Experimental Music Discussion

In a sense, it could be argued that all music is experimental, and that it always has been. Since the beginnings of our species, human beings have been experimenting with ways to make music and song, and ways to reproduce and guide our soundmaking activities. Today, in the early days of the 21st century, Experimental Music has come to mean something more specific.

Some time in the 1950s musical experimentation seems to have split into two different streams. A composer’s stream and a performer’s stream. Both of these streams were important parts of Fluxus from the very beginning, and both composition and pure performance remain important today.

Of course the bridge between these two streams, is the Fluxus Event Score, which along with the Flux Box, is one of the defining Intermedia incarnations of Fluxus output.

I recently wrote a very brief history and discussion of this on The Free Jazz Forum, a web based community for musicians working with Free Improvisation and Experimental Music.

What is Fluxus?

This question has been asked before, and I have answered it in this, The Fluxus Blog, before. But that was a long time ago, and the question, “What is Fluxus” continues to be asked.

For readers looking for a simple answer, contemporary Fluxus artist, Allan Revich has summarized Fluxus into just four characteristic ideas:

Four Fluxus Characteristics

  1. Fluxus is an attitude. It is not a movement or a style.
  2. Fluxus is Intermedia. Fluxus creators like to see what happens when different media intersect. They use everyday found objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.
  3. Fluxus works are simple. Art is small, texts are short, and performances are short.
  4. Fluxus is fun. Humour has always been an important element in Fluxus.

While these four principles are not absolute, they represent an excellent shorthand to understanding Fluxus.

For readers interested in learning more about the dual nature of Fluxus, please read on.

The answer to “What is Fluxus” has two parts:

Part One: Fluxus as an Idea

Fluxus cofounder, Dick Higgins saw Fluxus as an idea, a way of being in the world. It was more that a movement, and more than a group of specific artists. He elaborated this point of view very concisely in his short paper, “A Child’s History of Fluxus“.

Higgins explicitly rejected a notion that limited Fluxus to a specific group of people who came together at a specific time and place. Dick wrote, “Fluxus is not a moment in history, or an art movement. Fluxus is a way of doing things, a tradition, and a way of life and death.”

Ken Friedman, Forty Years of Fluxus (1998, 2002)

Ken Friedman expanded on Higgin’s ideas and described Fluxus as “laboratory” characterized by 12 ideas:

12 Ideas of Fluxus

  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

These 12 ideas are described fully in Ken Friedman’s article, Forty Years of Fluxus.

The artist and art historian, Owen Smith, has published extensively on the subject of Fluxus as an Attitude. His book Fluxus: History of an Attitude, is highly recommended.

Part Two: Fluxus as a Group of Artists

The Fluxus Movement began in the early 1960s, founded by George Maciunas and Dick Higgins, and built on ideas first articulated by artists like John Cage and La Monte Young, both of whom are primarily known as composers. There was significant influence from the Dada movement of the early 20th century, and from ideas circulating at Black Mountain College in the late 1950s.

A number of other contemporary events are credited as either anticipating Fluxus or as constituting proto-Fluxus events.[25] The most commonly cited include the series of Chambers Street loft concerts, in New York, curated by Yoko Ono and La Monte Young in 1961, featuring pieces by Yoko Ono, Jackson MacLowJoseph Byrd, and Henry Flynt;[30] the month-long Yam festival held in upstate New York by George Brecht and Robert Watts in May 1963 with Ray Johnson and Allan Kaprow (the culmination of a year’s worth of Mail Art pieces);[25] and a series of concerts held in Mary Bauermeister‘s studio, Cologne, 1960–61, featuring Nam June Paik and John Cage among many others. It was at one of these events in 1960, during his Etude pour Piano, that Paik leapt into the audience and cut John Cage’s tie off, ran out of the concert hall, and then phoned the hall’s organisers to announce the piece had ended.[31] As one of the movement’s founders, Dick Higgins, stated:

Wikipedia entry for Fluxus (accessed Nov. 11, 2020

Fluxus started with the work, and then came together, applying the name Fluxus to work which already existed. It was as if it started in the middle of the situation, rather than at the beginning.[32][33]

Maciunas especially, believed that he was creating a movement that was club-like. He was famous for pronouncing which artists in his circle were either “in” or “out”. This has had some significant effects on the perceptions of Fluxus after his death. Fluxus cofounder Dick Higgins saw Fluxus somewhat differently. He (and many of his contemporaries) saw Fluxus as an Idea. An idea not bounded by dates in time or membership lists.

The artists active in Fluxus today share the idea of Fluxus as an Idea.

A Child’s History of Fluxus

The following is an important historical document, republished here for historical reference. This copy is from THIS BLOG

The following was first published in 1979 in:
Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia

A Child’s History of Fluxus

by Dick Higgins

Long long ago, back when the world was young – that is, sometime around the year 1958 – a lot of artists and composers and other people who wanted to do beautiful things began to look at the world around them in a new way (for them).

They said: “Hey! – coffee cups can be more beautiful than fancy sculptures. A kiss in the morning can be more dramatic than a drama by Mr. Fancypants. The sloshing of my foot in my wet boot sounds more beautiful than fancy organ music.”

And when they saw that, it turned their minds on. And they began to ask questions. One question was: “Why does everything I see that’s beautiful like cups and kisses and sloshing feet have to be made into just a part of something fancier and bigger? Why can’t I just use it for its own sake?”

When they asked questions like that, they were inventing Fluxus; but this they didn’t know yet, because Fluxus was like a baby whose mother and father couldn’t agree on what to call it – they knew it was there, but it didn’t have a name.

Well, these people were scattered all over the world. In America there were George (George Brecht) and Dick (Dick Higgins) and La Monte (La Monte Young) and Jackson (Jackson MacLow) and plenty of others. In Germany there were Wolf (Wolf Vostell) and Ben and Emmett (Ben Patterson and Emmett Williams) who were visiting there from America, and there was another visitor in Germany too from a very little country on the other side of the world, from Korea – his name was Nam June Paik. Oh there were more too, there and in other countries also. They did “concerts” of everyday living; and they gave exhibitions of what they found, where they shared the things that they liked best with whoever would come. Everything was itself, it wasn’t part of something bigger and fancier. And the fancy people didn’t like this, because it was all cheap and simple, and nobody could make much money out of it.
(READ THE REST OF THE STORY…click link below)

But these people were scattered all over the world. They sometimes knew about each other, but they didn’t see each other much or often. And they spoke different languages and had different names for what they were doing, even when they were doing the same thing. It was all mixed up.

Well, La Monte had a pal – another George, George Maciunas: his name looked strange but sounded easy enough– “Ma-choo-nuss”. And George Maciunas liked to make books. So La Monte said, “Let’s do a book of-our kind of thing.” And his friend Jackson agreed. And they did it. La Monte collected the things for the book, and George Maciunas put it onto pages, and after a while, they were able to take it to a printer and have it printed. They called the book An Anthology which is a fun word for a collection. No fancy name. Not “A Fluxus Anthology”, because Fluxus things weren’t named yet. Just An Anthology. It was a beautiful book and you can still buy it and look at the beautiful, simple things in it – ideas and piles of words and ways for making your own life more wonderful. Well, it costs money to make books, and if you spend your money on one thing you can’t spend it on another. George Maciunas had rented a beautiful big room in the fanciest part of New York City, and there he had an art gallery where Fluxus kinds of things were shown and shared or allowed to happen. But when there was no money to pay for all that, once the book was done, George Maciunas had to give up his AG Gallery, as he called it; and he decided to go to Germany. With him he took some big boxes all chockablock full of leftover things that La Monte and the others had collected, but which didn’t fit into the Anthology.

George Maciunas’ idea was to get together with the people in Germany who were doing the same kind of thing, and to do something like a book and something like a magazine – it would be printed every so often, and it would always change, always be different, always be really itself. It needed a name. So George Maciunas chose a very funny word for “change” – Fluxus. And he started taking Fluxus things to the printers in Germany, to make his magazine. To let people know about this kind of book, he decided to give some Fluxus concerts there, so the newspapers would write about them and people would find out about his books. So in September 1962 the first of the Fluxus concerts happened in a little city where George Maciunas was living, in Wiesbaden, Germany (you say that – “Vees’-bodd-en”). Dick went there from New York, with Alison (Alison Knowles) his artist wife, and they took with them lots of pieces by other American people who had been finding and sharing Fluxus kinds of things.

The concerts certainly did get written about! They were on television too. Poor George Maciunas’ mother! She was an old-fashioned lady, and when the television showed all the crazy things that her son George was doing at the Fluxus concerts, she was so embarrassed that she wouldn’t go out of her house for two weeks because she was so ashamed of what the neighbors might say. Oh well, you have to expect that kind of thing. Actually some of the neighbors really liked the Fluxus concerts. The janitor at the museum where the Fluxus concerts were happening liked them so well that he came to every performance with his wife and children.

By and by other museums and public places wanted Fluxus concerts too. So Fluxus concerts happened next in England and Denmark and France. And new pieces kept being found or done -Fluxus people (we called them “flux-people”) sent things from Japan and Holland and all kinds of places. Fluxus got famous.

And then Fluxus began to get copied. Fancy people began copying Fluxus things and ideas. But they tried to make fancy things out of them – and that changed them. When teacups were replaced by millions of teacups they weren’t simple any more, so they stopped being Fluxus. That was always the difference: they stopped being art of life. You could always tell the real Fluxus thing from the fake ones because the real ones stayed simple, while the fake ones had fancy names attached to them.

Once fame began to happen George Maciunas and the other Fluxus people had to figure out what to do next to keep Fluxus fun and working for everybody. George liked to be the boss; but he was smart enough to know that he couldn’t be boss and tell the Fluxus artists what to do. because they’d quit and they were mostly better artists than he was. So he became the chairman instead. That meant that he couldn’t tell people what they had to do, or what they must not do if they wanted to stay part of Fluxus; instead he could tell the world what Fluxus was, and anyone who wanted to do that kind of thing was Fluxus. That was smart because it meant the Fluxus people didn’t break up into gangs that disagreed, the way lots of artists’ groups did before that. They stuck together to do Fluxus kinds of things, even when they were also doing other kinds of things at the same time.

Twice George Maciunas forgot this. Once, in the winter of 1963, Dick and Alison went to Sweden and gave Fluxus concerts; but there was no money to buy tickets so George Maciunas or Ben or Emmett could come to Sweden. So Dick (that’s me) and Alison gave the concerts with new Swedish Fluxus people there. George got very angry and told Dick and Alison they couldn’t be Fluxus people any more. But so what: nobody paid any attention to that. because Dick and Alison were doing Fluxus concerts of things by Ben and Emmett and George (Brecht) and Bob (Watts) and the Japanese Fluxus people and so on. It was fun and it was Fluxus, which was what counted.

In 1963 George Maciunas came back to America. He opened a Fluxus store and gave Fluxus festivals. The German Fluxus people came to visit; so did the artists’ groups before that. They stuck together to do Fluxus kinds of French ones. Invitations began to come from fancy places – museums and colleges; but the Fluxus people were too smart to get involved with those. They would have lost their freedom. So the colleges’ and museums got the fake Fluxus people and things (and they still have them, mostly). You could tell the fakes because they weren’t themselves: because of their famous names. The real things were much cheaper, and this confused the fancy folk. But oh well.

But by 1965 some of the Fluxus people themselves began to get famous. This would have been okay, except that George Maciunas didn’t know how to handle them anymore. He kept trying to be boss. He got very very angry when a group of Fluxus people decided to join some artists who weren’t Fluxus people in a big performance that was kind of a circus, called Originale (“Or-ee-ghee-noll-eh”). Maciunas and his friend Henry Flynt tried to get the Fluxus people to march around outside the circus withwhite cards that said Originale was bad. And they tried to say that the Fluxus people who were in the circus weren’t Fluxus any more. That was silly, because it made a split. I thought it was funny, and so first I walked around with Maciunas and with Henry with a card, then I went inside and joined the circus; so both groups got angry with me. Oh well. Some people say that Fluxus died that day – I once thought so myself – but it turned out I was wrong.

Why was I wrong? Because Fluxus things still needed doing and Fluxus people kept on doing them. Maciunas kept printing Fluxus things – cards and games and ideas – and putting them into little plastic boxes that were more fun than most books. I made little books that were really Fluxus, though they didn’t have that name on them. And every so often there were flux-concerts.

And there still are. A lot of time has gone by now. As I write this it is almost 1980. George Maciunas died last year of a long and horrible illness. But he knew before he died that his mistake was forgiven, that all the Fluxus people were together again – they came together for concerts, for New Years’ parties, for many things like that. And when Maciunas was dying, they came together to his house to help him finish up a lot of his Fluxus boxes and works before he died. When Maciunas went into the hospital for the last time, his doctors said, “We don’t know why this man is still alive”. But the Fluxus people knew. Being friends and sharing simple things can be so very important.

And though Fluxus is almost twenty years old now – or maybe more than twenty, depending on when you want to say it began – there are still new Fluxus people coming along, joining the group. Why? Because Fluxus has a life of its own, apart from the old people in it. It is simple things, taking things for themselves and not just as part of bigger things. It is something that many of us must do, at least part of the time. So Fluxus is inside you, is part of how you are. It isn’t just a bunch of things and dramas but is part of how you live. It is beyond words.

When you grow up, do you want to be part of Fluxus? I do.

HOTEL DADA Fluxfest Online 2020

HOTEL DADA FLUXFEST 2020

FLUXUS LIVES: ETERNAL RADICAL ATTITUDE

August 1st & 2nd

Described as “the most radical and experimental art movement of the 1960s,” Fluxus has challenged traditional thinking about art and culture for more than four decades. It has been a think tank for artistic experimentation in Europe, Asia, and the United States. It had a central role in the birth of key forms of contemporary art, such as conceptual art, installation, performance, intermedia and video. Despite its great influence, the scope and scale of this unique phenomenon makes its explanation extremely complex in historical and critical normative terms.

However, the art marketing system has reduced Fluxus to a movement restricted to a specific time, and group of people, blocking the way for further developments beyond the ’70s. Killing off Fluxus has made it easier for museum curators and deep pocketed collectors to mount retrospectives, large exhibitions and to create a market, but it contradicts the true spirit of Fluxus. Dick Higgins, a Fluxus co-founder and one of its greatest theorists, has written that: “Fluxus is not a moment in history or an artistic movement. Fluxus is a way of doing things, a tradition and a way of life and death.” For Higgins, many of his contemporaries, and theorist-historians like Owen Smith and Ken Friedman, Fluxus was more valuable as an idea and agent of social change than as a specific group of people or a collection of objects.

Contrary to market forces and a small group of academics, Fluxus did not die on a sacred date in the past but is still alive. Today Fluxus is a forum, a circle of friends, a living community. Fluxus as a way of thinking and working retains its vitality and continues to transform the relationship between art and the world around it. Today, various artists from around the world continue to work in the Fluxus tradition, internalizing this attitude and integrating it into their artistic creation.

From the early 2000s, a group of Fluxus artists, first joined by the online community “Fluxlist” (co-founded by Fluxus co-founder Dick Higgins), began organizing and attending a series of international Fluxfests, first in New York City, and then in Chicago. These festivals have been organized mainly by Keith Buchholz, based in St. Louis (first with the help of Allan Revich from Toronto and with the support of the Emily Harvey Foundation in Manhattan, and then in Chicago with the help of artist Bill (Picasso) Gaglione and curator Tricia Van Eck). This group of artists has remained faithful to the Four Fluxus Ideas that have been defined by the artist and theorist Allan Revich:

  1. Fluxus is an attitude. It is not a movement or a style.
  2. Fluxus is Intermedia. Fluxus creators like to see what happens when different media intersect. They use everyday found objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.
  3. Fluxus works are simple. Art is small, texts are short, and performances are short.
  4. Fluxus is fun. Humour has always been an important element in Fluxus.

While these four principles are not absolute, they represent an excellent shorthand to understanding Fluxus.

In August 2020, in the context of the Covid-19 virus, the HOTEL DADA Gallery Base de Arte Correo y Poesía Experimental (directed by the artists Silvio De Gracia and Ana Montenegro) has organized, with the curatorship of the artist Bibiana Padilla Maltos, its first Fluxus festival completely online. This HOTEL DADA FLUXFEST ONLINE has 2 particularities that will mark its future historical importance in the future of Fluxus: it is the first festival initiated in Latin America, and the first Fluxfest that takes place in a totally virtual environment. As artist Allan Revich states, “In the Internet age, the world of Intermedia has become the new normal. It seems natural that the combination of the intersections of technical media and online social media leads to a revival of the new Fluxus which, while not the same as the old Fluxus, is nevertheless a natural extension of it. HOTEL DADA FLUXFEST online hopes to take the concept of intermedia to a new level, by exploring radical Fluxus in cyberspace.

On August 1 and 2, the Fluxus dialogue will come to life again through the performances of a group of international artists who will meet for the first time on the internet, to demonstrate that there are no limits between art and life.

Silvio De Gracia, HOTEL DADA, July 20, 2020.

Versión en Español

FLUXUS LIVES : ETERNAL RADICAL ATTITUDE

1 y 2 de agosto

Descrito como “el movimiento artístico más radical y experimental de la década de 1960”, Fluxus desafió el pensamiento tradicional sobre el arte y la cultura durante más de cuatro décadas, convirtiéndose en un laboratorio de ideas para la experimentación artística en Europa, Asia y Estados Unidos. Tuvo un papel central en el nacimiento de formas clave del arte contemporáneo, como arte conceptual, instalación, performance, intermedia y video. A pesar de su gran influencia, el alcance y la escala de este fenómeno único torna sumamente compleja  su explicación  en términos normativos históricos y críticos.

Sin embargo, el sistema del arte ha reducido a Fluxus a un movimiento inscripto en un momento determinado e integrado por un grupo específico de personas, cerrando el camino para desarrollos ulteriores más allá de los 70. Todo esto, muy adecuado para gestionar grandes exposiciones y alimentar el mercado del arte, contradice el verdadero espíritu de Fluxus. Dick Higgins, uno de sus mayores teóricos, ha escrito que: “Fluxus no es un momento en la historia o un movimiento artístico. Fluxus es una forma de hacer las cosas, una tradición y una forma de vida y muerte”. Para Higgins, para George Maciunas y para Ken Friedman, Fluxus era más valioso como idea y potencial de cambio social que como un grupo específico de personas o una colección de objetos.

Fluxus no murió en una fecha sagrada en el pasado, sino que sigue vivo. Hoy Fluxus es un foro, un círculo de amigos, una comunidad viva. El fluxismo como forma de pensar y trabajar conserva su vitalidad y sigue transformando la relación entre el arte y el mundo que lo rodea. Hoy, varios artistas de todo el mundo continúan trabajando en la tradición de Fluxus, internalizando esta actitud e integrándola en su creación artística.

Desde principios de la década de 2000, un grupo de artistas de Fluxus, unidos al principio por la comunidad en línea “Fluxlist” (cofundada por el cofundador de Fluxus, Dick Higgins), comenzó a organizar y asistir a una serie de Fluxfests internacionales, primero en la ciudad de Nueva York, y luego en Chicago. Estos festivales han sido organizados principalmente por Keith Buchholz, con sede en St. Louis (primero con la ayuda de Allan Revich de Toronto y el apoyo de la Fundación Emily Harvey en Manhattan, y luego con la ayuda del artista Bill (Picasso) Gaglione y la curadora Tricia Van Eck). Este grupo de artistas se ha mantenido fiel a las Cuatro Ideas Fluxus que han sido definidas por el artista y teórico Allan Revich:

  1. Fluxus es una actitud. No es un movimiento o un estilo.
  2. Fluxus es intermedia. A los creadores de Fluxus les gusta ver qué sucede cuando se cruzan diferentes medios. Utilizan objetos, sonidos, imágenes y textos encontrados y cotidianos para crear nuevas combinaciones de objetos, sonidos, imágenes y textos.
  3. Los trabajos de Fluxus son simples. El arte es pequeño, los textos son cortos y las performances son breves.
  4. Fluxus es divertido. El humor siempre ha sido un elemento importante en Fluxus.

Ahora, en agosto 2020, en el contexto del Covid-19, la galería HOTEL DADA Gallery Base de Arte Correo y Poesía Experimental (dirigida por los artistas Silvio De Gracia y Ana Montenegro) organiza, con curaduría de la artista Bibiana Padilla Maltos, su primer festival Fluxus en forma completamente online. Este HOTEL DADA FLUXFEST ONLINE tiene 2 particularidades que marcarán su importancia histórica a futuro en el devenir de Fluxus: se trata del primer festival convocado desde Latinoamérica y de la primera ocasión en que se desarrolla en un entorno totalmente virtual. Como afirma el artista Allan Revich, “en la era de Internet, el mundo de Intermedia se ha convertido en la nueva normalidad. Parece natural que la combinación de las intersecciones de los medios técnicos y las redes sociales en línea conduzca a un renacimiento del nuevo Fluxus que, aunque no es lo mismo que el antiguo Fluxus, es, sin embargo, una extensión natural del mismo ». HOTEL DADA FLUXFEST online espera llevar el concepto de intermedia a un nuevo nivel, mediante la exploración de la radicalidad fluxus en telepresencia.

Los próximos días 1 y 2 de agosto el diálogo fluxus volverá a cobrar vida a través de las performances de un grupo de artistas internacionales que se encontrarán por primera vez en internet, para mostrarnos que no hay límites entre el arte y la vida.

Silvio De Gracia, HOTEL DADA, July 20, 2020.

Fluxfest 2020 Los Angeles

The news you have been waiting for!

March 6 – March 8, 2020

Fluxfest 2020 is happening in Los Angeles, California from Friday March 6th through Sunday March 8th. Come to party. Come to learn. Come to participate.

Here is the schedule of events for Fluxfest 2020 in Los Angeles California

Schedule of Events for Fluxfest 2020 in Los Angeles California

Mail Art Call for Fluxfest 2020

Get your Flux on now!

Vision 20-20 mail is being opened in Los Angeles so send your vision today.

Deadline February 15 2020, maximum size 8.5”” x 5.5”, 5241 Franklin Circle, Westminster, CA, 92683, USA.

No jury. No returns. All art will be shown. Vision2020Mail.com

Fluxfest 2020 Advance Notice

Details are still being worked out, but for 2020, the Fluxlist Fluxfest is being planned for Sunny California.

Most likely location: Los Angeles

Most likely date: February/March

Check in here for details as they become available.

Fluxfest 2019 in Toronto was a big success, Fluxus art happened, performers performed. and everyone loves a parade! Did we mention that the Fluxfest participants marched in Toronto’s world famous Gay Pride Parade? Fluxfest LA promises to be just as much fun.

Fluxfest Toronto is This Month

Fluxfest 2019 Toronto

Fluxfest 2019 Toronto June 20-23

Big Ideas in Small Art

Big Ideas in Small Art show. Concurrent with Fluxfest 2019 in Toronto. June 20 to June 23

A Big Idea for Small Art Works

Opening June 21, 2019

The Toronto Big Ideas in Small Art show is set to become a mainstay of the Toronto visual arts scene. It is an open invitation for visual artists everywhere to take part in a fun and fabulous group show, hosted by the Sheldon Rose Gallery on Avenue Road in Toronto. This year’s show will be co-curated by Allan Revich and Sheldon Rose, and the exhibition will take place concurrently with Fluxfest Toronto 2019. The opening, on June 21st promises to be super exciting, with an international exhibition mail art on the theme of “Pride” (opening is during Toronto Pride Week), and multiple Fluxus Event Scores performed by an international group of artists.

Information for Artists

Information for Visitors

Fluxlist Fluxfest Toronto 2019

Tenth Annual Fluxlist Fluxfest:
to be Held in Toronto in 2019

Fluxlist Fluxfest Chicago 2017. Performance of event score by Allen Bukkoff

Chicago 2017. Performance of event score by Allen Bukkoff

The first Fluxlist Fluxfest was held in New York City in conjunction with Matthew Rose‘s 2009 A Book About Death event at the Emily Harvey Foundation. Over the decade since then, the Fluxlist has presented at least one Fluxfest every year. First in NYC, and then in Chicago, with occasional other Fluxus festivals in other cities and states.

For the first time ever, Toronto, Canada has been chosen as the site for the Fluxlist Fluxfest.

Venues are being lined up. Dates are being firmed up. But mark your calendars today for the third weekend in June!

Planned dates (2019):
Thursday June 20th for “meet and greet”, though Sunday June 23rd.

A clip from the show at Emily Harvey, as part of Matthew Rose’s ABAD

Performances from Fluxlist Fluxfest 2011 in New York City.
Performances at Printed Matter

2012 Performances. Chicago

 

John M. Bennett, Poetry et Cetera, etc.

From Lanny Quarles introduction to John’s most recent collection, SESOS EXTREMOS

SESOS EXTREMOS by John M. Bennett

SESOS EXTREMOS by John M. Bennett

After having read John M. Bennett’s poetry almost daily for 20 plus years, you would think I would have something very definite to say about it, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading it all these years, is that things can change in an instant. At first you think some of the pieces you’ve been reading are hardcore concrete poetry, poetry of and maybe to the physicality of words, of expression, the mechanicality or instrumentality of thought, but then that year, you happen to meet or watch a performance by John and you’ve got the book in your hand, and suddenly you realize that a certain percentage of the poems, or even of any given poem, might suddenly become a very succinct notation for performance, an agile, well oiled vocal performance where some strange fog is playing the ‘john-horn’ or its fog suit avatar. In short, that the poem was made as such for a specific purpose (in one sense), but also that it is still concrete poetry, or it’s concrete sound poetry mapped to a visualization, and its functionalization as such is also visually important because it realizes a unique cultural production which is both solipsistic and immensely social and referential.

There are the collaborations, the works inspired by travel and friendships, poems in Spanish and French, and an engagement with the entireties of several avant-garde traditions and anti-traditions. There are hacks, riffings, homages, fever dreams, and obsessions galore! Like an oozing tarantula of snapping human jawbones carved from Olmec jade, or the Zapotec lightning amoeba Cocijo, the poetry of Dr. Bennett works its way into the crannies of your soft green brain, it sticks on your neck like a stain inspecting the muddy blowhole you call a mind. It’s literary peyote, both sacred and profane, but also scared because it’s making propane in the cave and the only light there is from an illuminated turtle language (with fire legs in its shirt) and there’s some gelatin left over which is already living in a bowl on your mantle and it has its own flag, the stone hand, ALTO! who knows how it got there, John may have picked it up on his shoe in the jungles of Mexico riding with the revolutionaries until they got lost, or found.

In short, John M. Bennett is a national treasure and an international man of mystery. Is he a mild-mannered librarian or a fluxist master? Is he camping in a hole full of beans? Possibly. Whatever it is he’s doing, he’s doing it just fine and will probably continue to do it, no matter what we think.

Lanny Quarles 2018

 

Fluxus and Minimalism and Me

Roots of Fluxus vs. Roots of Minimalism

Fluxus and Minimalism emerged at about the same time, and in reaction to the same tendencies in the art world. Both sensibilities evolved partly as a reaction against the post war (WWII) dogma of Abstract Expressionism. More importantly, they were both artistic revolutions against the art establishment. But there was an important difference that cannot be ignored. Whereas Fluxus had its roots in the anti-art aesthetic of Dada, Minimalism had its roots in the same milieu as the art world that it rebelled against. Inevitably, Minimalism became subsumed into that art world. Fluxus remains to this day as a small but important bastion, standing against the tyranny of artistic orthodoxy.

I like Fluxus. I create Fluxus artworks.

I like Minimalism. I create minimalist artworks.

I see myself as an anti-artist, and an artist, at the same time. And this causes me some cognitive dissonance. How does one resolve this dissonance?

There remains a core commonality in Fluxus and Minimalism, despite their differences. Both Fluxus and minimalism are meant to be accessible. Both rejected a prevailing aesthetic that was being imposed by critics, historians, academics, and a ruthlessly mercenary cabal of collectors and art dealers. Both stood out as artist-centred, and artist organized. And even though the “art stars” of Minimalism moved into the realm of art dealers and collector/market driven commercialism, the minimalist (deliberately not capitalized “m”) aesthetic and life-orientation remains accessible to any artist who is drawn to it.

Two images.Vultures over Marfa Texas and red circle with nothing in it

The two works above are some of my most recent pieces, in which I’ve attempted to merge the anti-art ethos of Fluxus with the minimal aesthetic of Minimalism. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded with my new series of works on paper, but my goal is to hang on to the minimalist aesthetic and my inherent Fluxus sensibilities.

And of course, I can never really leave the Fluxus community and the “fluxiest” aspects of Fluxus, in which Intermedia supersedes any single medium.

Allan Revich (me), throwing a pebble into each corner of the universe. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 2010

Fluxus and Minimalism emerged at about the same time, and in reaction to the same tendencies in the art world. Both sensibilities evolved partly as a reaction against the prevailing orthodoxy of the gallery/collector oriented art world.

This article is not about the 21st century minimalist lifestyle.