During the Hayward Gallery’s Move: Choreographing You exhibition, I was invited to lead an educational project inspired by the work of Alan Kaprow, the creator of ‘the happening’. The press release for the weekend-long event read as follows:
Allan Kaprow’s happenings make us question how our every day tasks and gestures make us feel and think. Artist Oriana Fox is collaborating with The Hayward Huddle, the gallery’s group of 16-19 year olds and their mentor, artist Davina Drummond, to create a series of large and small scale ‘Happiness Happenings’ that will take Kaprow’s work one step further. Day-to-day activities will be re-examined and re-performed not only to take us out of step with the everyday, but hopefully to bring us a little closer to joy.
Oriana and the Hayward Huddle set themselves the task of re-imagining Kaprow’s works as self-help exercises. The participatory installations and performances that make up Happiness Happenings therefore take Allan Kaprow’s scores as their starting point, however our goal is to help participants both to find and define what makes them happy. Some of the pieces immediately lent themselves to this re-interpretation. For example, Take A Shoe For a Walk (1989) is almost identical to psychologist Albert Ellis’ recommended treatment for overcoming fear of public humiliation, except that that shoe is replaced by a banana. Likewise, Satisfaction (1976), which was originally written to enable a pair of lovers to demonstrate how to meet one another’s needs, can and will be easily re-contextualised towards therapeutic ends. Furthermore, Time Pieces (1973), Kaprow’s detailed instructions for keeping track of your heart-rate and breath, will be used to observe which activities make your pulse race faster, whether they entail revealing intimate feelings to strangers or taking part in a high-impact aerobics routine. No matter what, these are all timely pursuits in light of the government’s plan to carry out a happiness poll; perhaps they will employ a few of these tactics to measure and then increase the UK’s gross national happiness!
Come along and indulge yourself in our Happiness Happenings. You are guaranteed to be simultaneously perplexed and elated by the paradoxes inherent in following someone else’s instructions for how to be truly and gleefully yourself. Feast on guilty pleasures and then over-analyse your motivations for doing so. Learn how to take a compliment and then discover that the greatest pleasure may lie in delivering one. Locate your inner-therapist by giving the advice you would most like to receive. Do some soul-searching and then some calorie-burning. Compare an endorphin rush with a sugar-high. Perhaps most importantly, take pleasure in fulfilling one of Kaprow’s most treasured aims – to blur the boundary between art and life.
The eight artworks that made up Happiness Happenings:
1. Happiness (two telephone stations)
Ring, ring! Hello? Share with a stranger what makes you happy and hear what makes them happy in return.
2. Have Advice, Give Advice, Need Advice, Take Advice (two laptop stations)
Go to one laptop in search of advice, go to the other to dish it out. Then switch places and roles.
3. The No Pain No Gain Workshop
Oriana leads a series of soul-searching and then calorie-burning exercises
Take a moment to go outside and breathe. Calm down with a refreshing mint.
5. Take a Fruit for a Walk
Face your fear of public humiliation by doing something absurd!
6. Time Pieces
Catch your breath at the top of the stairs. Count your pulse and listen to your heart.
– Writing Happiness
Tell us what makes you happy and your words will fill the window for everyone to see.
– A Self-Help Library
Books are available for your perusal. Take a test or do a self-help exercise, then pin it on a tree to share your insights.
– Announcing Happiness
Tweets of joy from the Southbanks cyberspace community will be announced by megaphone.
8. A Private Act in A Public Place
Use the lipstick provided to write the message on the mirror that you would most like to read.
Photos: Annalisa Brambilla