Is the OP SHOP Journey a Happening?

Allan Kaprow. Rules of a Happening:

  1. The line between the happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and perhaps indistinct as possible.
  2. Themes, materials, actions, and the associations they evoke are to be gotten from anywhere except from the arts, their derivatives and their milieu (eliminate the arts and any connection with them, happenings are not a composite or “total” art)
  3. The happening should be dispersed over several widely spaced sometimes moving and changing locales. (Single spaces tend to be static and limiting)
  4. Time, closely bound up with things and spaces should be variable and independent of the convention of continuity. (All events have their own time.)
  5. The composition of all materials, actions, images, and their times and spaces should be undertaken in as artless and again practical a way as possible.  (The avoidance of form theories associated with the arts that have to do with arrangement.)
  6. Happenings should be unrehearsed and performed by non-professionals, once only.

Kaprow, A., 1966, “The Sixties: Happenings are Dead, Long Live the Happenings!” in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, ed. J. Kelley, University of California Press, 1993.

How do these rules apply to my walking exercise I completed yesterday?

1. The line between the happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and perhaps indistinct as possible.

The walking exercise yesterday was based around an everyday activity of shopping. I was walking around in the same streets and stores as everyone else and the only thing that distinguished me, as doing something different was the fact that I was brightly dressed and my clothing changed every so often. Even with the brightly coloured clothing I still had no reason to be different from anyone else.

2. Themes, materials, actions, and the associations they evoke are to be gotten from anywhere except from the arts, their derivatives and their milieu (eliminate the arts and any connection with them, happenings are not a composite or “total” art).

I don’t believe the act of shopping has ever been considered an “art form”. The shirts that I collected perhaps were once included in a fashion show (though I highly doubt it) and none of my actions were theatrical in any sense however I did change my costume as if I were apart of a play in which each walk could be seen as a separate scene different to the last. Each image that I took of myself too was a confirmation of my aesthetic appearance before walking out on the street (or stage). The image was purely documentation and was by no means constructed with an artistic eye.

3. The happening should be dispersed over several widely spaced sometimes moving and changing locales (Single spaces tend to be static and limiting).

My walk yesterday was conducted over the location of 1 suburb 13 streets and 7 op-shops. The spaces were dynamic as they were filled with different people in different stages of their day. Some shopping, working, strolling, driving, talking and listening.

4. Time, closely bound up with things and spaces should be variable and independent of the convention of continuity (All events have their own time).

The time, which it took to complete the walk, occurred naturally. There was not one point where I rushed through the shopping, walking, discussions or purchasing. I took the time during the happening to eat some bread, drink an ice coffee and have a seat to enjoy both before resuming the act of shopping. In many of the shops I spent the time to browse, try on clothes, be polite and have a brief discussion with the shop attendants.

5. The composition of all materials, actions, images, and their times and spaces should be undertaken in as artless and again practical a way as possible.  (The avoidance of form theories associated with the arts that have to do with arrangement).

The way that I moved was not choreographed to a strict path. I knew I had to get to the op-shops but did not always cut the most direct route towards them. The path I chose was practical in the sense that I aimed to do as much shopping as possible before they closed.  I must admit that I chose the colour of clothes based of the colour of the last purchase. I did not want similar colours or styles. I’m most certain there was a subconscious effort to get each swatch from the colour wheel careful not to repeat previously purchased colours.

6. Happenings should be unrehearsed and performed by non-professionals, once only.

My happening is a once off. I did not rehearse this and had to adjust my route whilst in the action of walking. I did not have enough money to pay for the shirts and didn’t factor this in to the materials needed to complete the task. I’m certainly a non-professional however have many years shopping experience.

How does My happening fit in with the topic of the flaneur?  
(Following quotes sourced from: Ferguson, P.P., 1994, “The Flaneur on and off the streets of Paris”, in The Flaneur, ed. K. Tester. Routledge, London. p27).

“Flanerie  urbanises observation by making the observer part of the urban scene…the flaneur is observed while observing.” I was certainly being observed but also drawing attention to myself by wearing bright coloured shirts. My levels of observations on the walk were limited as I could only gauge the looks of people I came into face to face contact with. It felt as though my main purpose had become to find the brightest shirt on my walk in order to make a statement in the street. The act of shopping however is seen as counterproductive to the flaneur as Ferguson states;

“Indeed, for these texts of flanerie, shopping seems to be the strongest social marker of a female activity. No woman, it would seem, can disconnect herself from the city and its enchantments. No woman is able to attain the aesthetic distance so crucial to the flaneur’s superiority. She is unfit for flanerie because she desires the objects spread before her and acts upon that desire. The flaneur, on the other hand, desires the city as a whole, not a particular part of it.”

My own desires to  shop for the brightest shirt would then disqualify myself from being a true flaneur because I was unable to keep an “aesthetic distance” from these objects. My level of observations shifted from the street, to inside the op-shops where I was able to find patterns and nuances between the 7 locations. On a side note,  I wonder if  above quote is still relevant in todays age of rampant consumerism from both sexes?

To summarise the walk I feel that it included many elements of Kaprow’s Happenings and could no doubt be considered one. This was unintentional however after completing the task I realised that if fit quite well with his  structure of ‘Happenings’.  The walk also glimpsed of aspects of the flaneur but missed the mark in the end.

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