artist and the philosopher
Kaprow, Fluids, October 1967, photo Dennis Hopper
and Gilles Tiberghien
Art as Experience
Editorial Director: Laurence Bertrand Dorléac
Editorial Assistant: Elodie Antoine
Translator: David Ames Curtis
A look at the
major figure of Allan Kaprow takes us back to that moment during
the 1950s and 1960s when the discourse of modern formalism began
to break up and to leave some room for less established positions.
With an ever increasing chance of being understood, the time had
finally come to lay down a radical critique of the conditions
of the arts scene and to attempt a shake-up of everyday life,
a reconciliation of art and life, and a break with the warped
position of a spectator who remained simply passive.
of what would become Fluxus and in the wake of John Cage at the
New School for Social Research (where he spent time between 1956
and 1958), Kaprow defended a form of “happening” that,
as early as 1959 and his Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts,
advocated making the demarcation between art and life as
fluid and indistinct as possible.
The idea of merging
art and life in a spirit of permanent rebirth took root in the
United States in the nineteenth century and was to be found in
the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and
Walt Whitman--even though, after them, the contemporary situation
was to pass by way of forms of desacralization these pioneers
would themselves no doubt not have accepted. Between that time
and the 1950s, the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey took up the
torch and demanded from artists a sense of continuity between
art works, events, and the little things of everyday life that
and Gilles Tiberghien see in Art as Experience--Dewey’s
most important work, published in the 1930s--a “manual”
that Kaprow would have used for himself. In this way, they assess
the extent of the dialogue that was established between the artist
and the philosopher, beyond changes in the historical context.
In doing so, these
authors raise the question that ceaselessly comes back to us,
that of knowing what purpose a text--a philosophical
text--may serve for an artist.