AskDefine | Define happening

Dictionary Definition

happening adj : taking place; "the parade is still happening" n : an event that happens [syn: occurrence, natural event]

User Contributed Dictionary




From happen and -ing. The adjective and noun sense derive from the verb.


en-adj more
  1. taking place
  2. trendy, up-to-the-minute
    He is a real happening guy.
  3. A term that became popular during the middle-to-late 1960s to denote an event with multiple cultural components, such as a graphic arts exhibition with accompanying or associated contemporaneous musical, social, and political events.
    The Andy Warhol reception was a freaky happening.


taking place
trendy, up-to-the-minute


  1. something that happens
  2. a spontaneous or improvised event, especially one that involves audience participation


something that happens
a spontaneous or improvised event, especially one that involves audience participation


  1. present participle of happen

Extensive Definition

other The Happening A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered as art. Happenings take place anywhere, are often multi-disciplinary, often lack a narrative and frequently seek to involve the audience in some way. Key elements of happenings are planned, but artists sometimes retain room for improvisation.
In the later sixties, perhaps due to the depiction in films of hippie culture, the term was used much less specifically to mean any gathering of interest, from a pool hall meetup or a jamming of a few young people to a beer blast or fancy formal party.



Allan Kaprow first coined the term happening in the Spring of 1957 at an art picnic at George Segal's farm to describe the art pieces that were going on. Happening first appeared in print in the Winter 1959 issue of the Rutgers University undergraduate literary magazine, Anthologist. The form was imitated and the term was adopted by artists across the U.S., Germany, and Japan. Jack Kerouac referred to Kaprow as "the Happenings man," and an ad showing a woman floating in outer space declared, "I dreamt I was in a happening in my Maidenform brassiere."
Kaprow’s piece 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (1959) is commonly cited as the first happening, although that distinction is sometimes given to a 1952 performance of Theater Piece No. 1 at Black Mountain College by John Cage, one of Kaprow's teachers in the mid-1950s. Cage stood reading from a ladder, Charles Olson read from another ladder, Robert Rauschenberg showed some of his paintings and played scratched phonograph records, David Tudor performed on a prepared piano and Merce Cunningham danced. All these things took place at the same time, among the audience rather than on a stage. Happenings flourished in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Key contributors to the form included Carolee Schneemann, Red Grooms, Robert Whitman, Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg. Some of their work is documented in Michael Kirby's book Happenings (1966).
More recently (2005) the work of the JanFamily (London-based) informal artist group has been regarded as the continuation of the Happening movement, in the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Palais de Tokyo and many other international venues.

Around the world

Poet and painter Adrian Henri claimed to have organized the first happenings in England in Liverpool in 1962, taking place during the Merseyside Arts Festival. The most important event in London was the Albert Hall “Poetry Incarnation” on June 11, 1965, where an audience of 7,000 people witnessed and participated in performances by some of the leading avant-garde young British and American poets of the day (see British Poetry Revival and Poetry of the United States). One of the participants, Jeff Nuttall, went on to organise a number of further happenings, often working with his friend Bob Cobbing, sound poet and performance poet.
In Belgium, the first happenings were organized around 1965–1968 in Antwerp, Brussels and Ostend by artists Hugo Heyrman and Panamarenko.
In the Netherlands Provo organized happenings around the little statue "Het Lieverdje" on the Spui, a square in the centre of Amsterdam, from 1966 till 1968. Police often raided these events.
In Australia, the Yellow House Artist Collective in Sydney housed 24-hour happenings throughout the early 1970s.
Behind the Iron Curtain, in Poland, artist and theater director Tadeusz Kantor staged the first happenings starting in 1965. Also, in the second half of 1980s, a student-based happening movement Orange Alternative founded by Major Waldemar Fydrych became known for its much attended happenings (over 10 thousand participants at one time) aimed against the military regime led by General Jaruzelski and the fear blocking the Polish society ever since the Martial Law had been imposed in December 1981.
happening in Catalan: Happening
happening in Czech: Happening
happening in Danish: Happening
happening in German: Happening
happening in Estonian: Häppening
happening in Spanish: Happening
happening in French: Happening
happening in Italian: Happening
happening in Hebrew: הפנינג
happening in Hungarian: Happening
happening in Dutch: Happening
happening in Japanese: ハプニング
happening in Polish: Happening
happening in Portuguese: Happening
happening in Russian: Хэппенинг
happening in Slovak: Happening
happening in Serbian: Хепенинг
happening in Finnish: Happeningit
happening in Swedish: Happening
happening in Turkish: Happening

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Grand Guignol, Passion play, Tom show, accident, accidental, accompanying, ado, adventure, afloat, afoot, antimasque, audience success, ballet, bomb, broadcast drama, burlesque show, casualty, chance, chance hit, charade, circumstance, circumstantial, cliff hanger, closet drama, comedy drama, contingency, contingent, critical success, current, daytime serial, dialogue, documentary drama, doing, drama, dramalogue, dramatic play, dramatic series, duodrama, duologue, epic theater, episode, event, eventuating, experience, experimental theater, extravaganza, fact, failure, flop, fluke, fortuity, freak accident, gasser, giveaway, go, going on, hap, happenstance, hazard, hit, hit show, improvisational drama, in hand, in the wind, incident, incidental, legitimate drama, long odds, long shot, lucky shot, masque, matter of fact, melodrama, minstrel show, miracle, miracle play, monodrama, monologue, morality, morality play, music drama, musical revue, mystery, mystery play, occasion, occasional, occurrence, occurring, on, on foot, ongoing, opera, pageant, panel show, pantomime, particular, passing, pastoral, pastoral drama, phenomenon, piece, play, playlet, prevailing, prevalent, problem play, psychodrama, quiz show, radio drama, reality, resultant, review, revue, sensational play, serial, show, sitcom, situation comedy, sketch, skit, soap, soap opera, sociodrama, spectacle, stage play, stage show, straight drama, success, suspense drama, tableau, tableau vivant, taking place, talk show, teleplay, television drama, television play, theater of cruelty, thing, total theater, turn of events, under way, variety show, vaudeville, vaudeville show, vehicle, word-of-mouth success, work
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