I wonder why no greater thought was put into including this period of his work at the MOC A show, in order to offer reflection, through Kaprow’s own example, on what appropriation and enactment might mean today. Kaprow confronted the reinventions himself, reconfiguring his works through some alchemical meld of the documents and intangible memories and insights of his own that none of us now have. In rethinking the document and the Happening, I would like to argue that this is the missed opportunity of the Kaprow retrospective: the consideration of Kaprow’s documents as performance pieces themselves. Phillip Auslander argues in The Performativity of Performance Documentation, “the act of documenting an event as a performance is what constitutes it as such [sic].”8
To conclude, I turn to Phillip Auslander’s insight into precisely this issue of documentation and performance:
“The more radical possibility is that [the Happenings] may not even depend on whether the event actually happened. It may well be that our sense of the presence, power, and authenticity of these pieces derives not from treating the document as an indexical access point to a past event but from perceiving the document itself as a performance that directly reflects an artist’s aesthetic project or sensibility and for which we are the present audience.”9
One of the most revealing things in Steve Roden’s letter to Kaprow is the conclusion reached by the LACE reinventors to not document their performance on video. As I understand it, they felt the productive tension between the score and the original documentation from 1959 made the creative space for a reinvention possible. They refused to muddy up the historical waters for those who, in the future, will need to reinvent Kaprow for themselves.
Carola Dertnig lives and works in Vienna and was a participant in the 1997 Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in New York. She is a Professor for Performance Art at the University of Fine Arts in Vienna and is currently visiting in the Photography and Media program at CalArts. Dertnig’s work has appeared at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Artists Space, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Secession in Vienna. She is the author with Stephanie Siebold of Let’s Twist Again (If You Can’t Think It, Dance It): Performance in Vienna from 1960 until Today, D.E.A Buch und Kunstverlag (Vienna), 2006.