Over the course of the past few weeks a lively discussion about Fluxus has been taking place on Facebook. Recently, Cecil Touchon posted this interesting commentary to that discussion:
Fluxus as a group, by keeping it open and alive is a new strategy that previous art groups have not been able to pull off in the past but - due to most of us understanding how all that works, we are circumventing that burial. All of this discussion is really about all of us who were not originally associate with fluxus back in the 60's and 70's staking our claim to the "type"or genre that could be called fluxus. I was born in '56. I have been doing fluxus-like stuff at least since '75. I didn't know you had to join a group - I would have thought that rather stupid at the time. I lived in Saint Louis not NYC but a number of us were engaged in the same sort of work. The same was going on world wide. Fluxus is really just a basket of many trends that were current then as they are now. Now we use the term Fluxus as a banner so that we can all find each other who have been working in relative isolation but who share a common 'something' what we all identify as dada/fluxus/avant/pop/retro/whatever. If fluxus came up with any new ideas that were not already in the 'air' (which is questionable) then we have to ask, why should those new techniques, traditions, etc be ignored. No, when we all see new ideas that need to be incorporated into contemporary practice, we do it. If it falls under the name 'fluxus' then you might as well call it fluxus. The root ideas of fluxus encourage such treatment and we, in my opinion, are being generous to fluxus by retaining the name and honoring the hard work already done by all those known and unknown. We are at the point where constant newness is a little bit stupid as a strategy. With the advent of the internet, we know too much to think we are doing something no body did before. Previous generations could maintain such arrogance by being ignorant of those things happening at a distance.
So the old museum model of pedigree based on who knew who, where and when is now an antiquated tehnique and not valid as a way to track things and influences. Ideas now spread world wide in a few minutes.About Fluxus, the tension in the current discussions around Old School Fluxus and New and Improved Fluxus is based on two different and diametrically opposed things:
The desire to cap Fluxus around the lifetime of George Maciunas and then build a collection of works (like the Silverman's) based directly on Maciunas and his direct circle and his reach. This is like building the bible and then separating out the Apocrypha. That is what has been going on. From the collection point of view there has to be a cut off point or the collection can never be consider complete in accord with the mindset of collectors. When the items in the collection are clearly defined, then value can be added based on how 'authentic' any particular thing is in relation to the collection perimeters. Then everything else is something else; not the collection. Then other collectors can collect with confidence that they are collecting relevant and recognized items. It is like real estate or church sanctioned saint's relics.
Then there is Fluxus the idea and the community. That is a lot more sloppy, more open ended, and impossible to capture by history or by collection. It is dynamic, wide reaching and involves so many players across so many decades that it is impossible to deal with it. That is what all of us today are involved in and then the whole conversation is the interaction between these two perspectives: the collectors and the creatives or practitioners. The hard part is on the collectors if they are trying to apply old collecting concepts to an idea like fluxus that has always intended to defy and deflect those ideas. That is at the root of everything in Fluxus being anti collectible and performance based by converting it to conceptual ideas that transcend the objects or ephemera that contain them. Fluxus art is like the moon reflected in a lake. You can see it but it is not the moon, just a reflection. But that has not stopped anyone from figuring out how to collecting it - it has in fact created a whole new way of collecting and understanding what is collectible over the last couple of decades. Even Fluxus has economics.
Conclusion: I think today we need to understand how this attempt at anti-collect-ability was something of a failure and to then rethink how to approach art and capitalism in less of an adversarial way. Maybe even accept and embrace it. Then mess with it! I think it best not to work against things when instead we can work with them.
I mentioned Brad Brace in my previous post about Photography and Fluxus. Below is a quote directly from Brad (from his Facebook page) in which Brad talks about his latest photo-pased project.
dISCREET pROFILES (the Oregon collection): Thousands of enlarged and enhanced photographs, mostly low-res cellphone, web-cam, and low-end digital camera self-portraits, culled from dating/social websites -- as you might expect, there is some explicit content (more than is permitted here unfortunately: you really shoul...d see them all, but take a deep breath first) -- fascinating and occasionally disturbing. You may realize that this is not the first time I've collected public imagery: notably dumpster-diving at photo-finishers' in the 70's. Whenever possible I retained any color casts, cropping and lighting. The portraits are actually very considered, sometimes selections made/altered merely to obscure the identity that they wished to presumably portray initially. Sunglasses are a popular ruse, as are close-ups of clevage, butts, feet and groins. And some, but surprising few, are filched from somewhere online, but this must be a risky choice in the event of an 'actual encounter.' How much introductory information/description do you want to put out there to begin with? There are some very creative, even artful, solutions to this dilemma. This massive 2+ GB PDF ebook is $250
(sorry about the price but it was a hellish amount of work and I guarantee you won't be disappointed or YMB), and must be ordered directly. Use my verified Paypal account to have the DVD delivered at no charge: [firstname.lastname@example.org; http://bbrace.laughingsquid.net/buy-into.html] (in two parts, each 1600 pages/photos; 6.94 x 6.94").
Techically the incredible diverse range of imagery was difficult to bring under control; despite a variety of intricate processing directions, the scripts would inevitably crash or be inable to render a decent image. These were handled individually. The sequence, in the pdfs is probably pretty much random: processing used whatever numbering systems were in place, and then renumbered everything so there was no trace of last origin. If I receive a reasonable number of orders, I'll offer another state of the union or country... but California had to be the place to begin. Sure to be a collectors' (socio-anthropologists') item! An amazing and compelling, collective portrait! The interspersed military imagery (or maybe something else), also introduces a new spin on the hopes for this already tenuous social culture. I've had to organize these in some fashion, so by state/country seem to be the prevailing approach. And given how often workers are compelled to move around, there's more of a local difference in social-sexual proclivity than you might expect. Oregon's up next: a hostile corrupt, conservative police-state that's reflected, I think in the mannerisms of its self-portraiture. It's often chosen for consumer surveys...
Brad provides these two URLs for further information:
Recently, my friend and fellow Fluxus practitioner, Cecil Touchon, sent me a copy of an email that he had sent to a mutual colleague. I have excerpted a really nice explanation about how contemporary Fluxus fits in with historical Fluxus. I have addressed this issue from a similar, but different perspective, but I think that Cecil's piece adds an interesting and complementary viewpoint.
Fluxus from the beginning was intended as an activity for amateurs. And I say that with all due respect. I approach it that way: as a pastime done in spare moments. It is not the sort of thing you would expect to pursue professionally, although I suppose one could and some have. I see people working today with fluxus as three different groups...
Those who are retro fluxus artists and look backwards at what fluxus was and try to sustain what it was in the 60's and 70's and consider it over. These tend to be among performers who like to perform the old school works. Then there are those who have been working parallel to fluxus for many years but just have not been involved with the specific individuals and/or do not wish to associate themselves with the fluxus community. Then there are those people, like myself and many of the gang on fluxlist who have been working in a fluxus way for most of their lives and then discover the group - mostly through fluxlist - then began working with each other and have decided as a group to not rename what we do and create a new identity but rather accept and honor what is there and make it our own and create new works, new scores, new performances, new networks. It is the logical next step.
So we claim Fluxus. That seems to us perfectly in keeping with fluxus principles and we value our community. We are inclusive with each other and make plenty of room for the old school guys - whom we love and admire and study and hang out with as circumstance permits - and contemporary fluxus artists as well. We are now, the last few years, unabashed in our embrace of fluxus and see it as a perennial thing that can be and is passed from one generation to the next uninterrupted. Starting demands continuing. We continue.
Gaglione and Held presented a showcase for Fluxus, Mail Art and rubber stamp art at The Stamp Art Gallery in San Francisco during the mid-nineties. The current exhibition documents the gallery’s activities through posters, exhibition catalogs, performance documentation, mail art, artist postage stamps and rubber stamp box sets made to commemorate the various exhibitions.
In putting together the rubber stamp box sets, Gaglione and Held followed the example of Fluxus impresario George Maciunas in his production of Flux-Kits. These inexpensive yet elegent multiple editions set the tone for the production of these post-Fluxus editions.
Matthew Rose: Collage has a long and rich history in Modern Art, beginning formally with Picasso's and Braque's experimental canvases in the early 20th century, cutting newspapers and wall papers and adding them to their canvases. The effects were to inject a sense of found realism into their tableaux and change forever the illusion of the picture plane. Since then, of course, collage has become a dominate form of artistic production. Schwitters most well known works are collage pieces; the Dadaists brought collage into a new world not only with physical art works but with performances in a kind of audio and perceptual collage. Painting, as a result of all this early 20th century activity was forced to change, and one might say that all painting now is influenced by collage.
As an artist who has long worked the medium of collage in both cut paper and paint, how do you assess the state of the art of collage?
Cecil Touchon: I would have to say that the state of the art just now is very much alive and the number of artists working in the medium is growing. My efforts to understand and advance this constructive medium have, aside from my own art making, been in the area of developing an online community of collage artists around a central hub which is the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction (collagemuseum.com) that I founded in 1998.
The museum began as an online virtual museum and then, through various projects, has developed into a significant archive of actual collage and assemblage art. The collection numbers in the thousands of actual works. My intention has been to create a focal point for collage art. I hope to draw artists together working in this medium so that we might all know each other’s work. Communicating together as colleagues, we discuss issues related to collage such as its history, techniques, materials, copyright and archival issues. We also share information about artists currently working in collage. I also wish as to inspire and promote exhibitions. Through this continuous banter it is possible to get a sense of what everyone is thinking about and what ideas are circulating...
I have excerpted only the very beginning of the interview. The full interview includes images, illustrations, and photographs, in addition to an exceptionally thoughful commentary on contemporary collage.
September 10, 2009 marked the opening of an installation of staggering scope at The Emily Harvey Foundation Gallery in New York City. An American artist residing in Paris, Matthew Rose, invited hundreds of artists from around the globe to participate in the creation of an unbound book on the theme of "death". Appropriately enough, the exhibition and associated book, were titled, A Book About Death. Each participant was asked to submit an edition of 500 postcards, which were to be exhibited, and then freely distributed at the September 10th opening. The remaining postcards would remain availble for free distribution at the gallery until the show closed on September 22nd.
The opening was a spectacular affair that included performances by a troupe of international performance artists, many of whom were associated with Fluxus. The normally much quieter Emily Harvey Gallery space was overwhelmed (and almost overrun) by the hundreds of people that showed up for the opening. At one point there was a lineup that stretched down the street (Broadway) and around the corner, as the gallery space filled to capacity and a couple hundred people waited for their turn to enter. All in all Mr. Rose and the EHFG (with much help from Christian Xatrec) put together an exceptional production.
...But all of that is not really what this particular blog post is about. A Book About Death was promptly reborn into an active afterlife within only a few days of the gallery closing the show. The first twinge of this afterlife came about upon the acceptance of a complete copy of ABAD into the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). For the many contemporary Fluxus artists that participated, this assumes added significance as it provides a contemporary counterbalance to the acquistion of the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection of Fluxus Art in February 2009. The Silvermans ammassed one the largest collections of early Fluxus works, but its scope was mostly limted to Fluxus prior to 1978.
Aside from the activity in New York City, editions of A Book About Death are beginning to be exhibited elsewhere. The first major exhibition is opening in Los Angeles at Otis College of Art and Design. This exhibition is special because it will be a reprise of the original exhibition since an attendee at the original opening, Mara Thompson (with a little help from her friends), was able to collect enough cards to organize a second free distribution event. Another re-exhibition is pending for Montreal, Canada.
Social networks like Facebook are also buzzing with more plans for more exhibitions everywhere. Welcome to the Afterlife!