Anyone can find or make one or more rooms of any shape, size, proportion, and color — then furnish them perhaps, maybe paint some things or everything. Everyone else can come in and, if the room(s) are furnished, they also can arrange them, accommodating themselves as they see fit. Each day things will change.

[the following text for Push and Pull is copied from UBUWEB].

by Allan Kaprow
Prepared for the Museum of Modern Art’s traveling exhibit “Hans Hofmann and His Students,” April 1963. First printed in Decollage (ed. Vostell), No. 4 (1964), Cologne.


Anyone can find or make one or more rooms of any shape, size, proportion, and color — then furnish them perhaps, maybe paint some things or everything.

Everyone else can come in and, if the room(s) are furnished, they also can arrange them, accommodating themselves as they see fit.

Each day things will change.

Points of View:

Think of subletting someone’s apartment. How can you get rid of the fellow when he is in every piece of furniture, every arrangement? Do you like living with him? Imagine it unfurnished. What would you do — buy some things (if so, what style?), scrounge some off the streets, ask your relatives or friends (which will remind you of them?) … Perhaps live without furniture instead. As for the question of style, why not have everything totally unrelated to everything else — shape, color, period, arrangement, etc.? Can it be done? Do you like candy canes? Then why not paint everything in stripes? Or, better, like twelve different types of candy canes? Maybe dots, billions of them, baby dots, mommy dots, daddy dots, pink, brown, snot-green, white, orange, shocking-red, Da-glo blue — all over everything, floors, ceilings, inside of drawers, in the sink, on the silverware, on the sheets and pillowcases …. Do you prefer round rooms, tall ones, hexagonal ones, caves, lean-tos, rooms without windows, skylights? Suppose you liked eating off the floor (some people are that clean, I’m told) — it could be carpeted with food at all times. Design it like a Persian rug and you could eat your way through the designs, right across the room, making new ones behind you as you went along. Maybe, after all, formality is the thing. Then carefully choose a big chair, a little one, a bigger table and a very small lamp, and push them and pull them around until they make a significant composition. The significance is determined by having both a calculated and an intuited reciprocity obtain between every PUSH IN ONE direction, and every pull acting against it in another direction. Significance may be achieved within-either a structure of symmetries, in which each push-pull relation is made of nearequals; or a structure of asymmetries, where the push-pull relation is realized from near-equivalences. But one caution! Don’t sit on THE chairs, because this will destroy the composition. Unless, of course, you once again start pushing and pulling everything around until it works right. Repeat when you leave. Consider whether or not you’re a red-head and dressed in Kelly green. Are you fat, fatter than the table? In that case, quickly change your clothes if the small chair’s color doesn’t correspond; and also lose some weight. What about the kids? And their toys? I’d suggest allowing for a variable proportion of three yellow toy ducks to be considered equivalent to one medium-sized violet dress (softened by black hair, brown eyes, and leopard-skin bag). Now these relationships will be seen to exactly balance the combined density of the orange large chair, the brownish mantle ornament, and the beige stripe running around the baseboard. You mustn’t neglect the spaces in between the furniture and how they figure in the total space. They are, in fact, “solids” of another order, and each negative area is colored and qualified by the punctuating components (tables, chairs, etc.) around it. The interactivity between negatives and positives, furthermore, may be so equalized as to produce a higher neutrality than the biases of the separate elements. Properly handled, a silence of perfect ineloquence will result. On the other hand, the positives or negatives may be accented, producing a ruler-ruled relation. This in turn may be enhanced or neutralized by closed-field or open-field concepts: closing a door or opening it, for instance, will contain or break the boundary of the structure. Now, since these generalizations are made concrete by the frequent occurrence of children’s toys being left in any ordinary room, it is only necessary to stay out of the room when the toys are there and vice versa. However, don’t suppose the conclusion here is “each to his own.” The further question is “who knows how to compose forms?” If “form” is now too much for you, why not chuck it all and take the pure leap? What is a “pure leap”? (The word “comedy” in the title of this Environment isn’t necessarily humorous — though it may be — I had in mind Balzac’s “Human Comedy.”) Instead of “forms” try simply an idea like: rooms full of people contrasted with empty rooms; one, maybe a hockshop, the other, a monk’s cell …. A sunsetcolored roomagainst a blue-Monday one …. Or, the !’room” made by your own feelings wherever you decide to sit down in the woods. Aren’t these “forms” also? Is a nude woman on a bed a better form than a pink coverlet on a bed? Which is more personal? If the forms of the furniture express “you,” what are you going to do about others? When visitors come and you draw up chairs for them, don’t you express “them” a little? What happens to the room? Who is right? Should rooms be lived in or stared at? I have heard of some people who have antique chairs you mustn’t sit on because they’ll collapse. Don’t move that ashtray because it expresses Daddy so well just where it is! But maybe the smell of mushroom soup cooking will heighten the colorchords on the walls, particularly the candy-cane stripes. I find that Rhythm-and-Blues on the radio goes fine with soundless newscasts on TV. Try it out if you really want to compose your rooms! Did you ever think of arranging rooms for darkness, that is, for night-time, when you go to bed and see only dim shadows? A room for feelies only! Wet surfaces, rough, sandpapery objects, other things as soft as foam rubber to run your toe into getting to the bathroom at 4 a.m., silks slithering across your cheek, very large solids like cedar chests for braille identification. This should be a thoughtful problem, and it would develop all the senses except the eyes. How long does it take to develop artistic senses? Why not ask an interior decorator?

“Push and Pull” is from Assemblage, Environments and Happenings, text and design by Allan Kaprow, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966.