Opening up a happening by Allan Kaprow, "Self-Service", in 2014 with Ricardo Basbaum

This event is a response by Bulegoa z/b to an invitation to reinvent a happening by Kaprow for the exhibition Allan Kaprow, Otras maneras, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona.
“Opening up a happening by Allan Kaprow, Self-Service, in 2014 with Ricardo Basbaum” happened on the 9th of May 2014.

There are two starting points for the reinvention of Self-Service: the written report of it, and the time lapse between 1966 and 2014. The twelve typed pages on the happening, which took place simultaneously in three different cities (Boston, Los Angeles and New York) over one summer, have reached us intact and isolated, not unlike the contents of a time capsule – a modern invention of the 1930s which had its second moment of splendour in the 1960s -. The same decade saw the happening, an art form invented by Kaprow in 1959, attempt to bring the simultaneity of stimuli and perceptions of everyday contemporary life into art in a quest for the dissolution of art into life. Time capsules also played with the idea of time, but with a different aim: to take a leap, to send a condensed catalogue of a moment in time to historians of the future.

“Abriendo un happening de Allan Kaprow, Self-Service (1966), en 2014 con Ricardo Basbaum” will attempt to pick up on the simile of the object in a time capsule which is opened at a different time in history. This reinvention follows Kaprow’s recommendation in his list of instructions for Self-Service: “The participant (…) is free to draw his own patterns from the work, if he wishes.” We have invited the Brazilian artist to help us to open up and unfold Self-Service through a public conversation based on the original score for the happening. Our perspective will make a necessary distinction from one of archaeological recovery, which searches for an interpretation of the past through the objects that have survived out of it; in this case, we intend rather to use such objects to provide an account of, and a meaning for, our own historical moment.

Our invitation to Basbaum is not a chance occurrence. He has mentioned Kaprow as a reference on several occasions. Basbaum, born in 1961, shares several things with Kaprow: a convergence of purely conceptual elements in their works, bound to forms of social interaction and sensory experience; the overflowing of their work into areas such as discourse or pedagogy; the use of communicative, participatory strategies; the forming of provisional communities via game playing, etc. Behind these coinciding elements lies a similar questioning of the social role of art and the nature of the art experience, and a developing of forms of resistance through their own practice.

What does separate the two artists is their historical moment. Basbaum’s first work was produced in the post-dictatorial Brazil of the 80s and 90s as it was assimilated into the global networks of the advanced capitalist economy, and is different to Kaprow’s particular experience of US late modernity in the 60s and 70s. Interestingly for this reinvention, the issue of the fractures between modernist art practices of the 50s and 70s and those that arose from the global geopolitical reordering of the 80s is something that Basbaum has extensively considered.

As the title of this reinvention indicates, it will take place as a conversation with Ricardo Basbaum. During the session, the Brazilian artist will address issues such as the relationship between art and life, education, participatory strategies or the collective, basing his intervention on Self-Service, a project announced in 1966 as “Hundreds of Happenings in Three Cities over Four Months,” which Kaprow himself considered to have been a failure.

Following Kaprow’s own procedure before each happening, the event, which will begin at 10.00 and end at 14.00, will begin with a presentation of the instructions for Self-Service. It will be streamed live at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona. Basbaum’s conversation will also be open to public participation on TV-tron ( ).

Bulegoa z/b’s reinvention in Bilbao is linked to other reinventions of Self-Service to be carried out between 6 March and 30 May 2014 in two institutions in two other cities: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, and the Vostell museum, Malpartida, Cáceres, as a part of Allan Kaprow. Otras maneras.

Ricardo Basbaum (São Paulo, Brasil, 1961) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro. He is an artist and writer who studies art as a device for intermediation and a platform for the articulation of sensory experience, sociability and language. Since the late 1980s he has been developing a specific vocabulary for his work which he applies in a concrete way to each new project. Recent exhibitions and projects include Something in Space Escapes our Attempts at Surveying (Kunstverein Stuttgart, 2014), the 30º São Paulo Biennalle (2012), Garden of Learning (Busan, 2012) y Counter-Production (Generali, Vienna, 2012). Also, documenta 12 (Kassel, 2007). His most recent solo projects include re-projecting (london) (The Showroom, Londres, 2013) and diagrams, an anthology of his diagrams presented at Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (Santiago de Compostela, 2013). He has written Manual do artista-etc (Azougue, 2013) and Além da pureza visual (Zouk, 2007) and contributed to Materialität der Diagramme – Kunst und Theorie (published by Susanne Leeb, b_books, 2012). He is a professor at the Instituto de Artes, Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, and was also guest professor at the University of Chicago in 2013.

The Fundació Antoni Tàpies collaborated in the production of this event.