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Beyond the Happening: Performance Art and the Politics of Communication

Monday 18 January 2021, 5.00PM

Speaker(s): Catherine Spencer (University of St Andrews)

Modern & Contemporary Cluster 

Book presentation and discussion

Beyond the Happening uncovers the heterogeneous, uniquely interdisciplinary performance based works that emerged in the aftermath of the early Happenings. By the mid-1960s Happenings were widely declared outmoded or even 'dead', but this book reveals how many practitioners continued to work with the form during the late 1960s and 1970s, developing it into a vehicle for studying interpersonal communication that simultaneously deployed and questioned contemporary sociology and psychology. Focusing on the artists Allan Kaprow, Marta Minujín, Carolee Schneemann and Lea Lublin, it charts how they revised and retooled the premises of the Happening within a wider network of dynamic international activity. The resulting performances directly intervened in the wider discourse of communication studies, as it manifested in the politics of countercultural dropout, soft power and cultural diplomacy, alternative pedagogies, sociological art and feminist consciousness-raising. Published in Rethinking Art's Histories Series, Manchester University Press.

About the author

Catherine Spencer is a Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. Her first book, Beyond the Happening: Performance Art and the Politics of Communication (Manchester, 2020) grows out of longstanding research interests in performance and experimental art practices since the 1960s in Europe, Latin America and the US. With Jo Applin and Amy Tobin she is co-editor of London Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks, 1960-80 (Penn State University Press, 2018), and her writing has appeared in Art History, British Art Studies, Oxford Art Journal and Tate Papers. She is currently an AHRC Early Career Research Fellow for a new project that explores how artists used abstraction across a range of media to navigate complex socio-political terrains during the 1970s and 1980s in Britain.


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