Moreover, his oeuvre is marked by the necessity to reflect upon the possibility of broadening the artistic field, either by taking art out of the museum or by moving, according to the subtitle of the fourth part of his article “Notes on Sculpture,”4 “beyond objects”—beyond the art object.In the choice that Morris made of an art that he himself qualified as “vital art,”5 we can read the same interest Kaprow had for the question of experience.
During this period, Morris was following the experiments at the Judson Dance Theatre, notably those of Simone Forti, around the development of a “new dance,” an experimental practice that privileged ordinary movements to the art of composition that characterizes traditional ballet.
The innovations of “new dance” and those of “new sculpture” are very similar, and Morris’ first sculptures were objects meant to help elaborate choreographies.
As Irving Sandler wrote, However, the alignment of Cage’s experiments and of minimalist sculpture under the same accusation of “theatricality” is what sheds the most light on the singularity of Morris’ undertaking, and establishes the coherence of his questions concerning art and his position on the avant-garde scene.
The paradigm of theatricality proposed by Fried in his article, within a critical perspective and as a manifesto for an elevated artform, or one deemed as such, is particularly useful in grasping the importance of the experimental dimension of Morris’ oeuvre.
For Kaprow, the formal problem that the artist confronts should not lead him to explore the dialectic of form and formlessness in his work, but rather to ask how he might “get free of the rectangle,” which is to say, free of the , of the delimited space of the gallery or the exhibition hall.
According to Kaprow’s analysis, “amorphous” sculptures exhibited in a “rectangular studio” cannot be viewed in any way other than through the formal relations that they maintain with their rectilinear environment.
The actual performance was divided into two distinct movements: first, the column stayed as it was, for three minutes, at the center of the stage, and then during the three ensuing minutes, knocked down by a stage device, it was left lying onstage—Morris had at first thought of putting himself inside the sculpture, to topple it over himself.16 The idea was to substitute for the dancer, in a specific kind of choreography, a sculpture that could bring the spectators to perceive space in a different way, as would the movements of the dancer’s body onstage, through their relation to the “unitary form” of the sculpture.
This work possesses a meta-artistic dimension that repeats, by its staging, the role played by the external relations of the object in its elaboration as an art object.
One can read in both a similar conception of the properties of the work of art as relational—and no longer formal—in nature.
Oldenburg has defined the happening as “a theater of action or of things (people too regarded as things),” a definition which takes into account the filial relation between happenings and the choreographies/performances of the Judson Dance Theater.