The Concept of Happening

  • Tadeusz Pawlowski
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 144)


The happening, like any other avant-garde movement, grew up in opposition to established art. It conceived in a new way the role of the audience in the spectacle. Chance, absent from the art of earlier periods, became admissible as an artistic determinant, and was even alloted a high rank in the hierarchy of aesthetic and social values. In contrast to traditional art, the happening should not have a plot, nor should it represent, symbolize, or express anything. It should not have characters, or roles to be played, as in theatre. It questions traditional limits of time, place, and spatial extension of the spectacle. Happeners preached the abolition of the special status accredited to art and to artists, as well as the abolition of the individuality of authorship: a piece initiated by one person could be continued by any other. These are immense differences and their implementation, although only partial, has changed art deeply. Of course, the happening did not arise all of a sudden, but grew out of tendencies present in earlier art, like Dadaism, Surrealism, or Ready-Made art. Nothing has been initiated or ended with the happening, states Michael Kirby, all elements of happenings and even their characteristic combinations can be found in historically earlier forms of art.1


Probability Mechanism Semantic Function Logical Connection Artistic Effect Programmatic Declaration 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tadeusz Pawlowski
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of LodzPoland

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