John Halpern a.k.a. John DiLeva Halpern is a filmmaker, conceptual artist, and performance artist based in New York City. He is known for cultural activism and documentaries about art, artists, and Tibetan Buddhism.



Cultural activism


In 1977, Halpern co-founded Art Corporation of America Incorporated. Collaborative performances included Bridging, an artist's uprising "media sculpture" in 1977. "To replace violence and fear in mass media for one day" seven artists, wearing brightly colored jump-suits and safety harnesses, climbed the seven largest bridges connected to Manhattan. "Each executed an individual work or performance atop their bridge. At the peak of their collective ascents, bright yellow smoke flares were ignited on each bridge, unifying the artists as a team," resulting in rush hour traffic disruption and media attention. The artists/climbers, also including Greg Pickard, Paul Pellicoro, Jack Bashkow, Gianfranco Mantegna, Tony Sapp, Anthony Seidenberg, Janet Applegate and peace activist Ruth Russell, were arrested. Charges were later dismissed.[1] Conceptual artist and provocateur Joseph Beuys described it as "the first social-sculpture to use mass-media as art.”[2] ABC's Eyewitness News named it 1977's Best News of the Year. The piece garnered international attention and the cover of the New York Post.[3] His film Bridging, 1977 documented the event.

In 1979, Halpern attempted another "bridging" "social sculpture,"[4] planting gunpowder, fireworks, batteries and a radio receiver in a bucket on a tower of the Brooklyn Bridge. This led to his arrest and hospitalization for possessing a bomb.[5][6]

A 24-hour performance in 1979 - 1980 by the Art Corporation of America comprised digging a 10-foot hole on Spring Street between Mott and Elizabeth Streets in Soho, where 12 - 15 people planned "to stay in the hole to see the New Year in, "discussing art and politics.""[7]

From the late 1980s through the 1990s Halpern created public interactive art and media sculptures internationally. His work gave viewers the artist's point of view with the motto “Consumers are the producers of the future.” In Smokesculpture over 1000 participants breathed cigarette smoke into a large plastic bag which was mailed back to cigarette manufacturers, in 1988. In Breathsculpture he lived in an hermetically sealed glass house for 10 days with 10,000 plants, breathing once per minute, in Holland in 1989.[8] Fresh Air brought mobile, interactive breathing stations filled with plants to the street. Over 100,000 people participated in America and Europe starting in 1990.[9][2]



His 1988 film, Transformer/Joseph Beuys is an "influential portrait"[10] of Beuys preparing for the only retrospective done in his lifetime, in 1979 at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan.[11][12] Billed as a Joseph Beuys and John Halpern Collaboration, Beuys led Halpern through the exhibition as he personally narrated and installed his artwork. Produced by I.T.A.P. Pictures and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Gallery, the film is in many collections.[13][14]

In 2006, he looked at how Westerners have been increasingly drawn to Eastern philosophy and Tibetan Buddhism in the film Refuge.[15] That same year, with Les Levine, he also directed Talking with the Dalai Lama featuring the 14th Dalai Lama with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Tenzin Palmo, and David Chadwick. Filmmakers and artists who explored Buddhism in their work, Kundun director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Melissa Mathison, and music composer Philip Glass; Oliver Stone, director of Heaven and Earth; Dzongzar Khyentse Rinpoche, director of The Cup; and Bernardo Bertolucci, director of Little Buddha, were also interviewed.[16][17]

Halpern directed and produced Saving Lieb House in 2010 with Jim Venturi, son of architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown.[18] The 30 minute film, about saving a 1960s Pop Art house they designed from demolition, followed the house being moved 200 miles by barge from Big Island, New Jersey to Manhattan.[19][20]

Community Advocacy


On September 25, 2019, Halpern presented "Betrayal on 14th Street," an unfinished community advocacy film at the invitation of Myra Manning, founder of Citizens United for Safety, Park Slope, Brooklyn. The community meeting was held to discuss the conditions under which new bike lanes were created on 9th Street. "Chaos erupted" when Halpern opened by challenging Transportation Alternatives, a pro-cycling lobbying organization, of planting "paid activists" in the audience, alleging that their funding comes from elitist backers "the likes of billionaire Steve Ross, a crony of Jeff Epstein." Halpern stated "the majority of people in the room don’t live here. My suspicion is at least 40 percent are lobbyists or friends of lobbyists."[21][22]

Other activities


Halpern has written about Tibetan issues,[23] and taught film at the Pratt Institute and the New York Film Academy.


  1. ^ "Art Corporation of America Incorporated BRIDGING 1977". Summerhall Festival 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b Carey, Brainard (September 29, 2017). "John Halpern". WYBC, Yale University Radio. Praxis Interview Magazine, Museum of Nonvisible Art. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Performance: Tantric Voyages: A Living Cinema Event". theartguide.comt. The Art Guide. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  4. ^ Tarozzi Goldsmith, Marcella (September 1, 1999). Future of Art, The: An Aesthetics of the New and the Sublime. SUNY Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7914-4315-6. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  5. ^ Haw, Richard (February 25, 2008). Art of the Brooklyn Bridge: A Visual History. Routledge. pp. 263–264. ISBN 978-0415953863. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  6. ^ "Manhattan Artist Seized In Case of Bridge 'Bomb'". New York Times. August 5, 1979. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  7. ^ "Wide Brush Needed to Cover Artists' Interests". New York Times. January 1, 1980. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  8. ^ "kunstenaars (artists), Halpern, John". National Archives of the Netherlands (Nationaal Archief). Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  9. ^ "MAKING A DIFFERENCE" FRESH AIR ON WNBC / TV "ART-PLAY". ""Making a Difference" Fresh Air on WNBC/TV "Art Play"". Halpern. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  10. ^ Sutton, Benjamin (November 21, 2017). "Finally, a Joseph Beuys Documentary". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  11. ^ "Director of the Guggenheim on Joseph Beuys (1979)". Beuys TV. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  12. ^ "Art, Architecture, and Innovation: Celebrating the Guggenheim Museum". Guggenheim Museum. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  13. ^ "Ronald Feldman on Joseph Beuys". BeuysTV. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  14. ^ Joseph Beuys, transformer. World Catalog. OCLC 70792713.
  15. ^ Fisher, Kenny (May 12, 2006). "Westerns Drawn to Eastern Thought in 'Refuge'". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  16. ^ "'Here We Enjoy Freedom,' Says Dalai Lama". Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. November 1, 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  17. ^ Piazza, Judyth (January 6, 2012). "Documentary Filmmaker John Halpern Talks Film on The American Perspective". SOP. The American Perspective. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  18. ^ Peterson, Kristen (July 2, 2009). "Revisiting the building blocks of their career". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  19. ^ La Gorce, Tammy; Sulzburger, A.G. (March 13, 2009). "To Save a Venturi House, It Is Moved". New York Times. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  20. ^ Enriquez, Susana (March 12, 2009). "N.J. house readied for voyage to Glen Cove". Newsday. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  21. ^ Offenhartz, Jake (26 September 2019). "Battle Over Park Slope Bike Lane Gets Physical: 'You Wanna Clown Around With Me?'". Gothamist. New York. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  22. ^ Gordon, Doug (September 26, 2019). "Bikelash's Latest Tactics: Pedophile Smears and Conspiracy Theories". Streetsblog, Streetfilm. Retrieved 28 October 2020.
  23. ^ Halpern, John; Sliwa, Maria (September 8, 2012). "Tibet's Self Murder: Tragedy or Transformation?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 November 2019.