Reflections on Fluids by a Participant-Artist

On May 21, 2012, more than 50 Northwestern students, faculty, and staff took part in a reinvention of artist Allan Kaprow’s peformance artwork Fluids staged by the Department of Art Theory & Practice outside the Block Museum. Theater major Frankie DiCaccio, who started his shift that day at the Museum hanging informational banners, was soon swept into being a participant.

Prior to the remounting of Allan Kaprow’s Fluids, I had a basal understanding of the concept of a “Happening.” I had heard the term before, yet never fully gleaned the potential of such an event. But as passersby stopped to ask “What’s going on?”, and shortly thereafter were wearing gloves and hoisting ice blocks, I began to see. The rapid transition from observer to participant gave the project momentum, as a steady stream of reinforcements relieved the tired arms and cold hands of those already involved. Slowly at first, but with increasing speed, an expanding community of stackers, scorers, cutters and forepersons was temporarily fostered in an otherwise transitional space.

But along with the burgeoning camaraderie, something else began to emerge. The group developed an increasing precision and detail-focused eye as the afternoon went on. Those of us with minimal sculptural experience began to see corners not fitting together just right or blocks sitting slightly askew. The project’s ostensible simplicity—its straight lines and basic form—allowed our inner architects to stir, undaunted, and the result was a feeling of competence and confidence. We became experts in lifting and stacking, leveling and righting angles. To artists and non-artists alike, Fluids was an invigorating foray into the fellowship of public art-making. To everyone involved, the final product seemed to give a feeling of ownership and empowerment.

Frankie DiCaccio (School of Communication, 2012)

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