In performance art, usually one or more people perform in front of an audience. Performance artists often challenge the audience to think in new and unconventional ways about theater and performing, break conventions of traditional performing arts, and break down conventional ideas about "what art is," a preoccupation of modernist experimental theater and of postmodernism. Thus, even though in most cases the performance is in front of an audience, in some cases, notably in the later works of Allan Kaprow, the audience members become the performers. The performance may be scripted, unscripted, or improvisational. It may incorporate music, dance, song, or complete silence. Art-world performance has often been an intimate set of gestures or actions, lasting from a few minutes to many hours, and may rely on props or avoid them completely. Performance may occur in transient spaces or in galleries, room, theaters or, auditoriums.
Despite the fact that many performances are held within the circle of a small art-world group, RoseLee Goldberg notes, in Performance Art: From Futurism to the Present that "performance has been a way of appealing directly to a large public, as well as shocking audiences into reassessing their own notions of art and its relation to culture. Conversely, public interest in the medium, especially in the 1980s, stems from an apparent desire of that public to gain access to the art world, to be a spectator of its ritual and its distinct community, and to be surprised by the unexpected, always unorthodox presentations that the artists devise.”
Allan Kaprow's performance art attempted to integrate art and life. Through Happenings, the separation between life, art, artist, and audience becomes blurred. The Happening allows the artist to experiment with body motion, recorded sounds, written and spoken texts, and even smells. One of Kaprow's earliest Happenings was the "Happenings in the New York Scene," written in 1961 as the form was developing