“A play assumes that words are the almost absolute medium. A Happening frequently has words, but they may or may not make literal sense. If they do, their sense is not part of the fabric of “sense” that other nonverbal elements (noise, visual stuff, action) convey...If they do not make sense, then they are heard as the sound of words instead of the meaning conveyed by them.”
Allan Kaprow, “Happenings in the New York Scene” (1961)
In 1962, Allan Kaprow organized Words at Smolin Gallery, New York. This multi-sensory participatory ‘’Environment’’ consisted of two rooms. Words from poems, newspapers, comic and telephone bo- oks handwritten on pieces of paper or stenciled on rolls of canvas covered the walls of the first room. The participants were encouraged to rearrange these words and add to them by writing on pieces of paper. Three records played a text recited by Kaprow while red and white light bulbs flashed on and off.
In the second room, writing covered the walls as well. Here, participants could use colored chalk hanging from strings to graffiti the walls with pictures and messages. The visitors could also write on pieces of paper clipped to bed sheets draped from the ceiling. A phonograph on the floor played barely audible whispers.
At Converso, Alexander May and Zoe Stillpass have reinvented Words by asking 100 artists, wri- ters, and curators to contribute 100 words each. These lists, phrases, and passages will be entered into an artificial intelligence that will remix and rewrite them. The AI’s recurrent neural network has le- arned to generate text by reconstructing sentences and even inventing new words. Heard throughout the space, the AI’s voice will recite this constantly evolving text. White panels on which visitors can write will cover the floor of the church. The text read by the AI will no doubt influence what visitors choose to write.
As the space fills up with language, individual floor panels can be removed, stacked, and replaced with new ones. Through this interaction between people and things, images and sounds, human lan- guage and programming language, a polyphonic poem will begin to self-generate. As the authority of human linguistic structure breaks down and words stop making sense, what new meaning might emerge?
Words is produced in collaboration with the Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Wirth. With a special edition poster by Allen Ruppersberg.
Mitchell Anderson, Michel Auder, Marie Auvity, Laetitia Badaut Haussmann, Mark Barrow & Sarah Parke, Tenzing Barshee, Alessandro Bava, Julie Beaufils, Will Benedict, Judith Bernstein, Jona- than Binet, Christopher Bollen, Edoardo Bonaspetti, Jennifer Bornstein, Julie Boukobza, Fran- cesca Brusa, Katarina Burin, Marin Buschel, Victoria Cabello, Alessandro Carano, Xinyi Cheng, Mieke Chew, Tyler Coburn, James Crump, Michele D’Aurizio, Anna Daneri, Adrian Dannatt, Kam- ran Diba, Leah Dieterich, Sid M. Duenas, Paula Dykstra, Bettina Funcke, Alexander Galán, Jeanne Graff, Joseph Grigely, Mark Harris, Rachel Harrison, Martin Hatebur, Lena Henke, Karl Holmqvist, Jonathan Horowitz, John Houck, Peter Huttinger, Ana Iwataki, Hadrien Jacquelet, Kai-Isaiah Ja- mal, Jenny Jaskey, Charlie Jeffery, Tony Just, Stefan Kalmár, Matt Keegan, Young Kim, Henning Kober, Agnieszka Kurant, Ann Lauterbach, Lykke Li, Massimiliano Locatelli, Jason Loebs, Vicki Mansoor, Karen Marta, Pierre-Alexandre Mateos & Charles Teyssou, Marie Matusz, Molly Caro May, Sarah McCrory, Ryan McNamara, Ingo Niermann, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Joel Otterson, Mau- reen Paley, Marco Paltrinieri, Riccardo Paratore, Philippe Parreno, Thymaya Payne, Baptiste Pin- teaux, Gea Politi, Rob Pruitt, Asad Raza, Noushin Redjaian, Cédric Rivrain, Allen Ruppersberg, Ronnie Sassoon, Matt Saunders, Eric Shiner, Amy Sillman, Sue Spaid, Tommaso Speretta, Chris- tabel Stewart, Michael Stipe, Davide Stucchi, Studio for Propositional Cinema, Emily Sundblad, Kate Sutton, Catherine Taft, Benjamin Thorel, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Nicolas Trembley, Frederic Tuten, Philip Ursprung, Jill Van Epps, Marion Vasseur-Raluy, Philippe Vergne, Artie Vierkant, Amy Vogel, Claire Wilcox, Jake Wotherspoon, Mia Wotherspoon, Linda Yablonsky, Simon Zoric.
By the late 1950s, American painter Allan Kaprow (b. 1927, Atlantic City – d. 2006, Encinitas) began to view the action of Action Painting as far more important than painting itself. With the 1959 work 18 Happenings in 6 parts, a series of seemingly random but carefully choreographed activities executed with such friends as John Cage and Robert Raus- chenberg, he embarked upon a career of intellectually rigorous site-specific, impermanent works that defied commod- itisation and ultimately gave birth to performance and installation art. The inventor of Happenings and Environments, Kaprow joyously incorporated improvisation and public participation within and beyond the traditional museum and gallery context.
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