Total Art: Environment, Happenings, and Performance

Adrian Henri

book cover
Claes Oldenburg proposed to cover Manhattan with a giant ironing-board; Allan Kaprow melted ice palaces in city streets; on the last day of Edinburgh's Festival Drama Conference, a nude lady was wheeled across a balcony on a trolley. These awkward, original images are among the most important in the twentieth-century art, yet they are the least known. They are part of a movement that Adrian Henri calls "Total Art." Environments, happenings, performance art—all endeavour to bypass reason and appeal directly to unconscious impulses. Since World War II artists have made increasing use of technological media, and, in their search for new art forms, have collaborated with filmmakers, dancers, actors, musicians, and other artists, to stage controversial, often outrageous and hilarious, seemingly spontaneous public gatherings. Happenings, first seen in New York in the early 1960s, use live performers without the logical structure of drama, in an attempt to break down the customary distinctions between life and art. Environments such as Ed Kienholz's Back Seat Dodge 38 surround the visitor-spectator and monopolize his attention. In performance art, a movement that appeared in Europe with the works of Yves Klein and Joseph Beuys, the artist himself becomes an actor. These revolutionary approaches have challenged the traditional barriers between the plastic and the performing arts and continue to raise new questions about the future of art.



Call Number

NX458.H457 1974


216 pages : illustrations ; softcover 22 cm





Series Statement

The World of Art Series

Place of Publication

New York, NY

Publication Type

Copyright 1974 Thames and Hudson Ltd., London.