“The point is to make something new. Something that doesn’t even remotely remind you of culture.” Recorded in 1966, Allan Kaprow’s lecture “How to Make a Happening” was a manifesto for art that blurs with and crashes into daily life—art that is, as he put it, “best when it’s artless.” As part of a series of presentations at Jupiter Artland (a 100-acre estate and sculpture park on the outskirts of Edinburgh), three artists have “reinvented” some of Kaprow’s actions and ideas, taking over separate spaces to present their work. (A fourth piece by the German artist Andrea Büttner was delayed due to Covid-19. Based on Sweeping from 1962, it will close the series in late September).
New York-based James Hoff foregrounds Kaprow in his contribution, which is installed in the high-ceilinged former ballroom of the grand, 19th-century house. Broadcasting via a gaggle of scrappy-looking FM radios arranged in the ornate fireplace, a 25-minute recording of Kaprow reading the “How to…” lecture has the late artist (who died in 2006) introducing his 11-point “rules of the game.” Poster stacks featuring reprints of Kaprow’s instructions for his Happenings dot the parquet floor; framed original posters for exhibitions and other actions hang on the wall. The effect is more homage than reinvention, providing a succinct introduction to Kaprow and his influential practice.
A short walk takes visitors to two galleries in the estate’s former farm buildings, where works by Peter Liversidge and Cinzia Mutigli are on show. Liversidge has taken his cue from Kaprow’s Out (1963, also known as Exit Piece), which took place in Edinburgh and involved the use of tires to create a “difficult exit” for delegates leaving that year’s International Drama Conference. London-based Liversidge has made a conceptual leap to create a participatory work that responds to the U.K.’s increasingly contentious exit from the European Union. In Sign Painting Studio, three sides of the space are lined with cardboard placards at varying heights, all with statements, slogans, or single words painted in black. A fourth side opens into a studio, where trainee sign writers will paint a placard for you. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Liversidge enlisted the help of 16- to 18-year-olds from Jupiter’s Orbit Youth Council to come up with the texts, and the painters are drawn from the same group. The teenagers also helped Liversidge pick the songs playing in the studio.
A small loft space next door hosts Mutigli’s multifaceted take on Kaprow’s Sweet Wall (1970). While the original used strawberry jam spread on bread as mortar for a temporary concrete wall built on wasteland in Berlin, Mutigli’s work decisively shifts the narrative, using jam as a route to talking about exploitation, addiction, economics, and the close relationship between sugar and the transatlantic slave trade. She packs a lot in: a single-channel film, specially designed sugar cube wallpaper covering walls and ceiling, a free poster featuring a recipe for strawberry jam, and neatly wrapped jam sandwiches to eat. At turns playful and serious, the installation delights and disturbs, as images from a sugar cube factory fill the screen and Mutigli attempts to place a cube on her tongue or covers her lips in white granules. History and its consequences can’t be so easily sugar coated, she suggests, as the physical, mental, and societal consequences of repeated patterns of our (self) harmful behavior continue to play out.
Other references to Kaprow’s work are installed on Jupiter’s grounds, including Yard (1961/2020), presented as a long mound of old car tires that forms a dark scar on the green landscape. And while the setting of a sculpture park inevitably means that these reinventions are bound by their cultural context, their artfulness implicit, the works—Mutigli’s in particular—bring a freshness and urgency to Kaprow’s legacy.