I too wonder where Fluids lies within this particular set of questions. For those of you who missed it, the original Fluids (1967) was commissioned by the Pasadena Art Museum and consisted of building large, ice-block enclosures in fifteen locations around L.A. in late summer. If you Google “Fluids” you find many, various reinventions or reenactments of Fluids, such as those in New York at Performa 07 and in Italy. In its recent manifestation, Fluids was installed in several places in L.A. I was at one such installation with my two-year old daughter. It was hot and she did not want to leave. She was sitting on a block of ice and whenever we tried to depart, she screamed, “NO ICEE ME!” We took a picture—more than one—of course. In time we will show them to her, and tell her that she too has been part of a Happening. Will it matter that it was a reenactment, or as the Kaprow estate prefers, reinvention? I find the process of recreating and extending history within collective memory through a reinvention and a re-telling of the art history of Happenings works compelling as I encounter these events around the city.3 Twenty-two different Happenings infected L.A. in many locations at many different times. Fluids was here and there around town; Publicity was at Vasquez Rocks, Trading Dirt at the Watts Towers, Claremont Graduate School and Avenue 50 Studio. I don’t know how much history made it through the infection, but we must let it run its course.
I was particularly drawn to the reinvention 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE ). This piece had a kind of trashiness, a kind of updated junk aesthetic about it. I was attracted by its simplicity, by the canvas walls covered with plastic to indicate walls and room dividers and, to me, its framework of reenactment. Even though the original 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at the Reuben Gallery in New York in 1959 mostly relied on scripts and rehearsals, Kaprow evidently left space in the score for more happenstance interpretation. At the beginning, we in the audience received a program with a letter addressed to Mr. Kaprow from Steve Roden, who organized the LACE event. The letter gives you an idea of the humor that lies in the impossibility of being able to recreate the pieces in their original form. ”We wished you had left us a better roadmap, but we figured it would be easy enough to build one ourselves. …We struggled a lot with the concept of reconstruction…” The letter deals with the inability to recreate 18 Happenings in 6 Parts and comes to the conclusion that Kaprow had already been aware of this impossibility at the time…and that he is now smiling about it.
18 Happening in 6 Parts is a complex chess set of scored movements for both performers and audience that took place at LACE over five nights. The instructions in the original and the reenacted piece call for cards to be handed out to the audience. Three types were distributed. “Be seated as they instruct you.” This directive was followed by the rules concerning when and where to move. “Take a seat in room one.” “Take a seat in room two.” “Take a seat in room three.” Following Kaprow’s original score, Roden assembled an impressive ensemble of artist performers, all of whom in one way or another had either known Kaprow, or had an influence on the history of performance art in their own right. At LACE , the program notes listed who they were and what actions they were to perform. Some were seated in the audience and these I especially enjoyed watching. Paul McCarthy began the evening as a member of the audience, became a performer, and then an orange squeezer. If you’ve ever seen one his performances, you may recall that he has a very specific way of squeezing oranges. And if you look at the original photos of 18 Happenings from 1959, you will see a very intellectual looking performer, Rosalyn Montague, elegantly squeezing oranges. My three cards kept me in room one throughout the evening, but Paul McCarthy’s cards let him move from one room to another. He ended up squeezing oranges in his special way in a different room while I stayed behind and was only able to get a hint of what was going on elsewhere… Damn!
- For documentation, weblinks and a calendar, please visit http://www.moca.org/kaprow/↵