Henry Flynt’s work devolves from what he calls cognitive nihilism; a concept he developed and first announced in the 1960 and 1961 drafts of a paper called Philosophy Proper. The 1961 draft was published in Milan with other early work in his book Blueprint for a Higher Civilization in 1975. Flynt refined these dispensations in the essay Is there language? that was published as Primary Study in 1964.
In 1961 Flynt coined the term concept art in the Neo-Dada, proto-Fluxus book An Anthology of Chance Operations (published by Jackson Mac Low and La Monte Young) that was released in 1963. An Anthology of Chance Operations contained seminal works by Fluxus artists such as George Brecht and Dick Higgins. Flynt's concept art, he maintained, devolved from cognitive nihilism, from insights about the vulnerabilities of logic and mathematics. Drawing on an exclusively syntactical paradigm of logic and mathematics, concept art was meant jointly to supersede mathematics and the formalistic music then current in serious art music circles. Therefore, Flynt maintained, to merit the label concept art, a work had to be an object-critique of logic or mathematics or objective structure."
In 1962 Flynt began to campaign for an anti-art position. Thus he demonstrated against cultural institutions in New York City (such as MOMA and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts) with Tony Conrad and Jack Smith in 1963 and against the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen twice in 1964. Flynt wanted avant-garde art to become superseded by the terms of veramusement and brend - neologisms meaning approximately pure recreation. Flynt read publicly from his text From Culture to Veramusment at Walter De Maria's loft on February 28, 1963 - an act which can be considered performance art.
From about 1980, Flynt has given a great deal of time to two endeavors which did not achieve the notoriety of the early actions: his concepts of meta-technology  and personhood theory. In 1987 he revived his "concept art" for tactical reasons; and spent seven years in the art world. Following that period, Flynt began to publish recorded but unreleased musical compositions. Over 10 audio CDs have appeared as of 2007.
Flynt's writings on a wide variety of subjects are available on his website: Henry Flynt: Philosophy
Flynt as composer & violinist
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (June 2013)|
Henry Flynt is also known for his musical work, often with him performing on violin, that attempted to fuse avant-garde noise music (particularly the hypnotic aspects of minimalism) with free-jazz and hillbilly country music.
Much of Henry Flynt's recorded output has been release on the Recorded and Locust Music record labels.
His first CD release was "You Are My Everlovin'/Celestial Power" on Recorded (curated by John Berndt, and initiating the "New American Ethnic Music" or NAEM series on that label), quickly followed by "Spindizzy" and "Hillbilly Tape Music" also on Recorded. Later Recorded released NAEM 4, "Ascent to The Sun." Recently, Flynt's "Glissando No. 1" was published by Recorded (2010).
The Locust Music releases (curated and designed by Dawson Prater) showcase the full range of his musical interestes from minimalism, hillbilly country and garage rock. "C Tune" (Locust, 2002) documents a 1980 live improvisation with Catherine Christer Hennix on tamboura and Flynt on electric violin. "Raga Electric: Experimental Music 1963-1971" (Locust, 2002) is the seminal anthology of Flynt's most challenging avant-garde work that includes "Raga Electric" (1966) and "Free Alto" (1964). "Back Porch Hillbilly Blues - Volume 1" (Locust, 2003), with "Acoustic Hillbilly Jive" and "Blue Sky Highway and Tyme", and "Back Porch Hillbilly Blues Volume 2" (Locust) ahowcase a meeting of henry flynt's vision of rural roots music and American minimalism. "I Don't Wanna" (Locust Music, 2004) documents a garage-punk band, the Insurrections, that Flynt led in 1966 with Walter De Maria and Paul Breslin. "Purified by the Fire" (Locust, 2005), recorded in December 1981, repeats the format of "C Tune": Catherine Christer Hennix on tamboura and Flynt on electric violin. The 41-minute raga is dominated by the languid phrases of the violin that tests the border between melodic fragments and distorted tones. The "Indian" element is the background of hypnotic tamboura drones, but Flynt's improvisation at the violin betrays the influence of jazz music."Henry Flynt & Nova'Billy" (Locust, 2007) collects material recorded between 1974 and 1975 by his rock band Nova'Billy. "Dharma Warriors" (Locust, 2008) showcases another meeting between Catherine Christer Hennix & Flynt recorded in 1980 in Woodstock, New York.
Relationship with Fluxus
Because of his friendship and collaboration with La Monte Young and George Maciunas, Flynt sometimes gets linked to Fluxus. While Flynt himself describes Fluxus as his "publisher of last resort" (Flynt did permit Fluxus to publish his work, and took part in several Fluxus exhibitions) he claims no affiliation or interest in the Fluxus sensibility. In fact, he is a strong critic of the neo-Dada sensibility.
Notes and references
- The Times literary Supplement, August 6th, 1964, p. 688 "Henry Flynt concept art" .
- Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by Kristine Stiles) University of California Press 2012, p. 955
- Flynt, Henry.  "Essay: Concept Art. As published in An Anthology of Chance Operations (1963)
- Henry Flynt, "The Crystallization of Concept Art in 1961"
- Henry Flynt, "Concept-Art (1962)", Translated and introduced by Nicolas Feuillie, Les presses du réel, Avant-gardes, Dijon.
- Michel Oren (1993) Anti-Art as the End of Cultural History, Performing Arts Journal, volume 15, issue 2.
- Interview with Henry Flynt in The Village Voice, September 10th, 1964, by Susan Goodman, "Anti-Art Pickets Pick on Stockhausen" .
- Henry Flynt, "Lessons in Meta-Technology"
- Henry Flynt, "Personhood Theory: A Sketch"
- Owen Smith (1998) Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, San Diego State University Press.
- Henry Flynt, (1975) Blueprint for a Higher Civilization, Milano
- Henry Flynt, (1988) "Being=Space X Action: Searches for Freedom of Mind Through Mathematics, Art, and Mysticism", edited by Charles Stein, a special issue of Io (#41) on Henry Flynt and Catherine Christer Hennix.
- Henry Flynt, "Concept-Art (1962)", Translated and introduced by Nicolas Feuillie, Les presses du réel, Avant-gardes, Dijon
- Henry Flynt,"Concept Art," in An Anthology, ed. La Monte Young (1st edition, New York, 1963)
- Henry Flynt, "Concept Art" (revised), in An Anthology, ed. La Monte Young (2nd edition, New York, 1970)
- Owen Smith (1998) Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, San Diego State University Press
- Kristine Stiles & Peter Selz, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists' Writings (Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by Kristine Stiles) University of California Press 2012, reprinting of Henry Flynt, Concept Art (1961) pp. 974-975
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 1: You are my Everlovin' + Celestial Power, Recorded Records
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 2: Spindizzy, Recorded Records
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 3: Hillbilly Tape Music, Recorded Records
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 4: Ascent to the Sun, Recorded Records
- C Tune, Locust Music
- Raga Electric, Locust Music
- Backporch Hillbilly Blues, Volume 1, Locust Music
- Backporch Hillbilly Blues, Volume 2, Locust Music
- I Don't Wanna, Locust Music
- Purified by the Fire, Locust Music
- Henry Flynt & Nova' Billy, Locust Music
- Dharma Warriors, Locust Music
- Henry Flynt: Philosophy
- Henry Flynt Interviewed by Kenneth Goldsmith on WFMU February 26, 2004 (3 hours)
- Fluxus: Henry Flynt:ACTION AGAINST CULTURAL IMPERIALISM
- "Taking Henry Flynt Seriously" by Benjamin Piekut, ISAM Newsletter, Spring 2005
- Baltimore City Paper article on Flynt's Spindizzy
- Henry Flynt interview from 1989
- pdf file of An Anthology of Chance Operations (1963) at UbuWeb
- Recorded Record Label
- Locust Music
- Does Anyone Remember Henry Flynt?: Conceptualism and Raga Rock
- Julian Cope's review of Henry Flynt & the Insurrections - I Don't Wanna