A and B on their knees slowly approaching each other, A drooling and B wiping the drool, repeating the operation until A can’t drool anymore. This was one of the acts or chapters of Comfort zones activity that Allan Kaprow presented in the mythical Vandrés gallery in a city, Madrid, living a period of suspense (1975), expectant before the impending death of Franco.
CA2M (Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo) now recuperates that event managed by Fernando Vijande, which meant the arrival of wind of change from the New York scene in the gloomy local climate.
Kaprow called activity to private and intimate actions, whose parts he wrote down in instructions booklets, as guidelines that each interpreter would execute in his own way. Because for this artist and theorist (known above all for being the initiator of the happening), each one of the reinventions (executions) of an activity helped to redeem the changing essence of art (art was like the weather), to recover it from its subordination for centuries to material artwork, being in reality pure flow, hazardous as life, subject to the influences of each time and place.
In the Comfort Zones notebook, which can be consulted in the exhibition, it is specified with neutral language those parts or acts of such activity for couples: sitting in the dark facing each other and turn on the light in anticipation of the partner’s thought, pick up the phone when more intensely thinking of each other… Each act concludes when both find their zone of comfort, which they communicate by saying now.
Excessive closeness, physical or emotional, causes uncomfortable sensations: when the other violates the territorial limit of the Self. This limit or what sociological jargon calls territorial bubbles varies according to the degree of intimacy we share with others.
Seven couples interpreted Comfort Zones in Madrid gallery (in CA2M only one can be seen), and these performances on mutual trust, vulnerability, violation of intimate space … took on particular connotations under the intimidating totalitarian regime.
During the seventies, Kaprow dealed with activities series that differed from earlier happenings and environments he developed the previous decade, that was more focused on chance, collective creation and spontaneous celebration (as in Yard).
Otherwise, Maneuvers, Rates of exchange or Comfort zones reduced to the absurd the social forms: gender protocols (at a time when sexual roles were being questioned), gestures of courtesy (yield to women when opening a door, for example), confessions recorded on tapes and then reproduced … By isolating everyday rituals in which we usually don’t pay attention, participants underwent a sort of self-examination, they discovered aspects of themselves hidden by routine.
But everything reflects the same line of research, to which Kaprow always remained faithful. Linked to Fluxus and John Cage, it was part of a generation persuaded that art could escape from the museum-cemetery, which could sneak through all the gaps of everyday life as a fleeting but incisive thought. Useless and unpredictable as life, intuitive, casual … something that happens to happen, that’s all.
Allan Kaprow. Comfort Zones, junio 1975
in CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Móstoles
until 15th October 2017
Curators: Elena Fernández Manrique and Manuel Segade