What the Fluxus?

Information about an upcoming Fluxhibition in St. Loiuis, courtesy of Keith Buchholz:

What the Fluxus?
By Paul Friswold
Riverfront Times Wednesday, May 26 2010

Some people will tell you that Fluxus died in 1978 with George Maciunas, but how can Fluxus die? The Fluxus approach to art is not any one thing; by nature, Fluxus art is intermedia, combining sound, object, image, text, audience and time into a single experience that allows for both happenstance and accident. That’s a way of life in the 21st century, not a dead movement.
Homecoming: Fluxus and Visual Poetry by Regional Natives, an art exhibition featuring work by John M. Bennett, Keith A. Buchholz, Larry Miller and Cecil Touchon, is further proof of Fluxus’ ongoing vitality. The show encourages interaction and promises fun for those open to share in the experience — and fun is a vital element of Fluxus.
Homecoming opens with a free public reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 28, at the Regional Arts Commission (6128 Delmar Boulevard; 314-863-5811 or www.art-stl.com), and the performance begins at 7 p.m. The gallery is open daily, and the show remains up through Sunday, July 11.
May 28-July 11, 2010

Fluxus and Flippancy

Over the past few days I’ve been reading some comments that were critical of the “flippancy” observed in discussions about Fluxus and on sites like Facebook and online communities like the Fluxlist. Some of this criticism has even come from Fluxus and avant-garde old-timers. I find this criticism to be, how can I say this politely… precious.

Humor and “flippancy” are as much a part of Fluxus as Fluxkits and Event Scores. It is absurd to even use the term “flippant” in a critical manner when talking about Fluxus! After all, if it isn’t fun it isn’t Fluxus. Fluxus uses playfulness to deal with serious matters. Just as many of the most biting social critics have been comic entertainers, Fluxus upends seriousness – or refelcts it back – in the form of jokes. It isn’t always about you see in front of you… it’s about how you perceive what’s in front of you. Fluxus uses flippance to play with perception, in the dame way that Fluxus uses the idea of Intermedia to explore the intersections between media, to explore/investigate sensory perceptions.

Fluxus (past and present) has always incorporated humor, flippancy and good-natured irreverency. It is hard for me to imagine work more irreverent than:

For a really wonderful look at “classical” Fluxus performances, with many examples of humorous irrevence (i.e. flippancy) check out the Fluxus Performance Workbook on Scribd.

It is difficult for me to even imagine a Fluxus without flippancy! So, to every artists with a working sense of humor and in interest in Fluxus… FLUX ON!

Fluxus Needs a New Name… NOT!

Recently in response to an earlier post on the Fluxus Blog it was suggested that belonging to a “50 year old art movement” was absurd. My friend. colleague, and respected Ray Johnson authority, Mark Bloch, had this to say,

…I am not sure why anyone would want to embrace a 50 year old art movement when there is so much exciting here and now. A friend of mine likened it recently to one of the Fluxus people or someone of their generation being alive and well in the … See moreearly 60s and instead of embracing all the amazing change going on around them, they would have moved to Paris to regurgitate ancient debates about the color pallettes of Mattise and Picasso…

Fluxus is not a 50 year old art movement. It isn’t even an “art movement”. Art movements are framed by beginning dates and end dates. Sometimes there can be some debate about where to place the date markers, but all art movements are defined in this way. Art historians, academics, and theorists seem to have difficulty grasping the idea that not all art belongs to a “movement”.

I’ll try to make it as simple as I can for people that know too much about art.

1) Fluxus is not a movement, it is an attitude. It’s a way to approach art and life. Attitudes do not exist between dates in calendars.
2) Fluxus should be conceptualized more like its antecedents, one of which was Zen Buddhism. It is as ridiculous to say that Fluxus ended when Maciuanas died, or when Higgins died, as it would be to say that Zen died when Buddha died.  Not to say that Higgins or Maciuanas were anything like prophets or Messiahs (that would be John Cage ;-)) …just to illustrate that there are perfectly “normal” ways to approach art-making and living that don’t require being slotted into a “movement” or time period.
3) Fluxus doesn’t need a new name. The name it has works just fine. If it walks like a duck and it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. Saying that Fluxus needs a new name for new artists is as ridiculous as saying that ducks in Canada should have a different name than ducks in the USA.

(with appologies to my readers for the dorky “NOT!” cliche in the headline)

Photography and Fluxus: Brad Brace

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: [bbrace@eskimo.com; 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:


Cecil Touchon and Fluxus

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.

For a look at what is happening in the world of contemporary Fluxus, check out the Fluxmuseum.

Fluxus and Photography

It sometimes seems to me that photography has been the forgotten child of Fluxus over the years. I suppose it is not hard to understand why… there has not been a lot of photographic work that has been identified as being explicitly “Fluxus”. Unlike video, which lemds itself so readily to Fluxus interpretations, the lines between Intermedia and multimedia are ill-defined and lurry at best, static photographs find their place most often as either “documentation” or “fine art”.

However, there are Fluxus practitioners that do integrate Fluxus very directly into their work. Perhaps the best example is the artist, Brad Brace. Brad has been working on a photo (and photocopier) based project for many, many years. His 12 hour ISBN Project began back in 1994 and continues online to this day. Brad describes the project as

Pointless Hypermodern Imagery… posted/mailed every 12 hours… a spectral, trajective alignment for the 00`s! A continuum of minimalist masks in the face of catastrophe; conjuring up transformative metaphors for the everyday… A poetic reversibility of exclusive events

Recently Brad has published a massive collection of “thousands of enlarged and enhanced photographs, mostly low-res cellphone-camera self-portraits, culled from dating websites…”, a 2 gigabyte (plus) pdf book. It’s available to collectors for $250 and can be purchasd directly from Brad Brace (bbrace@eskimo.com).

Photographs have also been used by Reid Wood (State of Being) who has been photographing street signs and and similar odd bits of street text and posting his work to the Fluxlist Blog. Also on the Fluxlist Blog are photographs by Litsa Spathi. Her partner Ruud Jansen, has many flux-like photograps on Flickr and on his Facebook page.

Another artist who has recently made direct use of photography is Allan Revich (yes, me) who incorporates reflected text from storefronts and street scenes into his Urban Reflections series of photographs. Found photographs are also a part of his visual poetry.

In fact, “found” photographs are the most common use of photography in the Fluxus milieu… being quite common in collage work. I’ll address collage in another blog post though. Another realted upcoming post will cover photocopier and Xerox imaging, in which my friend and flux-colleague Reed Altemus has been especially active.

It Don’t Mean Nothin’ (or does it?)

You can’t have something without having nothing…Alan Watts talks about nothing.