7 September 2006
Fluxus : Wanted Dead or Alive
Visible Language 40.1, a 2-volume collection of essays by and about Fluxus, shows the stressors of the death of an art movement. One stressor is concern about the Fluxus legacy. At the same time the essays provide convincing proof that Fluxus is a continuing lively stimulant to contemporary artists.
Fluxus is a successful brand. George Maciunas packaged Fluxus and defined lists of Fluxus artists. The official Fluxus’ output of ephemeral objects, scores, and performance documentation has been curated by eager art historians who have mounted exhibitions internationally over the years since. The Fluxus museum exhibitions contribute to the dead world of art history. Piles of critical essays published in catalogues fill the grave. The Fluxus legacy is confusingly presented by surviving Fluxus artists who are embroiled in bequeathing meanings still percolating from the 40-year old Fluxus pile of art actions.
Some of the contents of the original Fluxus package wiggled free and continue to activate new generations of artists. The concept of a living Fluxus is presented by essays from the children of Fluxus artists and by contemporary artists who consider themselves directly related to Fluxus. The Fluxkids memories are fond appreciations of fun parents and their expanded family of affiliated cultural experimenters performing and conceptualizing together. The artists today who relate to Fluxus are convincing representatives of Fluxus in this century. For example drip music and instructions to “Hey, let’s put on a ‘Happening!’ Groovy!” are surely Fluxus. The life that is still kicking in Fluxus is best represented by Lisa Moren’s collection of Fluxus scores in the second volume of the collection. I was on a train trip to the Alps when I read the scores and immediately was inspired to take my pens out and perform William Anastasi’s 1988 score called Blind Drawing (The Subway Drawings)
Take a seat on the subway
Place a sketchpad on lap.
Hold a pencil in each hand.
Allow the pencils to skim the paper surface
According to the movements of the train.
I challenge readers to read the scores and remain creatively inactivated.
Fluxus Spin off
Fluxus claims that Mail Art is a spin off of Fluxus but mail artists are not experiencing the curatorial fossilization that Fluxus is experiencing. Thus, the mail art community is still a non-competitive experimental and vital international 40-year old art movement. In contrast to the collectors and museum curators who want to collect the ephemera of Fluxus, many mail artists I have met are concerned that their archives of mail art will be lost when they die. The mail artists are actively looking for research institutions to accept their archives. The overlap of mail art and Fluxus is strong yet is invisible to the curators and experts of Fluxus. The best thing that can happen to mail art is to continue to be ignored and to party on in their international exchange of art.
Visible Language 40.1 is a must for Fluxus scholars as well as for contemporary artists who may not realize that the sources of their edgy ideas are legacies from the experimental interactive multimedia artists of Fluxus. If Fluxus is dead we can learn from its remains, however, if Fluxus is still living, its horizon is expanding through the vitality of mail art and the experimental scores imbedded in interactive Internet code.