Kaprow coined the term ‘Happening’ to describe the ‘un-cuteystuff’ that took place on Segal’s farm.
Does George Segal’s chicken farm in South Brunswick, New Jersey in the 1960s deserve a place beside Athens in the 4th century B.C., Babylon in the 2nd century B.C., Rome in the 1st century, Teotehuacan in 3rd century, Florence in the 15th century, and Paris in the 1920s as a breeding ground for enduring, transformative cultural achievements?
Segal (1924 – 2000) was a Pop art sculptor who organized annual picnics on the farm. Kaprow explains their art historical significance when he recalls that they were held with “art world friends of ours, who never in those days got out of New York. So it was a big thing to come out for a weekend to either the farm I was living on, or the farm George was living on. It was there that in one of these years we decide as part of the entertainments, to try out some of the happenings that I had been working on in John Cage’s class, or at least developing the prototypes for, but now on a somewhat bigger scale, because physically we could use the chicken coops, the fields, the tractors, whatever we wanted, and a casual atmosphere of friends was present that allowed people to do it, or not to do it, as they wished.”17 Alison Knowles, John Cage, Al Hansen, Ay-O, Dick Higgins, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ray Johnson, Roy Lichtenstein, Lucas Samaras, and Robert Whitman were among the renowned artists who convened at the farm. Many took advantage of the opportunity to rebel against the gallery scene by creating art that could not be bought and sold. Kaprow explains that such experimentation followed twenty years of a “neo-conservative state with back to all kinds of prototypical modernisms… so called post-modernist snide tickle-tickley cutesy stuff, all of it feeding a consumerist market, of course.”18 Indeed, Kaprow coined the term ‘Happening’ to describe the ‘un-cuteystuff’ that took place on Segal’s farm.
Select any event orchestrated by one of the artists who was active at Segal’s farm. Explain how it fulfills the description of a happening offered by Kaprow in the following quote: “All these events had been, for the most part, once only things, and they were meant as changeable events, there was no fixed form in them, depending upon where they were, who did them.”19
17An interview with Allan Kaprow by John Held, Jr. at the Dallas Public Library Cable Access Studio in 1988 http://www.mailartist.com/johnheldjr/InterviewWithAlanKaprow.html
18 An interview with Allan Kaprow by John Held, Jr. at the Dallas Public Library Cable Access Studio in 1988 http://www.mailartist.com/johnheldjr/InterviewWithAlanKaprow.html
19 An interview with Allan Kaprow by John Held, Jr. at the Dallas Public Library Cable Access Studio in 1988 http://www.mailartist.com/johnheldjr/InterviewWithAlanKaprow.html