September 2019

Date: 14th September 2019

Venue: St Elizabeth Hall, Bristol

Time: 10 – 4

Tutor: Matt White

Attendees: 11


People had been sent material to look at . I had not signed up so I didn’t get it. One thing was for people to make a flick book. Several had made one. I really liked Liz’s one as a piece of artwork rather than a flick-book mainly because I could not see what it was trying to do – no narrative, no pattern that I could see, no movement that I could see. I was left wondering why it was made as a flick book.

Matt’s presentation:

MW presented several slides. The first was very interesting of the first film ever made: 1885 Louis Le Prince.

I collected several names: Nam June Paik:
Blurb on Tate Modern website (must try to get to the exhibition):

The visionary artist who embraced mass media and new technology

Nam June Paik’s experimental, innovative, yet playful work has had a profound influence on today’s art and culture. He pioneered the use of TV and video in art and coined the phrase ‘electronic superhighway’ to predict the future of communication in the internet age.

This major exhibition will be a mesmerising riot of sights and sounds. It brings together over 200 works from throughout his five-decade career – from robots made from old TV screens, to his innovative video works and all-encompassing room-sized installations such as the dazzling Sistine Chapel 1993.

Born in South Korea in 1932, but living and working in Japan, Germany and the USA, Paik developed a collaborative artistic practice that crossed borders and disciplines. The exhibition looks at his close collaboration with cellist Charlotte Moorman. It will also highlight partnerships with other avant-garde artists, musicians, choreographers and poets, including John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Joseph Beuys.

I would love to see his work to see how his cross-discipline collaborations have worked out. It would be good to email some of them but I suppose they are all beyond reach now??


I want to read up on the collaboration between John Cage and Allan Kaprow .

Again from the Tate Modern website:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, happenings made New York City the happening place to be.

The term was coined by Allan Kaprow, an artist and lecturer who had studied painting with one of the key exponents of Abstract ExpressionismHans Hofmann, in the 1940s. Unlike the influential critic Clement Greenberg, Kaprow was less interested in the art object than in the way they were created: he was excited by the performative possibilities of painting.

Hans Namuth’s 1951 photos and film of Jackson Pollock making his paintings illustrated a new direction for Kaprow, where the artist was within the work, while making the work. After Pollock’s death, Kaprow wrote an essay on the legacy of Pollock: exploring what he thought Pollock had meant for painting, art and life. He suggested that the art to come was one that incorporated everyday life, and everyday objects.

In 1957 Kaprow went on a mushroom hunt with artists, composers and founder members of the Fluxus group George Brecht and John Cage. Struggling with some of the sound elements in his own works (which he called action collages), Kaprow asked Cage’s advice. Cage invited him along to his composition class at the New School for Social Research in New York and, fascinated by what he heard about recording, editing and looping tape, Kaprow asked if he could attend regularly. Cage’s weekly homework was to create a piece of work and in response Kaprow began to create full-scale events that he called ‘happenings’.

In 1959 he presented 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at the Reuben Gallery in New York – the first opportunity for a wider audience to experience this sort of event. He chose the word happening to suggest ‘something spontaneous, something that just happens to happen’.

Despite their name, happenings were actually tightly planned and participative. Like the Black Mountain untitled event of 1952, the environments, actions, sound, light and the timing were all integral parts of 18 Happenings in 6 Parts. Rather than being passive observers, the audience were participants – invitations to the event said ‘you will become part of the happenings; you will simultaneously experience them’. Once people arrived at the second floor loft space of the Reuben Gallery they were given a programme of events, and instructions on how to behave, including when to take their seats or move between the three spaces, or when applause was appropriate (at the very end only). Lasting for ninety minutes, the eighteen simultaneous performances included painters painting on canvases, a procession of performers, readings from placards, the playing of musical instruments, and ended with two performers saying single-syllable words like ‘but’ and ‘well’ as four huge scrolls fell from a horizontal bar between them. The end of the event was signalled by a bell ringing twice.

In many ways these events brought out the ideas of chance encounters, and of giving significance to everyday events. As Cage’s 4’ 33’’ offered a found sounsdcape, and potentially changed the listeners’ relationships to the ‘noise’ they heard after the performance, these participatory events blurred the line between what was life and what was art, what was an everyday movement and what was a performance. Kaprow said, ‘The line between art and life sould be kept as fluid, and perhaps as indistinct as possible’. No doubt some were bemused by the goings on, and what to make of them, but regardless, happenings took off. 

Fashionable people attended Kaprow’s events, which help to popularised the term ‘happening’ as a way to describe something that was cutting edge or cool. Until it was cool no longer. By 1966, it was mainstream enough for The Supremes to use it as the title for a song. In the end, Kaprow himself dropped the term.

I’d already repudiated the word, because many other people before that were using it. It was a catch word. You remember everybody went around going, ‘What’s happening, baby?’

Kaprow may have made the term, and the idea of blurring the boundary of art and life, popular but he was the first to admit that he wasn’t the only one or the first working in this way.

The happening had its roots in Hugo Ball’s Dada Cabaret Voltaire, Surrealistperformances and the Italian Futurists in the early years of the twentieth century. Creating art out of life was first proposed as the gesamstkunstwerk (total art work) by the composer Richard Wagner in the Art-Work of the Future in 1849-50.

In Tokyo, Jikken Kobo (Experimental Workshop), a collective of visual artists, composers, photographers, musicians, designers, writers and others were experimenting with cross-discipline presentations. Working between 1951 and 1958, Jikken Kobo members mixed dance, poetry reading, music, painting displays and architecture. From 1952, they used the term happyōkai (literally a recital), for all their events, regardless of the traditional art forms the events included. 

Therefore, from their radical beginnings as forums for creative expression, to their eventual co-option by the mainstream, happenings reveal much about the wide cultural developments experienced during the 20th century, as well as the changing nature of art practice itself.

Having lived in the 1960’s and having loved the Supremes’ “The Happening” I feel very much part of this period. I also love the idea of a spontaneous coming together of different disciplines. Being part of the OCA is the best place to be able to do this and, in a way, the Music-visual arts event in London on 20th July this year was nearly that. What would be good / scary would  be to bring a lot of students together on some pretext / assignment and see how they made work together without having given them the task beforehand.

Perhaps I might organise something like that in our January student meeting??


The third person to investigate Len Lye: scratching negatives and moving image: structuralist film maker urging you to think about how things are made; knowing why you are using a particular MEDIUM.

Alfredo Jaar’s Sound of Silence:

18 Oct 2014 – 22 Feb 2015Image: Alfredo Jaar, The Sound of Silence, 2006. Wood structure, aluminum, fluorescent tubes, LED lights, flash lights, tripods, video projection, 8 minute loop. Software design by Ravi Rajan. Installation view at École des Beaux Arts, Paris, 2011. Courtesy Galería Oliva Arauna, Madrid; kamel mennour, Paris; Galerie Lelong, New York; Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin; and the artist, New York.

The Sound of Silence, one of the most renown monumental and involving installations realised by Alfredo Jaar, will be the focal point of his first solo exhibition in Poland, at the Centre of Contemporary Art in Torun, curated by Dobrila Denegri.

Alfredo Jaar has gained wide international acclaim for his politically engaged work, which focuses on events such as war, political corruption and imbalance of power between industrialized and developing countries. He faces challenges in his art that the public generally does not wish to see. In installations, photographs, films and community-based projects, he explores the public’s desensitization to images and the limitations of art to represent events such as genocides, epidemic and famines.

As in Susan Sontag’s claim that we are desensitised to others’ pain, Jaar ‘s project to investigate the ‘public’s desensitisation’ seems ambitious. Once i’ve seen the film, I will make my own decision. the criticism of Sontag was that she had no case studies on which to arrive at her conclusions.


Matt getting very involved with Paddy’s superb images.

My contribution: I took my recently & very badly made video of my book .

Outcome: Matt suggested putting it flat and filming from above and reading from a script. Karen did not like the presentation because it felt like I was talking to her and judging my book. Not sure what is wrong with either of those.

As always, Kate’s work was super-experimental combining embroidery / lace making with film strips. her photography is outstanding – how does she get such clarity?

Matt could not repeat the adjective “Bonkers”enough for the work of a newbie (forgotten her name) :

Hat – Bonkers!

Jane could not get enough of it:

Jane was convinced it was a hat!


What was revived in me today was the need to collaborate in a cross-discipline way and to do so spontaneously – possibly even with some people I don’t know and in an exercise I know nothing about. Would I dare organise that? Would having some participants online be taking the ‘happening’ on from its origins if that hasn’t already been done?