Fluxus in Practical Terms

The Fluxus Blog has examined Fluxus in historical and theoretical terms. I have posited that Fluxus “happens when one feels that life and art must be taken so seriously, that it becomes impossible to take life or art seriously.” I have also previously posted several other ideas, theories, and views about Fluxus. But how would “you know it when you see it”? What characteristics of an artwork serve to identify the work as belonging to or related to Fluxus?

Historically many artists working in different media have related their work to Fluxus. However, there are really only two types of work that are nearly always related to Fluxus. They are “Event Scores” and “Fluxkits”.

Event Scores:
Event scores are similar to short musical scores or theatrical setting descriptions. Some are designed to be performed, and some are written to be read and imagined without ever actually being performed. Of those that are written to be performed, some may be designed to be performed only once and recorded (through written, photo, or video) documentation, while others are written so that they can be performed repaeatedly. Fluxus associated artists who have made extensive use of event scores in their work include Yoko Ono and George Brecht. The musical compositions of John Cage and the “Happenings” of Allan Kaprow are also closely related to Fluxus event scores.

Fluxkits, also sometimes call Fluxboxes are smallish (usually no larger than a shoebox or briefcase) objects that are collections of other objects that hold meaning to the artist and can be interacted with by the audience. Fluxkits have been produced as multiples in editions, and as unique, one-of-a-kind objects. Interactivity can consist of examination of the contents, rearrangement of the objects, or games in which the rules often resemble event scores. Artists who have received attention in the art-oriented mass media for their fluxkits and fluxboxes include George Maciunas (who coined the word “Fluxus”), Ay-O, and George Brecht. The first Fluxkits probably resulted from fresh interpretations of the work of dada artist, Marcel Duchamp, and have continued to influence present day Fluxus and mail artists.

Fluxus as Intermedia:
A third indicator of Fluxus relatedness is the concept of “intermedia”. Fluxus artists and historians have sometimes used the terms Fluxus and intermedia almost interchangeably. The important Fluxus artist, Dick Higgins, described Intermedia as a myriad of emerging genres that spilled across the boundaries of traditional media. In the interseces between the arts, mixed-media forms coalesced: Happenings, performance art, kinetic sculpture, and electronic theater (Higgins). Higgins suggests that Fluxus artists explore the territory that lies between art media and life media. The difficulty in using intermedia as a determinant to identifying a particular artists or artwork as Fluxus is that it is not easy to identify what kind of objects exist in “the territory between art media and life media”. However, performance art, video art, installation art, mail art, and time-based artworks are closely related to Fluxus even if not identified as such by either the artist or art critics.

It is safe to say that any work that closely resembles an Event Score or a Fluxkit/Fluxbox, is either Fluxus or is closely related to Fluxus. But Fluxus isn’t quite that simple. While Event Scores and Fluxkits are Fluxus, so are many other types of artwork. If a work is not an event score or a fluxkit, it can not be automatically implied that the work is not Fluxus. While the historical- theoretical core of Fluxus remains the strongest determinant to linking work to Fluxus, many Fluxus artists would argue that the only determinant of Fluxus “authenticity” is the artists “say-so”.

15 Artistic Influences

As the result of a Facebook Challenge…

15 “artists” that had some influence upon me:

per Jen Bradford‘s Rules – Monday, September 13, 2010 at 11:36am]

The Rules:  Don’t take too long to think about it.  Fifteen Artists who’ve influenced you and that will ALWAYS STICK WITH YOU.  List the first fifteen you can recall in to more than fifteen minutes.  Tag fifteen friends, including me, because I’m interested in seeing what artists my friends choose.  (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note.) Quickly, and in no particular order…


  1. John Cage
  2. Yoko Ono
  3. Pablo Picasso
  4. Ken Friedman
  5. George Maciunas
  6. Marcel Duchamp
  7. Leonard Cohen
  8. Vincent Van Gogh
  9. Monet
  10. John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten)
  11. Andy Warhol
  12. Allen Ginsberg
  13. Charles Bukowski
  14. Basho
  15. Jean Baudrillardï

Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (United States)

The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A, is a United States law protecting artist rights.

VARA was the first federal copyright legislation to grant protection to moral rights. Under VARA, works of art that meet certain requirements afford their authors additional rights in the works, regardless of any subsequent physical ownership of the work itself, or regardless of who holds the copyright to the work. For instance, a painter may insist on proper attribution of his painting and in some instances may sue the owner of the physical painting for destroying the painting even if the owner of the painting lawfully owned it.

While federal law had not acknowledged moral rights prior to this act, some state legislatures and judicial decisions created limited moral rights protection. The Berne Convention required protection of these rights by signatory states, and it was in response that the U.S. Congress passed the VARA.

VARA exclusively grants authors of works that fall under the protection of the Act the following rights

  • right to claim authorship
  • right to prevent the use of one’s name on any work the author did not create
  • right to prevent use of one’s name on any work that has been distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation
  • right to prevent distortion, mutilation, or modification that would prejudice the author’s honor or reputation

Additionally, authors of works of “recognized stature” may prohibit intentional or grossly negligent destruction of a work. Exceptions to VARA require a waiver from the author in writing. To date, “recognized stature” has managed to elude a precise definition. VARA allows authors to waive their rights, something generally not permitted in France and many European countries whose laws were the originators of the moral rights of artists concept. [1]

In most instances, the rights granted under VARA persist for the life of the author (or the last surviving author, for creators of joint works).
Covered works
VARA provides its protection only to paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, still photographic images produced for exhibition only, and existing in single copies or in limited editions of 200 or fewer copies, signed and numbered by the artist. The requirements for protection do not implicate aesthetic taste or value.

Full Article on Wikipedia

Link to US Legal Code

Two Questions from Mark Bloch

My friend and colleague, Mark Bloch, has posited two very interesting questions, which I am reposting here. Answers are more than welcome, and can be posted here in the Fluxus Blog “comments” field, or sent directly to Mark.

I am seeking comments on these two ideas:

1) When Alison Knowles spoke at CUNY earlier this year she insinuated or even just said that Dada and Fluxus don’t have much in common. I found that really interesting giving the fact that mail art claims both Dada and Fluxus as its precursors…. But the more I thought about it, she is right. perhaps Fluxus is about precision and Dada is about chaos and the two don’t go together. Maybe Fluxus uses precision to create the unpredictable, experiential situations that Dada seeked to create directly at its core. Perhaps that is where they meet?

2) Maybe this would be a good place to discuss Jung Fluxus this concept I came up with which opens up an idea of artistic myth making as an adjunct to the traditional Fluxus program. I say that the John and Yoko myth and the Josef Beuys myth a…nd the George Maciunas as Pope myth and maybe even the Geoff Hendricks sky myth or…(fill in blank) are personal narratives performing art functions that really fall outside the realm of traditional, historical Fluxus but they are done by Fluxus artists. I personally (it’s about the personal) am interested in this type of work and so always found Fluxus limiting in that way if it is to exclude such expressions. When (artists) make art about Kali or any of us return to traditional image creation or picture making, we are clearly outside the Fluxrealm. What does it mean that this ancient function of art continues to exist even in a post-concrete world?

Mark Block http://www.panmodern.com/

Email Mark Bloch

Ben Patterson Quote

I was recently made aware of a statement made by Fluxus artist, Ben Patterson, about the state of Fluxus post-Maciunas. As most readers of the Fluxus Blog are aware, a debate continues to swirl in various Fluxus forums and communities about the status of Fluxus after the death of George Maciunas.

I do believe that Fluxus not only survived George (Maciunas), but now that it is finally free to be Fluxus, it is becoming that something/nothing with which George should be happy.

~ Ben Patterson

Further evidence that reports of Fluxus’ demise have been greatly exagerated.

Fluxus Gallerist Harry Stendhal: From Fame to Infamy

In a lawsuit filed on behalf of well know Fluxus artist, Jonas Mekas, and designer Paula Scher, Harry Stendhal, proprietor the Stendhal Gallery in New York’s Chelsea district, is alleged to have misappropriated money and artwork. Mekas and Scher charge that Harry Stendhal sold their pieces without giving them their cut and is holding millions of dollars more of their work hostage.

When they inquired of Stendhal about their art and funds, they allege that he responded by email, “Don’t fuck with me — I am warning you”.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/manhattan/stendhal_is_rogue_gallery_suit_odr2YwIfjs7kWVuOECLjIK#ixzz0tr58x99h

Fluxus and Judaism

OK… Let me begin by stating that I don’t think that Fluxus has anything whatsoever to do directly with Judaism.

But… As someone who was born Jewish, became Israeli, and believes in no religion at all; and yet still identifies himself as “Jewish”, I can see some interesting parallels between Fluxus and Judaism.

While for most people living in Western-style liberal democracies Judaism is defined simply as just a religion, for most Jews (and for most anti-Semites) Judaism is a religion AND a race AND a nationality. It is fairly easy to argue that Judaism is not a nationality in the most commonly used western sense, and it is also fairly straightforward to argue that Judaism is not a race in the most commonly used western sense. Yet, it is difficult to argue that Judaism is not some sort of unique hybrid of all of these things together. It may not be any one of these things individually, but it most definitely IS all of these things together. I could go on… but that is not the primary purpose of this blog post.

So let’s get back to Fluxus. For most people with some familiarity with art history, Fluxus has been pigeon-holed as just another “art movement”. But Fluxus is not really an art movement in the conventional sense of that term. For people that practiced (and continue to practice) Fluxus, Fluxus is also an attitude towards creating art and towards living life. Fluxus is a philosophy of art making and for living creatively in the world.

And here is where it gets interesting… It is not hard to argue that Fluxus is not a “philosophy”. It is easy to make arguments to support the idea that Fluxus IS an art-historical movement. It is fairly straightforward to dismiss the idea of Fluxus as an attitude. But to make these arguments and dismissals, one has to ignore the feelings/positions/attitudes of the people who are most involved in Fluxus – AND to dismiss the preponderance of evidence that supports the idea that Fluxus is much more than just another art history movement. That’s because Fluxus is best viewed as a hybrid that includes important elements of an art history movement, a philosophy, and an attitude. It may not be any one of these things individually, but it most definitely IS all of these things together.

So you see, Fluxus really is like Judaism – even if it does have nothing to do with Judaism!

Something Else from Cecil Touchon

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Cecil Touchon

More information about Cecil is available at http://cecil.touchon.com/ or through this Google Search

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.