by Courtney Adair Johnson

I was approached by my friend Josh Wilsdorf to participate in a “Happening.” He had experienced one in Charlotte, NC and wanted to do something similar in Nashville. I was not sure what his Happening entailed but my understanding of them was something everyday that sparked art, performing with ideas and thoughts. I knew a little and also looked up the history of Happenings, they originated in the 1950’s out of the Dadaist and Futurist Art movements, performance art that worked to dismantle the conventional views of the category of “art”. It engaged and required participation with the viewer, operating under the belief that art can be brought into the realm of everyday life. Art then becomes an action, activity, occasion and/or experience that was unique to that time and could not be repeated with the same results. Oh a happening, let’s make a happenings, art creating a moment, looking at everyday things through a different lense, a performance.

I call myself a reuse artist…what could a happening teach us about our waste. Josh is a DJ and promoter, he uses his music to create new opportunities, and is always looking for ways to create community. I love community. I thought about where the party was to be held, who might show up, what everyone would be doing… Drinking, listening to music, dancing. Hmmmm.

I saw a perfect opportunity to look at our waste differently by slowing down the waste stream. I would ask everyone to paint and decorate their trash. Every beer bottle, every can that went through your hands that night needed the recognition and moment of appreciation that our trash deserves. We are not disposable nor do we live in a disposable society, even though some choose to live that way. Think about that.

I brought my paints and some plastic to cover the tables in the back area at Wilburn Street Tavern. On October 22nd was our first Happening and my plan was to set up a mini installation to document our waste.

Why not throw everything away? What was creating a collection actually going to look like? Would anyone understand what I was trying to convey?

There were some dedicated bottle painters. I personally liked dipping the bottles into a large vat of white house paint and then letting color drip down.. Did people get my idea as a way to stop and smell the trash, maybe consume less or consume more consciously? The painters seemed commited but maybe more invested in the actual movement of paint then the act of saving and memorializing each piece of trash. Everyone was very receptive but I want more, sadly I wanted more trash, I wanted more awareness. Having more trash would make us look longer and harder, maybe. But maybe I am the only one who gets inspiration from trash piles, that is my mission learning how to to stop and get others to see. hink it was effective or fun or some conclusion about your part of the happening.)

The community Josh and his friends created with a few records and sound equipment was inclusive and communal, perfect for tapping into and seeing the possibilities of a better environment. My hope is to create other happenings, to motivate more impromptu performances that drives reuse awareness and just plain art awareness. What is happening? Oh, the ways we could spin this.

Send ideas for happenings to to artandrecycling (at) and jshwilsdorf (at) Next Happening is December 12th , to find out more follow Party Basics on Facebook.

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