In 1956 Jackson Pollock, the artist who radically changed the meaning of ‘painting’, died.
Pollock changed the position of the painter vis-à-vis the canvas: the canvas is no longer placed on an easel, but on the floor where the artist can move around it and enter inside it, eliminating all notions of painting such as ‘base’ and ‘height’, as well as ‘right side’ and ‘left side’. Pollock also changed painting tools and techniques: not just brushes and spatulas, but a potentially infinite variety of objects of any kind. These objects now become tools for painting. (Pollock stated: “I continue to get further away from the usual painter’s tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.”) Lastly, and more significantly, with Pollock one can trace the start, although not explicitly and consciously, of an art genre that will later be known as Body Art, in which the whole body is integral to the work of art. Pollock’s painting will actually be called Action Painting, where the accent placed on the word ‘action’ underlines the movement, energy and the everyday and concrete location in which the pictorial gesture takes place and that equates, in Pollock’s case, to dance. In the same year, as homage to the recently deceased painter, Allan Kaprow wrote an article called The Legacy of Jackson Pollock (The Legacy of JP).In this text Kaprow reflects on the extraordinary importance of Pollock’s legacy. According to Kaprow, after Pollock’s teaching, there are only two possible pathways for art. The first path is to carry on painting and insist in diversifying the modes of painting and its tools, like Pollock had done and how an entire generation of artists would do shortly afterwards – the Gutai Group in Japan; Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana and Emilio Vedova in Europe; Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Rauschenberg in the United States, to mention but a few. The second option is to completely stop painting and start thinking of art that can be made with materials, forms and gestures that can be found in everyday life, fully overcoming the distinction between ‘poet’, ‘painter’, ‘sculpture’, ‘artist’ or ‘dancer’. This is rooted in the idea that the work of art should be something that comes closer, as much as possible, to human life’s temporality, fragility, energy and concreteness. This is the path that Allan Kaprow would follow, launching new works of art that are known as ‘happenings’, which innovated the meaning and practice of art as a whole, not just painting.
The site thelegacyofallankaprow.org consists of the final part of Kaprow’s essay on Pollock: over 50 words were extracted, like an index, and functioned as stimulus for reflection and imagination. This then resulted in dozens of collaborators, not only artists, invited to select and attach the most diverse materials to a single word: photos, videos, texts and links, works that ‘blow up’ Kaprow’s sentences in different directions in terms of content, constituting a hypertext still to be defined and that can be revealed by clicking on the selected words. The site functions in a similar way to Google search, but without offering the option to visualise more elements at the same time. Furthermore, the objects associated with the words are the result of choices and processes made by those who developed the site. It is, therefore, more of an intentional and completely subjective Google search engine.
Finally, a series of sounds for a prepared piano, specially composed by Michele Sganga, animate the prepositions contained in Kaprow’s writing, transforming the text in a real musical instrument, able to generate infinite and casual sound sequences. The final result is like an explosion of the sentence as a result of the excess of variable contents.
The project, launched in January 2017, has so far seen the following collaborations:
Elisa Allegretti, artisti§innocenti, Luigi Battisti, Valeriana Berchicci, Patrizia Bonanzinga, Silvia Bordini, Diletta Borromeo, Carlo Caloro, Primarosa Cesarini Sforza, Jiaxin Brina Chen, claudioadami, Mila Dau, Daniela De Berardinis, Iginio De Luca, Cuono De Prosperis, Mary Desmond, Asia Dib, Laura Di Manno, Gabriella Fasanino, Giovanna Fiacco, Mauro Folci, Francesca Gallo, Jan Bernard Gijsman, Marinella Grasso, Frank Hornung, Paola Iannarilli, Francesco Impellizzeri, Michele Imperio, Rita Mandolini, Stefan Nestoroski, Paola Passarani, Beatrice Peria, Fabio Pistillo, Pasquale Polidori, Mariagrazia Pontorno, Francesco Proia, Irene Ranzato, Valerio Ricci Montani, Rossella Russo, Marco Santarelli, Federica Santoro, Giuseppe Sarra, Michele Sganga, Naoya Takahara, Annamaria Tanzi, Chiara Trivelli, Alberto Vannetti, Daniele Villa, Giuseppe Vinella, Alberto Zanazzo, Rosaria Zirri. The names of the authors that will be contributing in the new stage of the project will be progressively listed on the Arshake site.
The fact that Arshake is taking on this project is a valuable opportunity to enrich the hypertext through the collaboration of other people, who might wish to contribute with reflections and work resulting from an encounter with Kaprow’s words.