Who is a Fluxus Artist?

Fluxfest New York 2011 is coming soon to New York City. April 11 through April 17, 2011. Some venues have been secured, some are being negotiated, and one appears to have backed out. It’s hard for me to understand why a venue that has a strong history of supporting Fluxus would withdraw support from a Fluxfest, but from what I understand, this particular space was more comfortable hosting reproductions of old historical Fluxs works than in supporting the work of newer and emerging Fluxus artists. Why would this be?

As new artists see the possibilities of working within the Fluxus milieu there has been an incredible renaissance of Fluxus works and performances. New scores are being written. New artworks and texts are being created, and new artists are celebrating the accomplishments and legacies of the earlier generation of Fluxus artists. Many people who have been associated with Fluxus over the last 50 years have shown themselves to be very excited about the new Fluxus awakening. Artists and works that were on the verge of fading into oblivion are suddenly in the forefront of consciousness of the arts community. Apparently the new Fluxus phenomenon is not universally being welcomed by all though. Is Fluxus dead or is it alive? Was it a movement, and idea, or is it an attitude? Who were the Fluxus artists? Who can claim to be a Fluxus artist?

I think that there are two basic and long-standing definitions of what Fluxus is, and that is what complicates answering the question, “who is a Fluxus artist?”

1) The Silverman Collection Fluxus: Fluxus as defined by collectors, and historians with powerful vested interests in confining Fluxus to specific times and places. They prefer a tight and tidy definition, generally around the idea that Fluxus began with George Maciuanas, and it ended when he died. George died died, the circle dispersed. Fluxus ended.

2) The “Fluxus Attitude” as decribed by Owen Smith, and the Fluxus Idea as described by Dick Higgins and Ken Friedman:  Dick and Ken collaborated on the 12 Fluxus ideas. In fact, these are Ken’s own words,

Dick 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.”

For Dick, for George Maciunas, and for me, Fluxus is more valuable as an idea and a potential for social change than as a specific group of people or a collection of objects.

As I see it, Fluxus was a laboratory. The research program of the Fluxus laboratory is characterized by twelve ideas:globalism,

  1. the unity of art and life,
  2. intermedia,
  3. experimentalism,
  4. chance,
  5. playfulness,
  6. simplicity,
  7. implicativeness,
  8. exemplativism,
  9. specificity,
  10. presence in time, and
  11. musicality.

My own 4 point summary is derived from a combination of this idea and of Owen Smith’s idea of Fluxus as an Attitude, along with examples of the actual work produced and held out to be Fluxus work by Fluxus artists, to wit:

  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 found and everyday objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.
  3. Fluxus works are simple. The art is small, the texts are short, and the performances are brief.
  4. Fluxus should be fun. Humor has always been an important element in Fluxus.

I’ll leave this post with a few more words from Forty Years of Fluxus:

“…The first Fluxus disappeared a long time ago. It replaced itself with the many forms of Fluxus that came after.

The many varieties of Fluxus activity took on their own life and had a significant history of their own. It’s unrealistic and historically inaccurate to imagine a Fluxus controlled by one man. Fluxus was co-created by many people and it has undergone a continuous process of co-creation and renewal for three decades.”

And, so it goes. Fluxus ended for one group of artists and continues forward in the capable and spirited hands new generations of Fluxus artists.

Hello, my name is Allan Revich, and I am a Fluxus Artist.

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