Chicken, A Happening by Allan Kaprow Reinvented by Alex Da Corte
Thursday, March 5, 8:00 pm

Levitt Auditorium, Gershman Hall
University of the Arts
401 SO. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

On October 22nd 1962, curator Billy Klüver—assisted by a group of volunteers, including Joan Kron and Audrey Sabol—organized ART 1963/A New Vocabulary at the Young Men’s/ Young Women’s Hebrew Association on Broad and Pine Streets in Philadelphia. A New Vocabulary was the first “pop” art show on the East Coast. It brought together a group of 12 artists, including Marisol Escobar, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jean Tinguely, who, if unknown then, are now considered firmly established in the canon of Pop. On the last day of the show, November 7th 1962, Allan Kaprow, one of the participating artists, presented a Happening titled Chicken.

Described by Jeff Kelley as a “macabre Ring Cycle,” Chicken was a farcical, carnivalesque production. It incorporated several chicken-themed stations, many of them violent, which participants were invited to partake in. This included an improvisational slaughterhouse with a functioning guillotine, wooden cages with live chickens, and an incubator, among others. Addressing the audience in a short prologue, Kaprow said, “I have conceived this Happening as the enactment of a comic-tragedy about ourselves, full of the utterly ridiculous and the painfully stark. These opposing qualities are contained in the several meanings we might attach to the work’s title and its main symbol: chicken.”

On March 5th, 2020, in conjunction with the current exhibition, Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde, organized by University of the Arts and curated by Sid Sachs with Jennie Hirsh, Alex Da Corte and Kate Watson-Wallace will reinvent Kaprow’s Chicken in the same location it was originally performed, now known as Gershman Hall of the University of the Arts.

Chicken variously dramatizes, commodifies, and deconstructs the trope of the chicken. In 1962, the work was staged on ad-hoc wooden stands and booths with “pitchmen” plucking real chicken feathers, live chickens being vacuumed, people behaving like chickens, records with chicken sounds, and so on. In 2020, Chicken no longer promises the “new vocabulary” it once did. Rather, Da Corte will stage a progressive, animal-friendly reconsideration of what the “avant-carnival” originally considered itself to be.

Chicken will feature Kristel Baldoz, Melanie Cotton, Danielle Currica, Julia Eichten, Jessica Emmanuel, Ya-Ya Fairley, Ann-Marie Gover, Imma, Andrew Smith, Kim Thompson, and Wilmer Wilson along with Kate Watson-Wallace and Alex Da Corte; with music composed by Marco Buccelli and Xenia Rubinos, performed with Sunny Ali and Karna Ray.

Chicken features a newly commissioned text by Rosalyn Drexler.

Chicken will be re-invented at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 5th, 2020.

Elaine C. Levitt Auditorium
Gershman Hall
University of the Arts
401 So. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147


Support for the research, development, and presentation of Invisible City has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Additional support has been provided by:
University of the Arts, Philadelphia Avant-Garde Studies Consortium (PASC),  the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Allan Kaprow Estate, Italo Scanga Foundation, The Clinton Hill / Allen Tran Foundation, Robert Aibel and Moderne Gallery, The Michener Museum, Edna W. Andrade Foundation, The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, Smithsonian Archives of American Art, The Getty Center, Willoughby Sharp Archive, Institute for Contemporary Art, Kislak Center, Hannah Wilke Collection & Archive, Los Angeles, Temple University Libraries Special Collections Research Center.