Nørrebro distortion happenings

The Distortion festival in Copenhagen this week has really been like a series of ‘happenings’.

Things weren’t just happening in the literal sense of the word, I’m also refering to ‘The happenings‘ of the 1950s and the events that were first associated with the perfomance artist Allan Kaprow and later coined by the beat writer Jack kerouac and in Michael Kirby’s book Happenings (1966). They were a direct precursor to performance art in the 1970s and epitomised by a gathering of multimedia artists with do it yourself aesthetics, song, costume, theatrics and impromptu expression that aimed to be shocking. They also influenced artists such as Joseph Beuys and the Fluxes movement, Yoko Ono and the musician John Cage. Like Dada and avante-guarde trends of the 20th century they were driven by an overwhelming goal to challenge authority and orthodox tradition in art.

One of the ways of doing this was to break out of the normal gallery setting, by bringing art on to the streets and involving audiences in an outspoken and controversial fashion.

Art was taken off the pedestool and audiences were forced to consider the question ‘what is art?’

Its still a question we are grappling with now.

Sixty years on we are still creating things like ‘The happenings’. They may not be all that groundbreaking….but they can still grab your attention and raise your eyebrows. This is what we found outside ‘Issue’ on Blågardsgade thursday night, as part of the Copenhagen Distortion festival:

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