Through his Happenings, Oldenburg extended his environments and assemblages into live art.

Begun in 1960, they related to his sculpture in their references to everyday life and their emphasis on visual and spatial relationships.

Snapshots from the City,
Performance at Judson Gallery, Judson Memorial Church, New York.
February 29, March 1-2, 1960.

The performances used music and sound but not words. Casts of nonprofessional volunteers joined Oldenburg in developing the incidents, which were then set down in scripts and cues.

Each performance was presented three or four times in front of a live audience.

From 1960 to 1966, the nature of these performances went through several stages. In the first, unrelated fragments of actions, real or imaginary, were presented sequentially or simultaneously, as in Ironworks/Fotodeath. In the next stage, which Oldenburg named Ray Gun Theater, the fragments--among them Injun (N.Y.C.) I and II and World's Fair I and II--were set, more by association than logic, into plots sharing a certain theme. These were the most intimate of the artist's performances. In the third stage, the emphasis was on the setting, from which the actions were derived. For example, Birth of the Flag I and II transplant the cast of the earlier performance Washes from a swimming pool in New York City to a stream upstate. Birth of the Flag I and II, unlike the others, were enacted specifically for film, without a live audience. The film is more fragmentary than intended because parts of it were lost in a burglary.

"Theater is the most powerful art form there is because it is the most involving. . . . I no longer see the distinction between theater and visual arts very clearly . . . distinctions I suppose are a civilized disease."

--Oldenburg, 1962

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