Skip to content

1

If Fluxus is an attitude and not an "Art Movement" in the traditional art-historical context, what exactly is the Fluxus attitude?

While Fluxus objects and events tend to possess the physical attributes of humour, simplicity, and intermedia, they are also created from an attitude towards life and art that encourages globalism, chance, experimentation, temporal factors and the unity of art & life. These aspects of the Fluxus attitude should be very familiar to readers of this Blog because they are all ideas from Ken Friedmans "12 ideas of Fluxus" listed in the previous post! 

Much of the Fluxus attitude consists of what has also been termed postmodernism. The postmodern attitude is partly based on the idea of the simulacrum, described by Jean Baudrillard as a copy without an original. Baudrillard says in his essay, Simulacra and Simulation, "Of the same order as the impossibility of rediscovering an absolute level of the real, is the impossibility of staging an illusion. Illusion is no longer possible, because the real is no longer possible. It is the whole political problem of the parody, of hypersimulation or offensive simulation..." Fluxus art and artists often use postmodern playfulness as a tool to expose the unseen and unstated, yet often obvious, contradictions and hypocrisy in the ideas and beliefs that our modern society accepts as "known facts". Given Fluxus origins in the late 1950s and early 1960s it should be stated that postmodernism owes at least as much to Fluxus as Fluxus owes to postmodernism. Fluxus was in all the right places at all the right times to influence the postmodern philosophers and writers.

For me, much of the Fluxus attitude consists in making the mundane seem magical through the use of simple, playful experiments and exercise that take place where different media intersect.

In the post below I stated that Fluxus work nearly always contains four key elements, an attitude vs. an "art movement", intermedia, simplicity, and fun. I believe this to be true, but should also state that, as contained within the term itself, "flux"us is malleable and resists attempts to over-simplify its own definition. It can be (and often is) argued that there is no "one size fits all" definition of Fluxus and that even the four points that I see as commonalities will not adequately account for work that is clearly Fluxus, but does not conform or contain the four common features that I present.

Ken Friedman and Dick Higgins felt that the 12 ideas of Fluxus should be seen as a set of characteristics that can be found in Fuxus works, but that it is not necessary for any single work to include all 12 ideas. Rather they felt that most Fluxus works incorporated some of these ideas to various degrees, such that a work may be high on one scale, moderate on others, and have no characteristics of other scales. Since Higgins co-founded Fluxus with George Maciunas, and Friedman worked with both of them, their ideas need to be carefully considered. In particular, Ken Friedman continues to write about Fluxus and his thoughts on the subject carry considerable weight.

My own feeling is that, much as Owen Smith described "Fluxus as an attitude", it does remain possible to distill what I might call "the essence of Fluxus", without in any way contradicting the variability model of the 12 ideas scale as described by Friedman. I think that nearly all Fluxus works incorporate the four points that I propose to varying degrees, but that individual works and artists often also include one or more of the 12 Friedman/Higgins ideas. Three of my four points are actually included in the 12 ideas.

  1. Intermedia
  2. Simplicity
  3. Playfulness (fun)

The fourth point "Fluxus is an attitude" has been thoroughly discussed by Owen Smith in his book, Fluxus, The History of an Attitude. I think that the "attitude" alluded too by Smith might also be considered as a synthesis of the 12 ideas. I.E. The Fluxus attitude is expressed within these 12 ideas.

Below is a very brief extract from Ken Friedmans 40 Years of Fluxus essay in which he lists the 12 ideas:

"...As I see it, Fluxus was a laboratory. The research program of the Fluxus laboratory is characterized by twelve ideas:

  1. globalism,
  2. the unity of art and life,
  3. intermedia,
  4. experimentalism,
  5. chance,
  6. playfulness,
  7. simplicity,
  8. implicativeness,
  9. exemplativism,
  10. specificity,
  11. presence in time, and
  12. musicality." (Friedman, 1998, The Fluxus Reader) (numbers and bold text added by author - not in original text)

The Fluxus artistic philosophy can be expressed as a synthesis of four key factors that define the majority of Fluxus work:

  1. Fluxus is an attitude. It is much more than an art history movement, or a style locked between a pair of dates.
  2. Fluxus is intermedia. Fluxus creators like to to see what happens when different media intersect.
    They use found & everyday objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.
  3. Fluxus should be simple. The art is small, the texts are short, and the performances are brief.
  4. Fluxus should be fun. If it isn't fun, then it isn't Fluxus

In a previous posting on the Fluxus Blog, I reduced Fluxus to 5 factors, based on Ken Friedmans 12 factors, and on Owen Smith's idea of explaining/defining Fluxus in terms of its being an attitude towards art, life and artmaking, as opposed to being pigeonholed as yet another art movement. I think that the five points are actually more than what is needed to accurately describe the core philosophical elements of Fluxus, so have further refined it to the four factors listed here..

Friedmans 12 point list from Forty Years of Fluxus can be read here. The complete associated essay (Forty Years of Fluxus), can be found at http://www.artnotart.com/fluxus/kfriedman-fourtyyears.html

Owen Smith's book, Fluxus: The History of an Attitude (out of print) can still be found for sale on Amazon.com

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)