrangements at the Hansa Gallery in 1958 contained no art objects as such, but initiated a concept that now has become commonplace among artists. The art was experienced as a surrounding rather than a picture or sculpture to be looked at–a surrounding which engaged the visitor with things to move, switches to manipulate, obstacles to climb, and food to eat. For the next seven years, he expanded the potential of the Environment, as it began to be called. Gradually the showcase space was abandoned for more informal and natural settings such as vacant breweries, open fields and woods. Commissions came from universities in the United States and from art institutions abroad.

Kaprow also designed sets, costumes and lighting for the Eileen Passloff Dance Company, and electronic sound for Richard Barr’s production of Ionesco’s The Killer. Numerous new music concerts presented his sound tapes.

In the same period of 1957–58, Kaprow developed the Happening as an extension of the environmental concept, contributing an unexpected household word to our spoken language, and an art form that in various ways and under different names has been practiced all over the world. In Kaprow’s form of the Happening, ordinary people, ordinary time and the everyday spaces of streets and supermarkets, were frequently merged into ordinary activities such as wallpapering a room, digging ditches and taking a pulse. Fantasy was never absent, but there was always a commitment to common experience. Art and life were blurred.

Public response to this loss of clear distinctions was immediate. Kaprow found his work discussed in journals of painting, poetry, dance, architecture, music, drama and education. This, he felt, was quite appropriate: everyone was right. It was perhaps hitting the mark when, in an issue of Time magazine in the 60s, his work was mentioned in its section “Modern Living.”

Since 1958 he has executed nearly 250 such events. His work has been sponsored by major institutions on both sides of the Atlantic: the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota; the Pasadena Art Museum in California; Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, the University of Michigan in Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, California; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, France; the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Germany; Galerie Foksal in Warsaw, Poland; the Civic Arts Office in Milan, Italy, the Museum des 20 Jahrhunderts in Vienna, Austria; the Biennials in Lyon, France, Leipzig, Germany, and Venice, Italy; and Documenta in Kassel, Germany.

By 1969, Kaprow’s work had evolved so distinctly into new phases that he gave up the designation “Happening” and adopted colleague Michael Kirby’s term “Activity.”

Kaprow’s interests have also focused on the medium of television. He received commissions in the late 60s to create broadcasts from WCBS-TV, New York, and from the Ford Foundation’s PBL in cooperation with WGBH, Boston. Since then he has produced numerous videos, as well as four films.

Kaprow has been consistently active as an educator. From 1953 through 1961, he taught at Rutgers University, and then briefly conducted an aesthetics course at the Pratt Institute. Following that, he joined the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he held professorship until 1968. He then became, with Herbert Kohl, co-director of a Carnegie Corporation-backed educational experiment, “Project Other Ways,” at the Berkeley Public Schools. In 1969, Kaprow was appointed Associate Dean of the Art School of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, and was among the original planning team of that briefly innovative assembly of artists. In 1974 he accepted a professorship at the University of California, San Diego, where he is currently Professor Emeritus.

Kaprow has published extensively - theoretical and critical articles as well as texts from Happenings and Activities. These writings have been translated into at least ten foreign languages. His 1966 book Assemblage, Environments and Happenings, published by Harry N. Abrams, is a standard text in the field. A calendar of Happenings, entitled Days Off, was published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. And subsequently, a series of over twenty booklets, each dealing with a particular Activity, came out in regular succession during the 70s. The catalogue 7 Environments, a large collection of photos, essays and notes, traced 35 years of permutations of the original seven Environments made between 1958 and 1964. In 1993 the University of California Press published his Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, bringing into one volume widely scattered writings that appeared during five decades. And, in November 2004, the same press published Childsplay: The Art of Allan Kaprow by Jeff Kelley, a book on his collected artworks.

Kaprow received the Catherine White Foundation Award in 1951, the William and Noma Copley Foundation Award in 1963, the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967, the Skowhegan Medal in 1974, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in that same year, and a residency in 1976 from Berlin’s Deustcher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), an international arts and sciences fellowship. In 1979 he received a second NEA grant and a second Guggenheim Fellowship. He is listed in Who’s Who and Who’s Who in the West.

Most of Kaprow’s work for the last 10 years has consisted of workshops, which are based on the structure of the Happening (a small group of people doing everyday activities in ordinary spaces). He has been commissioned by Universities and Institutions such as Fondazione Ratti, Como, Italy, 1997; Crete University, Crete, Greece, 1999; and Bergen Kunstmuseum, Bergen, Norway, 2000.  Kaprow has also been included in major exhibitions such as In the Spirit of Fluxus, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1993; Hors Limites 1951–1994, Musée d’Art Moderne, Centre George Pompidou, Paris, France, 1994; Beat Culture and the New America 1950–1965, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1995; Sunshine and Noir: Art in Los Angeles, Louisiana Museum, Humelbaek, Denmark, 1997; Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California, 1998; Off Limits: Rutgers University and the Avant-Garde 1957–1963, Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey, 1999; The American Century: Art & Culture 1950–2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1999; Over the Edges, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst Ghent (S.M.A.K), Ghent, Belgium, 2000; Made in California: Art,, Image and Identity, 1900–2000, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, 2000; Les Années Pop 1956–1968, Musée d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France, 2001; The Collection, Museum Moderner Kunst Stifung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria, 2002; and Art Unlimited, Basel, Switzerland, 2005.