Artist and Audience

The rise of performance art began in the gallery space. Artists began using their bodies as part of their artworks and these performances have become some of the most famous exhibitions of all time. Robert Rauschenberg, Allan Kaprow, and Yves Klein are all well recognized for creating interesting art that captivates social commentary through their work with the public. Their ability to pull the audience in and put them into the art began the artistic movement of happenings.

The Happenings

The happening movement began in the 1960s and was birthed by the artist Allan Kaprow in his exhibit called 18 Happenings in 6 Parts where he made three different rooms and displayed six actions happening at once. He had a woman who was juicing oranges, two people hollering one syllable words and other mysterious tasks. Kaprow told the visitors that they would be part of the happenings and experience them for themselves at the same time. Every person who entered the gallery was given a different instruction and over the years happenings continued with mediocre reviews. The art world believed happenings were childish and immature with a rough aesthetic. The low production value was due to their inability to raise funds for these exhibits.

Inspiring Future Generations

As time went on, artists around the world starting integrating the viewer and the physical self into the product of their works. Yves Klein in France took female models covered with paint and used them as drawing tools and Robert Rauschenberg projected images on slides onto white canvasses while a friend and dance choreographer moved around the room.

The movement of happenings came and went very quickly and while it lent itself as inspiration for many performance artists, the movement of happenings died out when Kaprow focused on other subjects. These happenings took art beyond what it was usually understood to be and pushed the boundaries about what the public should experience in a gallery.