Fluxus Artists Today

So, where is Fluxus at the beginning of the 21st century?

Well, it’s not dead. Fluxus and the Fluxus attitude are alive and well and living in a town near you. Yes really. Even George Maciuanas, who many people in the “Fluxus is dead” camp associate with Fluxus, had this to say,

[Fluxus is] a way of doing things, very informal, sort of like a joke group. You know if you ask people like George Brecht, ‘Are you Fluxus?’ then he will just laugh at you. Its [sic] more like Zen than Dada in that sense.
~ G. Maciuanas in Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, p. 226, Smith, O. 1998

Owen Smith goes on to say that,

It will never be possible, or even desirable, to specify the full meaning of Fluxus, for like chance events in general (themselves a key element of many Fluxus activities), when defined they become part of a means-to-an-end rationality and thus are no longer truly indeterminate. It is this very quality in Fluxus, though that gives it its attitudunal strength.
~ Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, p. 227, Smith, O. 1998

While the original group of Fluxus associates may have broken up, Fluxus continues to live on as an attitude with many contemporary artists and writers. Fluxus also continues to thrive in several vibrant online communities. The best example of one of these communities is the Fluxlist, but there are others as well, including the Fluxnexus and the Fluxlist Blog. The artists associated with these communities continue to create work in the Fluxus vein. Some of these artists prefer to call themselves “Fluxus influenced”, while others are comfortable applying the Fluxus label to themselves and to their work. There have also been groups of artists who have continued to perform old Fluxus event scores (Secret Fluxus in the UK), and other local groups who have continued as small Fluxus collectives, including one in New York city that I read about recently but have been unable to find references to for this article (if you know who they are, please send me an e-mail!).

The Fluxlist was founded in 1996 by a group of Fluxus artists that include Dick Higgins and Ken Friedman, two artists who have been associated with Fluxus since its early days. Over the years many new artists have become associated with the list and Fluxus continues unabated to this day. Writers like John M. Bennett and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen continue creating Fluxpoems. The painter Cecil Touchon creates paintings that are Fluxus. Artists like Allen Bukoff, Allan Revich, and Alan Bowman create visually oriented Fluxus. And a significant group of artists continue to create mixed media, multimedia and intermedia work, including Walter Cianciusi who maintains an up-to-date Podcast, Ruud Janssen who maintains a mail-art museum and stamp art gallery, and many others who continue to keep Fluxus alive in thier own ways.

Some Fluxus Artist Sites and Blogs:

Fluxus Is: A Top Ten List

  1. Fluxus is a mini-encyclopedia of aesthetic alternatives
  2. Fluxus is everywhere at once
  3. Fluxus is not between “this” and “that”
  4. Fluxus is healthy Anti-Art
  5. Fluxus is a weed that will not go away
  6. Fluxus is a “sui generis” cultural form
  7. Fluxus is a late night radio broadcast of three to five stations at once
  8. Fluxus is a One Man Show that got out of hand
  9. Fluxus is like a chicken bone the world art dog cannot cough up
  10. Fluxus is a Virtual Reality system where the glove doesn’t work properly and the helmet doesn’t fit

Composition based on text samples from “Al Hansen on Fluxus“, pgs. 81-84, Beck & Al Hansen: Playing with Matches, Smart Art Press 1998

More “Top Ten Lists” are on the Digital Salon Fluxus Art Page at DigitalSalon.com

Who can use the Fluxus Label?

There is no special reason that an artist today should feel entitled to apply the fluxus label to their work or to themselves. But there is no special reason that artists working today need to refrain from using the Fluxus label either. Like all labels, the Fluxus label can potentially supply information and disinformation simultaneously.

Labels are like avatars or shortcuts. They are symbols for features common to all objects included in the set described by the label. But because they serve only as signs, many objects included in the set will differ from others in the same set by virtue of other features not common to the other objects. In the case of Fluxus there exist only a small collection of features common to all artists, artworks, and objects – and even this small set is often disputed. That may be why it is more useful to think of Fluxus as an attitude rather than as a movement or a group of specific artists.

If artists say that they produce Fluxus work, or Fluxist work, or Fluxus inspired work, there is a good starting point for understanding their work. If people describe themselves as Fluxus artists, one will (assuming one knows something about Fluxus) have a good idea about the kind of art produced. On the other hand the label in this case might also lead to confusion as the “Fluxus Artist” may or may not have been associated with historical Fluxus. There are really two groups of Fluxus artists. Those who began the Fluxus group (Maciunas, Higgins etc.) and inititated the attitude; and those who continue to create work with a Fluxus attitude. Some of the first group continue in the second group and some do not, while some in the second group began in the first group and others did not.

For example, Yoko Ono is a Fluxus artist who no longer (to my knowledge) creates Fluxus art, whereas Allen Bukoff may also be a Fluxus artist, but he became associated with Fluxus post-Maciunas. Then there is the large group of us who create Fluxus-inspired art which can be described as being Fluxus, Fluxus-like, Fluxus or something else. I don’t think that it is inaccurate for any of these artists/writers/performers to describe themselves as Fluxus artists.

I think that the description of Fluxus as “an attitude” remains most useful. It allows for the historical entity of Fluxus that existed until 1978 – while also allowing for the living Fluxus being created from the late 1950s until (and beyond) the present day. Fluxus is (and was) always in flux, changing and evolving, and like Intermedia, it exists in more than one dimension simultaneously. There is the historical dimension, the attitudinal dimension, and a taxonomic (what kind of object) dimension to Fluxus – what Fluxus “is” depends on the dimension being described.

NOTE: To gain a better understanding of Fluxus as an attitude I highly recommend the book, Fluxus: The History of an Attitude by Owen Smith.

Yesterday and Today

One part of Fluxus belongs to history, but another part still thrives today.

Maybe we can think of Fluxus as being like a monarchy. Monarchs come and go. Kings and Queens are crowned and die. But the monarchy lives on.

Fluxus is dead. Long live Fluxus!

Fluxus on Wikipedia

21st Century Fluxus

What Does Fluxus Look Like at the Dawn of the 21st Century?

Before this question can be addressed, it must first be acknowledged that from the very beginnings of the Fluxus “movement” there has never been a universally accepted definition of Fluxus. There has even been reluctance to call Fluxus a movement at all, hence the quotation marks in the previous sentence. However, if one accepts the view of Fluxus expressed by Dick and Hannah Higgins, Ken Friedman, and Owen Smith, it is possible to agree on a range of work, activities, and world views that constitute Fluxus. So starting from there… what does Fluxus look like today?

I propose that Fluxus today has settled into three streams:

  1. Historical Fluxus
    This stream is popular with curators and collectors because it constrains Fluxus within static boundaries of time, place, and activity. By defining Fluxus in purely art historical terms, Fluxus works produced in the 1960s and 1970s by a small group of artists become highly marketable commodities within the dominant art market economy. The fact that the works collected were often created as a reaction to, and rebellion against the art market only adds to their ironic and iconic commercial value. Interestingly, there are also groups of contemporary artists who prefer the historical Fluxus viewpoint. These artists often enjoy performing historical Fluxus event scores in the same way that military history buffs reenact historical military battles. The group “Secret Fluxus” comes to mind when discussing current historical practice, and the Silverman and Rutgers collections of Fluxus artifacts represent the market-based historical practice.
  2. Contemporary (Post-Historical) Fluxus
    Existing on the opposite pole from historical Fluxus is a group of contemporary artists who use intermedia ideas similar to Fluxus, but with little concern for historical Fluxus. Some of these artists are reluctant to call themselves or their work “Fluxus”, instead preferring to see themselves as part of something new that coincidentally shares many Fluxus sensibilities. Others in this group call themselves Fluxus artists but do not feel a need to connect with the Fluxus of the past. Historical Fluxus for this group is important only as a starting point for their current work. The group known as FluxNexus comes to mind when discussing the new Fluxus-like but not Fluxus art.
  3. Continuing Fluxus
    The Continuing Fluxus group of artists, writers, and theorists see themselves as part of a continuing Fluxus tradition and practice. This group remains in contact with as many of the first generation of Fluxus personalities as are willing to remain engaged. Within this group there is some difference of opinion as to whether the work that they do is “Fluxus”, or “Fluxus-based”, or “Fluxus influenced” – but there is a common bond of respect for the continuing practices of the first and second genration of Fluxus artists and a shared view of being part of a third wave of Fluxus, if not a true third generation of Fluxus. Many of these artists are members of the Fluxlist, the e-mail based Internet community founded by a group of first and second generation Fluxus artists and theorists.

The three categories above represent what I consider to be the three dominant Fluxus streams of the early 21st century. Like anything else Fluxus in nature, the borders between and around these streams are themselves in flux. There are many artists influenced by Fluxus who work outside all three streams, and there are other artists whose work overlaps 2 or all 3 streams.


The Fluxlist Blog

The FluxNexus

International Post-Dogmatist Group

Fluxus Portal

Ben Vautier

Allison Knowles

Fluxus Pills: Good for Nothing

[[image:flux-pills_copy1.jpg:Fluxus Pills: Good for Nothing, Allan Revich:center:0]]

Sometimes one needs to sit back, relax a bit – and just chill out. Virtual Fluxus Pills are good for nothing, and that should be good enough to do the trick. So help yourself. Take a pill. Sit back and chill.