From March 23 to June 3, MOCA will present Allan Kaprow - Art as Life. In conjunction with the exhibition, several art schools will participate in the re-happening of some of Alan's scores. Part of Allan's idea was to include discussion after the event as part of the happening. At MOCA, a central space will be set aside for folks who have participated in past happenings to talk about their experience participating in Kaprow's work. A long-time friend of the artist, Suzanne Lacy will be scheduling times for folks to go to the Geffen to record these remembrances. If you'd like to participate, contact me, and I'll pass along your contact information to Suzanne.
CalArts has a special relationship with Allan Kaprow and his practice. He taught here in the early 70's, and wrote several scores that took place on or around campus. These included Scales, Burbank, Easy, and Publicity. Starting at the Van Abben Museum, several of his scores have been reinterpreted for visitors to the retrospective. Looking at photo documentation of the original and recent events, it appears that the latter were reenactments, a copying to unnecessary detail. I couldn't help but think of all the civil war reenactments that take place: all costume and movement, and void of the reason they 'happened' in the first place. I also had this ugly image of MOCA's show, with blue-haired patrons tottering on their heels while grad students hefted and stacked blocks of ice. Kaprow's works were about participation, not theater, and plenty can be read about his views elsewhere.
A couple weeks ago (after a lengthy critical discourse) a group of us recreated Scales in the building where it first took place. Jeff Kelly writes about the piece in his book on Kaprow. The move from the temporary quarters at Villa Cabrini in Burbank to the newly built CalArts was expedited due to the Sylmar earthquake. Kaprow and a group of students arrived at the still-under-construction campus with cinder clocks. It was an early exposure to the warren of hallways and endless corridors that comprise the building. Here is Allan's score:
placing cement blocks on steps of 1st floor stairway
to form new steps going up
carrying blocks to 2nd floor stairway
carrying blocks to 3rd floor stairway
carrying cement blocks to different 3rd floor stairway
placing them on steps going down
carrying cement blocks to different 2nd floor stairway
carrying cement blocks to different 1st floor stairway
* process may continue indefinitely, either up and down or if building has more floors.
--A.K. Oct., '71
What Kelly termed a metaphor for finding one's way around an unfamiliar school with its attendant bureaucracy (that must also be navigated) was lost to us: we had traipsed these hallways for months or years. There was the recognizable spaces in the documentation, and the mirroring that occurred when classmates and faculty documented our actions for the reprise.
Before picking up our cinder blocks, we had spent days discussing the ramifications of our repetition, and how simple actions have become chiseled into the CalArts mythology. In the end some of us realized that the literal navigation of an unfamiliar space--an essential component of the original happening--was impossible for us to reproduce. For some of us, the metaphor for our wandering about campus became the navigation of historical space, and the blocks that seemed to grow heavier with each new staircase became the weight of history.
After it was over, some of us took our purloined blocks to the CalArts community garden to use as a border, which will expand the area under cultivation.