hap·pen·ing / ˈhap(ə)ning/ • n. 1. an event or occurrence: altogether it was an eerie happening. ∎ a noteworthy or exciting event: an all-star, superstar, megastar happening. 2. a partly improvised or spontaneous piece of theatrical or other artistic performance, typically involving audience participation: a multimedia happening. • adj. inf. fashionable; trendy: nightclubs for the young are the happening thing.
happening, an artistic event of a theatrical nature, but usually improvised spontaneously without the framework of a plot. The term originated with the creation and performance in 1959 of Allan Kaprow's
"18 Happenings in 6 Parts."
This work emphasized various sorts of performances and experiences, including slide projection, dance, and taste and odor sensations. Many examples of the genre required audience participation, and the aesthetic effect produced was a result of the combination of events experienced. Celebrated happenings include Claes Oldenburg's
(1965); Robert Rauschenberg's
"Map Room II"
(1965); Robert Whitman's
"The American Moon"
(1960); and Kaprow's own
See RoseLee Goldberg, Performance Art (1988); R. E. Haywood, Revolution of the Ordinary: Allen Kaprow and the Invention of Happenings (1993); J. F. Rodenbeck, Radical Prototypes: Allen Kaprow and the Invention of Happenings (2011).