After Modernism, Week 3 – Fluxus

This lecture was introduced with a video by Wolf Vostell – Sun in your head, of an untuned television set showing a flickering image. This video is frustrating and difficult to focus on, not one image lasts long enough for your brain to fully figure out what is happening – what it does draw attention to is the artificiality of the television, it alerts us to the fact that it is not real life but a materialisation of it.

Fluxus was an avant-garde movement with the intention to create an art that flowed out of life, an anti-art. A manifesto for fluxus put forward by Maciunas can be seen below.

George Maciunas, Fluxus Manifesto, 1963

The important elements of Fluxus outlined here are to fuse, to purge and to flood. The fragmentation of the text (from a dictionary) also demonstrates the fragmentation of definition that Fluxus wishes to achieve.

Origins of Fluxus:

1. Dada

  • Irrationality
  • Performance
  • Chance – chance takes the artist out of the art, for example Jean Arp, Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, 1916-17, anyone can do it if it is down to chance and coincidence – there is no decision making or placement.

  • Iconoclasm

2. Art vs Life

The position that artists working within the Fluxus movement took to art was that it should be a part of life, not a specialised activity separated from the process of living. To achieve this they took two stances – abandoning traditional forms of art and revolutionizing  everyday life – then creating art in order to reflect this.

3. John Cage

  • Chance
  • Scores
  • Experimentalism

Cage engages with music as an art form, exploring the above three concepts through instruments.

Dick Higgins 

Contrary to Greenbergs views that art should be restricted and follow rules, Higgins calls for a stripping away of rules, stripping art to its simplest form. To Higgins, important elements in the evolution of the movement of Fluxus are – collage, combination, environment, happening, event and concentration.

Features of Fluxus according to Higgins:

  • Internationalism – it was not to be limited to one specific place, but was an international movement
  • Anti-art and Iconoclasm – The issue with anti-art is that it may only exist within an art context.
  • Intermedia
  • Concentration/simplicity – the action of getting out is more important than what you are getting out into
  • Art and life
  • Activation of audience
  • Games, Jokes, Playing
  • Ephemerality and invisibility
  • Specificity

Other important elements of Fluxus that Higgins doesn’t address:

a.) Mysticism

b.) Music

c.) Meaningless

d.) Boredom

e.) Politics

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