||It has been suggested that this article be merged with Fluxus at Rutgers University. (Discuss) Proposed since September 2015.|
Fluxus is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They varied in performance, Neo-Dada noise music and visual art, urban planning, architecture, design, as well as literature. Fluxus has a strong current of anti-commercial and anti-art sensibility. Fluxus is sometimes described as intermedia. Fluxus was heavily influenced by the ideas of John Cage, who believed that one should embark on the piece without having a conception of the eventual end. It was the process of creating that was important, not the finished product. Another main influence was Marcel Duchamp, a French artist who had originally been active within Dada whose 'readymades' were influential to Fluxus. George Maciunas, the founder, coined the name Fluxus in 1961 as the title of a proposed magazine.
- The Fluxus movement... developed its 'anti-art', anti-commercial aesthetics under the leadership of George Maciunas. Fluxus staged a series of festivals in Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London and New York, with avant-garde performances often spilling out into the street. Most of the experimental artists of the period, including Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Dick Higgins and Wolf Vostell took part in Fluxus events. The movement, which still continues, played an important role in the opening up of definitions of what art can be. (Tate, London)
- 1 History to 1965
- 2 History, 1965–78
- 3 Since 1978
- 4 Influences
- 5 Fluxus art
- 6 Artistic philosophies
- 7 Late Criticism
- 8 Fluxus artists
- 9 Scholars, critics, and curators associated with Fluxus
- 10 Major collections and archives
- 11 See also
- 12 Selected bibliography
- 13 Notes
- 14 External links
- 15 References
History to 1965
The origins of Fluxus lie in many of the concepts explored by composer John Cage in his experimental music of the 1950s. Cage taught a series of Experimental Composition classes, run between 1957 and 1959 at the New School for Social Research in New York City which explored notions of indeterminacy in art. These classes—later taught by Richard Maxfield—were attended by many artists and musicians who would become involved in Fluxus, including Jackson Mac Low, La Monte Young, George Brecht, Al Hansen, Dick Higgins and, later, George Maciunas.
The other main influence was to be found in the works of Marcel Duchamp. The term anti-art, a precursor to Dada, was coined by Duchamp around 1913 when he created his first readymades out of found objects (everyday objects found or purchased and declared art). He had created a series of artworks that used found objects, thereby negating any need for traditional artistic skill. Known as readymades, of which the most famous is Fountain. Soon after arriving to New York from Paris in 1915, Duchamp formed a group with Francis Picabia and American artist Man Ray. By 1916 the three of them became the center of radical anti-art activities in the United States. Their artworks were to become a major influence on Fluxus and conceptual art in general. In the late 1950s and very early 1960s, activities that would later adopt delineations such as Fluxus, Happenings, Nouveau réalisme, Pop Art, mail art, performance art and others were lumped together under the catch-all term "Neo-Dada".
A number of other contemporary happenings are credited as either anticipating Fluxus, or as proto-fluxus events. The most commonly cited include the series of Chambers Street loft concerts, New York, curated by Yoko Ono and La Monte Young in 1961 featuring pieces by Jackson Mac Low, Joseph Byrd, and Henry Flynt; the month-long Yam festival held in upstate New York by George Brecht and Robert Watts in May 1963 with Ray Johnson and Allan Kaprow (the culmination of a year's worth of Mail Art pieces); and a series of concerts held in Mary Bauermeister's studio, Cologne, 1960–61, featuring Nam June Paik and John Cage amongst many others. It was at one of these events in 1960, during his Etude pour Piano, that Paik leapt into the audience and cut John Cage's tie off, ran out of the concert hall, and then phoned the hall's organisers to announce the piece had ended. Dick Higgins has stated:
Fluxus started with the work, and then came together, applying the name Fluxus to work which already existed. It was as if it started in the middle of the situation, rather than at the beginning.
The American musician and artist La Monte Young had been enlisted to guest-edit an issue of a literary journal, Beatitude East, and asked George Maciunas, a trained graphic designer, for help with the layout; Maciunas supplied the paper, design, and some money for publishing of the anthology, which contained a more or less arbitrary association of New York avant-garde artists at that time. By the end of 1961 before An Anthology of Chance Operations was completed (it was finally published in 1963 by Mac Low and Young), Maciunas had moved to Germany to escape his creditors. From there, he continued his contact with the New York artists and by September 1962 was joined by Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, who traveled to Europe to help him promote a second planned publication to be called "Fluxus", the first of a series of "yearbooks" of artists' works.
Early Fluxus and Neo-Dada
Fluxus was conceived by Lithuanian-born George Maciunas as an attempt to 'fuse... cultural, social, & political revolutionaries into [a] united front and action'. After having fled Lithuania at the end of World War II, his family had moved to New York, where he first came into contact with a group of avant-garde artists and musicians centered around John Cage and La Monte Young. Initially opening an art gallery on Madison Avenue which showed work by Higgins, Ono, Jonas Mekas, Ray Johnson, Flynt and Young, Maciunas moved to Wiesbaden, West Germany, having taken a job as a graphic designer with the US Air Force in late 1961 after the gallery had gone bust. Maciunas first publicly coined the term Fluxus (meaning 'to flow') in a 'brochure prospectus' that he distributed to the audience at a festival he had organized, called Aprés Cage; Kleinen Sommerfest (After Cage; a Small Summer Festival), in Wuppertal, West Germany, 9 June 1962.
Maciunas was an avid art historian, and initially referred to fluxus as 'neo-dadaism' or 'renewed dadaism'. He wrote a number of letters to Raoul Hausmann, an original dadaist, outlining his ideas. Hausmann discouraged the use of the term;
I note with much pleasure what you said about German neodadaists—but I think even the Americans should not use the term "neodadaism" because neo means nothing and -ism is old-fashioned. Why not simply "Fluxus"? It seems to me much better, because it's new, and dada is historic.
As part of the festival, Maciunas wrote a lecture, entitled 'Neo-Dada in the United States'. After an attempt to define 'Concretist Neo-Dada' art, he explained that Fluxus was opposed to the exclusion of the everyday from art. Using 'anti-art and artistic banalities', Fluxus would fight the 'traditional artificialities of art'. The lecture ended with the declaration;
Anti-art is life, is nature, is true reality—it is one and all.
European festivals and the Fluxkits
In 1962, Maciunas, Higgins and Knowles, traveled to Europe to promote the planned Fluxus publication with concerts of antique musical instruments. With the help of a group of artists including Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell, Maciunas eventually organised a series of Fluxfests across Western Europe. Starting with 14 concerts between 1 and 23 September 1962, at Wiesbaden, these Fluxfests presented work by musicians such as John Cage, Ligeti, Penderecki, Terry Riley and Brion Gysin alongside performance pieces written by Higgins, Knowles, George Brecht and Nam June Paik amongst many others. One performance in particular, Piano Activities by Philip Corner, became notorious by challenging the important status of the piano in post-war German homes.
The score—which asks for any number of performers to, among other things, "play", "pluck or tap", "scratch or rub", "drop objects" on, "act on strings with", "strike soundboard, pins, lid or drag various kinds of objects across them" and "act in any way on underside of piano"—resulted in the total destruction of a piano when performed by Maciunas, Higgins and others at Wiesbaden. The performance was considered scandalous enough to be shown on German television four times, with the introduction "The lunatics have escaped!"
At the end we did Corner's Piano Activities not according to his instructions since we systematically destroyed a piano which I bought for $5 and had to have it all cut up to throw it away, otherwise we would have had to pay movers, a very practical composition, but German sentiments about this "instrument of Chopin" were hurt and they made a row about it...
At the same time, Maciunas used his connections at work to start printing cheap mass-produced books and multiples by some of the artists that were involved in the performances. The first three to be printed were Composition 1961 by La Monte Young see, An Anthology of Chance Operations edited by Young and Mac Low and Water Yam, by George Brecht. Water Yam, a series of event scores printed on small sheets of card and collected together in a cardboard box, was the first in a series of artworks that Maciunas printed that became known as Fluxkits. Cheap, mass-produced and easily distributed, Fluxkits were originally intended to form an ever-expanding library of modern performance art. Water Yam was published in an edition of 1000 and originally cost $4. By April 1964, almost a year later, Maciunas still had 996 copies unsold.
Maciunas' original plan had been to design, edit and pay for each edition himself, in exchange for the copyright to be held by the collective. Profits were to be split 80/20 at first, in favor of the artist. Since most of the composers already had publishing deals, Fluxus quickly moved away from music toward performance and visual art. John Cage, for instance, never published work under the Fluxus moniker due to his contract with the music publishers Edition Peters.
Maciunas seemed to have a fantastic ability to get things done.... if you had things to be printed he could get them printed. It's pretty hard in East Brunswick to get good offset printing. It's not impossible, but it's not so easy, and since I'm very lazy it was a relief to find somebody who could take the burden off my hands. So there was this guy Maciunas, a Lithuanian or Bulgarian, or somehow a refugee or whatever—beautifully dressed—"astonishing looking" would be a better adjective. He was somehow able to carry the whole thing off, without my having to go 57 miles to find a printer.
New York and the FluxShops
After his contract with the US Air Force was terminated due to ill health, Maciunas was forced to return to the US on 3 September 1963. Once back in New York, he set about organizing a series of street concerts and opened a new shop, the 'Fluxhall', on Canal Street. 12 concerts, 'away from the beaten track of the New York art scene' took place on Canal Street, 11 April to 23 May 1964. With photographs taken by Maciunas himself, pieces by Ben Vautier, Alison Knowles and Takehisha Kosugi were performed in the street for free, although in practice there was 'no audience to speak of' anyway.
'The people in Fluxus had understood, as Brecht explained, that "concert halls, theaters, and art galleries" were "mummifying." Instead, these artists found themselves "preferring streets, homes, and railway stations...." Maciunas recognized a radical political potential in all this forthrightly anti-institutional production, which was an important source for his own deep commitment to it. Deploying his expertise as a professional graphic designer, Maciunas played an important role in projecting upon Fluxus whatever coherence it would later seem to have had.' 
Along with the New York shop, Maciunas built up a distribution network for the new art across Europe and later outlets in California and Japan. Gallery and mail order outlets were established in Amsterdam, Villefranche-Sur-Mer, Milan and London, amongst others. By 1965, the first anthology Fluxus 1 was available, consisting of manila envelopes bolted together containing work by numerous artists who would later become famous including LaMonte Young, Christo and Yoko Ono. Other pieces available included packs of altered playing cards by George Brecht, sensory boxes by Ay-O, a regular newsletter with contributions by artists and musicians such as Ray Johnson and John Cale, and tin cans filled with poems, songs and recipes about beans by Alison Knowles (see). A videotape of George and Billy Maciunas' wedding was produced by Dimitri Devyatkin.
After returning to New York, Maciunas became reacquainted with Henry Flynt, who encouraged members of Fluxus to take a more overtly political stance. One of the results of these discussions was to set up a picket line at the American premiere of Originale, a recent work by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, 8 September 1964. Stockhausen was deemed a 'Cultural Imperialist' by Maciunas and Flynt, while other members vehemently disagreed. The result was members of Fluxus, such as Nam June Paik and Jackson Mac Low, crossing a picket line made up of other members, including Ben Vautier and Takako Saito who handed out leaflets denouncing Stockhausen as "a characteristic European-North American ruling-class Artist". Dick Higgins participated in the picket, and then coolly joined the other performers inside;
Maciunas and his friend Henry Flynt tried to get the Fluxus people to march around outside the circus with white cards that said Originale was bad. And they tried to say that the Fluxus people who were in the circus weren't Fluxus any more. That was silly, because it made a split. I thought it was funny, and so first I walked around with Maciunas and with Henry with a card, then I went inside and joined the circus; so both groups got angry with me. Oh well. Some people say that Fluxus died that day—I once thought so myself—but it turned out I was wrong.
The event, arranged by Charlotte Moorman as part of her 2nd Annual New York Avant Garde Festival, would cement animosities between Maciunas and her, with Maciunas frequently demanding that artists associated with Fluxus have nothing to do with the annual festival, and would often expel artists who ignored his demands. This hostility continued throughout Maciunas' life—much to Moorman's bemusement—despite her continued championing of Fluxus art and artists.
Perceived Insurgencies and the Asiatic influence
The picketing of Originale marked the high point of Maciunas' agit prop approach, an approach that estranged many of Fluxus' early proponents; Jackson Mac Low had resigned immediately after hearing 'antisocial' plans laid in April 1963, such as breaking down trucks under the Hudson River. Brecht threatened to quit on the same issue, and then left New York in the spring of 1965. Despite his continued allegiance to Fluxus ideals, Dick Higgins fell out with Maciunas around the same time, ostensibly over his setting up the Something Else Press which printed many texts by key Fluxus-related personalities and other members of the avant garde. Charlotte Moorman continued to present her annual Avant Garde Festivals.
Such perceived insurrections in the coherence of Maciunas' leadership of Fluxus provided an opening for Fluxus to become increasingly influenced by Japanese members of the group.' Since returning to Japan in 1961, Yoko Ono had been recommending colleagues look Maciunas up if they moved to New York; by the time she had returned, in early 1965, Hi Red Center, Shigeko Kubota, Takako Saito, Mieko Shiomi and Ay-O had all started to make work for Fluxus, often of a contemplative nature.
As Fluxus gradually became more famous, Maciunas' ambitions for the sale of cheap multiples grew. The second flux-anthology, the Fluxkit (late 1964), collected together early 3D work made by the collective in a businessman's case, an idea borrowed directly from Duchamp's Boite en Valise Within a year, plans for a new anthology, Fluxus 2, were in full swing to contain Flux films by John Cale and Yoko Ono (with hand held projectors provided), disrupted matchboxes and postcards by Ben Vautier, plastic food by Claes Oldenburg, FluxMedicine by Shigeko Kubota, and artworks made of rocks, ink stamps, outdated travel tickets, undoable puzzles and a machine to facilitate humming.
Maciunas' belief in the collective extended to authorship; a number of pieces from this period were anonymous, mis-attributed, or have had their authorship since questioned. As a further complication, Maciunas was in the habit of dramatically changing ideas submitted by various artists before he put the works into production. Solid Plastic in Plastic Box, credited to Per Kirkeby 1967, for instance, had originally been realised by Kirkeby as a metal box, inscribed 'This Box Contains Wood'. When opened, the box would be found to contain sawdust. By the time the multiple had been manufactured by Maciunas, it was a block of solid plastic contained in a plastic box of the same colour. Conversely, Maciunas assigned Degree Face Clock- in which a clock face is measured out in 360°- to Kirkeby despite being an idea by Robert Watts;
Some years ago, when I spoke with Robert Watts about Degree Face Clock and Compass Face Clock, he had recalled thinking up the idea himself and was surprised that George Maciunas advertised them as Per Kirkeby's. Watts shrugged and said that was the way George worked. There would be ideas in the air and Maciunas would assign the piece to one artist or another.
Other tactics from this time included Maciunas buying large amounts of plastic boxes wholesale, and handing them out to artists with the simple request to turn them into Fluxkits, and the use of the rapidly growing international network of artists to contribute items needed to complete works. Robert Watts' Fluxatlas, 1973, for instance, contains small rocks sent by members of the group from around the world.
Feminism in Fluxus
Fluxus women artists made experimental and performative work having to do with the female body that created a powerful female presence which existed within Fluxus from the group’s beginning. This is illustrated by works such as Carolee Schneeman’s “Interior Scroll,” Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece,” and Shigeko Kubota’s “Vagina Painting.” Women working within Fluxus were simultaneously critiquing their position within a male dominated society while also exposing the inequalities within an art collective that claimed to be open and diverse. George Maciunas, in his rejection of Schneeman as a member of Fluxus, called her “guilty of Baroque tendencies, overt sexuality, and theatrical excess.” “Interior Scroll” was a response to Schneeman’s experience as a member of Fluxus.
He said we are fond of you
You are charming
But don’t ask us
To look at your films
There are certain films
We cannot look at
The personal clutter
The persistence of feelingThe hand-touch sensibility— Carolee Schneeman
A number of artists in the group were interested in setting up Flux communes, intending to 'bridge the gap between the artist community and the surrounding society' The first of these, La Cédille qui Sourit or The Cedilla That Smiles, was set up in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, by Robert Filliou and George Brecht, 1965–1968. Intended as an 'International Centre of Permanent Creation', the shop sold Fluxkits and other small wares as well as housing a 'non-school', boasting the motto "A carefree exchange of information and experience. No students, no teachers. Perfect licence, at times to listen at times to talk." In 1966, Maciunas, Watts and others took advantage of new legislation drafted to regenerate the area of Manhattan known as 'Hell's Hundred Acres', soon to become rebranded as SoHo, allowing artists to buy live/work spaces in an area that had been blighted due to a proposed 18-lane expressway along Broome Street. Led by Maciunas, plans were laid to start a series of real-estate developments in the area, designed to create an artists' community within a few streets of the FluxShop on Canal Street.
'Maciunas wanted to establish collective workshops, food-buying cooperatives and theaters to link the strengths of various media together and bridge the gap between the artist community and the surrounding society'
The first warehouse, intended to house Maciunas, Watts, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Jonas Mekas, LaMonte Young & others, was located on Greene Street. Likening these communities to the soviet Kolkhozs, Maciunas didn't hesitate to adopt the title 'Chairman of Bldg. Co-Op' without first registering an office or becoming a member of the New York State Association of Realtors. FluxHousing Co-Operatives continued to redevelop the area over the next decade, and were widened to include plans to set up a FluxIsland- a suitable island was located near Antigua, but the money to buy and develop it remained unforthcoming- and finally a performance arts centre called the FluxFarm established in New Marlborough, Massachusetts. The plans were continually dogged by financial problems, constant run-ins with the New York authorities, and eventually resulted, on 8 November 1975, in Maciunas being severely beaten by thugs sent by an unpaid electrical contractor.
End of Fluxus
It is arguably said that Fluxus came to an end when its founder and leader: George Maciunas died in 1978. This was the last major event held by Fluxus. Maciunas’s funeral was held in typical Fluxus style where they dubbed the funeral “Fluxfeast and Wake”, ate foods that were only black, white, or purple.
Maciunas moved to the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts in the late 1970s. Two decades earlier, after collecting paintings, the Boston art collector Jean Brown, and her late husband Leonard Brown, began shift their focus to Dadaist and Surrealist art, manifestoes and periodicals. After Mr. Brown's death in 1971, Mrs. Brown moved to Tyringham, and expanded into areas adjacent to Fluxus, including artists' books, concrete poetry, happenings, mail art and performance art. Maciunas helped turn her home, originally a Shaker seed house, into an important center for both Fluxus artists and scholars, with Mrs. Brown alternately cooking meals and showing guests her collection. Activities centered on a large archive room on the second floor built by Maciunas, who settled in nearby Great Barrington, where it was discovered that Maciunas developed cancer of the pancreas and liver in 1977.
Three months before his death, he married his friend and companion, the poet Billie Hutching. After a legal wedding in Lee, Massachusetts, the couple performed a "Fluxwedding" in a friend's loft in SoHo, February 25, 1978. The bride and groom traded clothing. Maciunas died on May 9, 1978 in a hospital in Boston.
After the death of George Maciunas a rift opened in Fluxus between a few collectors and curators who placed Fluxus as an art movement in a specific time frame (1962 to 1978), and the artists themselves, many of whom continued to see Fluxus as a living entity held together by its core values and world view. Different theorists and historians adopted each of these views. Fluxus is therefore referred to variously in the past or the present tense. While the definition of Fluxus was always a subject of controversy, the question is now significantly more complex due to the fact that many of the original artists who were still living when Maciunas died are now dead themselves.
Some have argued that the unique control that curator Jon Hendricks holds over a major historical Fluxus collection (the Gilbert and Lila Silverman collection) has enabled him to influence, through the numerous books and catalogues subsidized by the collection, the view that Fluxus died with Maciunas. Hendricks argues that Fluxus was a historical movement that occurred at a particular time, asserting that such central Fluxus artists as Dick Higgins and Nam June Paik could no longer label themselves as active Fluxus artists after 1978, and that contemporary artists influenced by Fluxus cannot lay claim to be Fluxus artists. The Museum of Modern Art makes the same claim dating the movement to the 1960s and 1970s. However, the influence of Fluxus continues today in multi-media digital art performances. In September, 2011 Other Minds presented a performance at the SOMArts building in San Francisco to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Fluxus. The performance was curated by Adam Fong who was also one of the performers along with Yoshi Wada, Alison Knowles, Hannah Higgins, Luciano Chessa and Adam Overton.
Others, including Hannah Higgins, daughter of fluxus artists Alison Knowles and Dick Higgins, assert that although Maciunas was a key participant, there were many more, including Fluxus co-founder Higgins, who continued to work within Fluxus after the death of Maciunas. The rise of the Internet in the 1990s enabled a vibrant post-Fluxus community to emerge online. After some of the original Fluxus artists from the 1960s and 1970s including Higgins, created online communities such as the Fluxlist, following their departure, younger artists, writers, musicians, and performers have attempted to continue their work in cyberspace. Many of the original Fluxus artists still working enjoy homages by younger Fluxus-influenced artists who stage events to commemorate Fluxus but discourage their use of the "Fluxus" label for their activities.
An immediate predecessor of Fluxus, according to Maciunas, was the Gutai group which promoted art as an anti-academic, psychophysical experience, an "art of matter as it is" as explained by Shiraga Kazuo in 1956. Gutai became connected with a sort of artistic mass-production, anticipating Fluxus's trademark, i.e., ambiguity between the cultivated and the trivial, between high and low. Indeed, avant-garde art in Japan tended toward informal rather than conceptual elements, radically opposing the extreme formality and symbolism found in Japanese art.
In the 1950s New York music scene there could be discerned many issues related to the post-war disenchantment experienced by many throughout the developed world. Such disillusionment in itself presented a case for commitment to Buddhism and Zen in everyday matters such as mental attitude, meditation, and approach to food and body care. It was also felt, however, that there was a general need for a more radical. The themes of decay and the inadequacy of the idea of modernity in artistic fields were pardy taken from Duchamp and Dada and partly from individual consciousness of the uneasiness of living in contemporary society.
It is said that Fluxus challenged notions of representation, offering instead simple presentation. This, in fact, corresponds to a major difference between Western and Japanese art. Another important Fluxus characteristic was the elimination of perceived boundaries between art and life, a very prominent trend in post war art. Fluxus's approach was an everyday, "economic" one as seen in the production of small objects made of paper and plastic. Again, this strongly corresponds with some of the fundamental characteristics of Japanese culture, i.e., the high artistic value of everyday acts and objects and the aesthetic appreciation of frugality. This also links with Japanese art, and the concept of shibumi, which may involve incompleteness, and supports the appreciation of bare objects, emphasizing subdety rather than overtness. The renowned Japanese aesthetics scholar Onishi Yoshinori called the essence of Japanese art pantonomic because of the consciousness of no distinction between nature, art and life. Art is the way to approach life and nature/reality corresponding to actual existence.
Fluxus encouraged a "do-it-yourself" aesthetic, and valued simplicity over complexity. Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice. As Fluxus artist Robert Filliou wrote, however, Fluxus differed from Dada in its richer set of aspirations, and the positive social and communitarian aspirations of Fluxus far outweighed the anti-art tendency that also marked the group.
In terms of an artistic approach, Fluxus artists preferred to work with whatever materials were at hand, and either created their own work or collaborated in the creation process with their colleagues. Outsourcing part of the creative process to commercial fabricators was not usually part of Fluxus practice. Maciunas personally hand-assembled many of the Fluxus multiples and editions. While Maciunas assembled many objects by hand, he designed and intended them for mass production. Where many multiple publishers produced signed, numbered objects in limited editions intended for sale at high prices, Maciunas produced open editions at low prices. Several other Fluxus publishers produced different kinds of Fluxus editions. The best known of these was the Something Else Press, established by Dick Higgins, probably the largest and most extensive Fluxus publisher, producing books in editions that ran from 1,500 copies to as many as 5,000 copies, all available at standard bookstore prices. Higgins created the term "intermedia" in a 1966 essay.
The art forms most closely associated with Fluxus are event scores and Fluxus boxes. Fluxus boxes (sometimes called Fluxkits or Fluxboxes) originated with George Maciunas who would gather collections of printed cards, games, and ideas, organizing them in small plastic or wooden boxes. The idea of the event began in Henry Cowell's philosophy of music. Cowell, a teacher to John Cage and later to Dick Higgins, coined the term that Higgins and others later applied to short, terse descriptions of performable work. The term "score" is used in exactly the sense that one uses the term to describe a music score: a series of notes that allow anyone to perform the work, an idea linked both to what Nam June Paik labeled the "do it yourself" approach and to what Ken Friedman termed "musicality." While much is made of the do it yourself approach to art, it is vital to recognize that this idea emerges in music, and such important Fluxus artists as Paik, Higgins, or Corner began as composers, bringing to art the idea that each person can create the work by "doing it." This is what Friedman meant by musicality, extending the idea more radically to conclude that anyone can create work of any kind from a score, acknowledging the composer as the originator of the work while realizing the work freely and even interpreting it in far different ways from those the original composer might have done.
Event scores, such as George Brecht's "Drip Music", are essentially performance art scripts that are usually only a few lines long and consist of descriptions of actions to be performed rather than dialogue. Fluxus artists differentiate event scores from "happenings". Whereas happenings were sometimes complicated, lengthy performances meant to blur the lines between performer and audience, performance and reality, Fluxus performances were usually brief and simple. The Event performances sought to elevate the banal, to be mindful of the mundane, and to frustrate the high culture of academic and market-driven music and art. Other creative forms that have been adopted by Fluxus practitioners include collage, sound art, music, video, and poetry—especially visual poetry and concrete poetry.
Among its early associates were Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, La Monte Young, Joseph Byrd, Al Hansen and Yoko Ono who explored media ranging from performance art to poetry to experimental music to film. Taking the stance of opposition to the ideas of tradition and professionalism in the arts of their time, the Fluxus group shifted the emphasis from what an artist makes to the artist's personality, actions, and opinions. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s (their most active period) they staged "action" events, engaged in politics and public speaking, and produced sculptural works featuring unconventional materials. Their radically untraditional works included, for example, the video art of Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman and the performance art of Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell. The often playful style of Fluxus artists led to their being considered by some little more than a group of pranksters in their early years. Fluxus has also been compared to Dada and aspects of Pop Art and is seen as the starting point of mail art and no wave artists. Artists from succeeding generations such as Mark Bloch do not try to characterize themselves as Fluxus but create spinoffs such as Fluxpan or Jung Fluxus as a way of continuing some of the Fluxus ideas in a 21st-century, post-mail art context.
Use of Shock in Fluxus Art
Nam June Paik, and his peers in the Fluxus art movement, throughly understood the power that only shock can provide to the people viewing their work. Fluxus artists understood that shock not only makes the viewer question their own reasoning but it also is the means in which to awaken the viewer, "...from a perceptive lethargy furthered by habit". Paik himself describes the vitality of the shock factor in the viewing of his Fluxus work: "People who come to my concerts or see my objects need to be transferred into another state of consciousness. They have to be high. And in order to put them into this state of highness, a little shock is required... Anyone who came to my exhibition saw the head and was high,". The "head" of which Paik speaks of is that of a real's cow head that "greeted" (and, as anticipated, most likely greatly shocked) the viewers of his artwork at the entrance to his exhibition, Exposition of Music—Electronic Television, located in the Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, Germany in 1963. A black and white photograph, taken by Rolf Jahrling, shows exactly the decapitated cow's head to which Paik refers to... its' large, empty eyes glazed over, seemingly staring at the viewer, suspended in midair by three visible white lines (ropes?). A German journalist reviewing Paik's exhibition had this to say: "In Germany there is an explanation for everything," in explaination that his society (at the time) had no place for "meaningless activity". This journalist may have been shocked, but saw no purpose or reason behind it.
Fluxus is similar in spirit to the earlier art movement of Dada, emphasizing the concept of anti-art and taking jabs at the seriousness of modern art. Fluxus artists used their minimal performances to highlight their perceived connections between everyday objects and art, similarly to Duchamp in pieces such as Fountain. Fluxus art was often presented in "events", which Fluxus member George Brecht defined as "the smallest unit of a situation". The events consisted of a minimal instruction, opening the events to accidents and other unintended effects. Also contributing to the randomness of events was the integration of audience members into the performances, realizing Duchamp's notion of the viewer completing the art work.
The Fluxus artistic philosophy has been defined as a synthesis of four key factors that define the majority of Fluxus work:
- Fluxus is an attitude. It is not a movement or a style.
- 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.
- Fluxus works are simple. The art is small, the texts are short, and the performances are brief.
- Fluxus is fun. Humor has always been an important element in Fluxus.
There is a complexity in adequately charting a unified history of Fluxus. In Fluxus: A brief History and Other Fictions, Owen Smith concedes that with the emergence of new material published on Fluxus and with its expansion to the present its history must remain open. This resistance to be pigeonholed and the absence of a stable identity really opened Fluxus up to wide participation but also, from what would appear in history, closed off that possibility. Maciunas made frequent acts of excommunication between 1962 and 1978 which destabilized the collective. Kristine Stiles argues in one of her essays that the essence of Fluxus is “performative”, while recently she feels that essence has been “eroded or threatened”. Fluxus instead moved towards favoring the objects of publication, Stiles asserts: "Care must be taken that Fluxus is not transformed historically from a radical process and presentational art into a tradition static and representational art." With no leadership, no identifiable guide line, no real collective strategy, no homogeneity in terms of practices, Fluxus cannot be handled through traditional critical tools. Fluxus is an indicator of this confusion. Fluxus therefore is nearly always a discourse on the failure of discourse.
Fluxus artists shared several characteristics including wit and "childlikeness", though they lacked a consistent identity as an artistic community. This vague self-identification allowed the group to include a variety of artists, including a large number of women. The possibility that Fluxus had more female members than any Western art group up to that point in history is particularly significant because Fluxus came on the heels of the white male-dominated abstract expressionism movement. However, despite the designed open-endedness of Fluxus, Maciunas insisted on maintaining unity in the collective. Because of this, Maciunas was accused of expelling certain members for deviating from what he perceived as the goals of Fluxus.
Many artists, writers, and composers have been associated with Fluxus over the years, including:
- Eric Andersen
- John Armleder
- Michael Basinski
- Joseph Beuys
- Bazon Brock
- Peter Brötzmann
- Joseph Byrd
- John Cage
- John Cale
- Giuseppe Chiari
- Henning Christiansen
- Philip Corner
- Jean Dupuy
- Öyvind Fahlström
- Robert Filliou
- Henry Flynt
- Julien Friedler
- Ken Friedman
- Al Hansen
- Bernard Heidsieck
- Geoffrey Hendricks
- Dick Higgins
- Alice Hutchins
- Toshi Ichiyanagi
- Ray Johnson
- Joe Jones
- Franz Kamin
- Allan Kaprow
- Bengt af Klintberg
- Milan Knížák
- Alison Knowles
- Takehisa Kosugi
- Philip Krumm
- Shigeko Kubota
- George Landow
- Vytautas Landsbergis
- Jackson Mac Low
- Richard Maxfield
- George Maciunas
- Jonas Mekas
- Gustav Metzger
- Charlotte Moorman
- Maurizio Nannucci
- Louise Odes Neaderland
- Yoko Ono
- Robin Page
- Nam June Paik
- Ben Patterson
- Terry Riley
- Dieter Roth
- Takako Saito
- Carolee Schneemann
- Mieko Shiomi
- Daniel Spoerri
- James Tenney
- Yasunao Tone
- Cecil Touchon
- Ben Vautier
- Wolf Vostell
- Yoshi Wada
- Robert Watts
- Emmett Williams
- La Monte Young
Scholars, critics, and curators associated with Fluxus
Major collections and archives
- Alternative Traditions in Contemporary Art, University Library and University of Iowa Museum of Art, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
- Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
- Archivio Conz, Verona, Italy
- Artpool, Budapest, Hungary
- Emily Harvey Foundation, New York City, and Venice, Italy
- David Mayor/Fluxshoe/Beau Geste Press papers, Tate Gallery Archive, Tate Britain, London, England
- Fluxus Collection, Ken Friedman papers, Tate Gallery Archive, Tate Britain, London, England
- Fluxus Collection, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
- Franklin Furnace Archive, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
- George Maciunas Memorial Collection, The Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA
- Gilbert and Lila Silverman, Fluxus Foundation, Detroit, Michigan, and New York City, USA
- Museo Vostell Malpartida, Cáceres, Spain.
- Jean Brown papers, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
- Sammlung Maria und Walter Schnepel, Bremen, Germany
- De Montfort University, Leicester, UK
- TVF The Endless Story of FLUXUS, Gent, Belgium
- Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, Vilnius, Lithuania
- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Gift from the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection, Detroit, to American Friends of the Israel Museum
- Baas, Jacquelynn, et al.[full citation needed] Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life. Chicago and Hanover, NH: University of Chicago Press and Hood Museum of Art, 2011.
- Bernstein, Roslyn, and Shael Shapiro. Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo (Jonas Mekas Foundation), www.illegalliving.com ISBN 978-609-95172-0-9, September 2010.
- Block, René, ed. 1962 Wiesbaden Fluxus 1982. Wiesbaden: Harlekin Art, Museum Wiesbaden, and Nassauischer Kunstverein, 1982.
- Fluxus und Freunde: Sammlung Maria und Walter Schnepel, Katalog zur Ausstellung Neues Museum Weserburg Bremen; Fondazione Morra, Napoli; Kunst Museum Bonn 2002.
- Friedman, Ken, ed. The Fluxus Reader. Chicester, West Sussex and New York: Academy Editions, 1998.
- Gray, John. Action Art. A Bibliography of Artists’ Performance from Futurism to Fluxus and Beyond. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1993.
- Haskell, Barbara. BLAM! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism and Performance 1958–1964. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1984.
- Hansen, Al, and Beck Hansen. Playing with Matches. RAM USA, 1998.
- Hapgood, Susan, and Cornelia Lauf. FluxAttitudes. Ghent: Imschoot Uitgevers, 1991.
- Held, John Jr. Mail Art: an Annotated Bibliography. Metuchen, New Jersey and London: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1991.
- Held, John Jr. Where the Secret is Hidden: Collected Essays Breda: TAM-Publications Netherlands, 2011.
- Hendricks, Geoffrey, ed. Critical Mass, Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia and Rutgers University 1958–1972. Mason Gross Art Galleries, Rutgers, and Mead Art Gallery, Amherst, 2003.
- Hendricks, Jon, ed. Fluxus, etc.: The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan: Cranbrook Museum of Art, 1982.
- Higgins, Hannah. Fluxus Experience. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
- Janssen, Ruud. Mail-Interviews Part-1 Interviews with Mail-Art and Fluxus Artists. Breda: TAM-Publications, Netherlands 2008.
- Kellein, Thomas. Fluxus. London and New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995.
- Milman, Estera, ed. Fluxus: A Conceptual Country, Visible Language [Special Issue], Vol. 26, Nos. 1/2, Providence: Rhode Island School of Design, 1992.
- Fluxus y Di Maggio. Museo Vostell Malpartida, 1998, ISBN 84-7671-446-7.
- Moren, Lisa. Intermedia. Baltimore, Maryland: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 2003.
- Paull, Silke, and Hervé Würz, eds. "How We Met or a Microdemystification". AQ 16 [Special Issue], (1977)
- Phillpot, Clive, and Jon Hendricks, eds. Fluxus: Selections from the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1988.
- Saper, Craig J. Networked Art. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
- Schmidt-Burkhardt, Astrit. Maciunas’ Learning Machines: From Art History to a Chronology of Fluxus, with a foreword by Jon Hendricks. Second, revised and enlarged edition, Vienna and New York: Springer, 2011. ISBN 978-3-7091-0479-8.
- Smith, Owen. Fluxus: The History of an Attitude. San Diego State University Press, San Diego, California, 1998.
- Nie wieder störungsfrei! Aachen Avantgarde seit 1964, Kerber Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-86678-602-8.
- Stegmann, Petra, ed. 'The lunatics are on the loose …' European Fluxus festivals 1962–1977. Down With Art!, Berlin 2012. ISBN 978-3-9815579-0-9.
- Stegmann, Petra, ed. Fluxus East. Fluxus-Netzwerke in Mittelosteuropa. Fluxus Networks in Central Eastern Europe. Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 2007. ISBN 978-3932754876.
- Würz, Fleurice Fluxus Nice. Saarbrücken (Germany): AQ-Verlag, 2011. ISBN 978-3-922441-11-3.
- "Fluxus Movement, Artists and Major Works". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
- Armstrong, Elizabeth (1993). In the Spirit of Fluxus. Minneapolis: The Occasion of the Exhibition. p. 24. ISBN 9780935640403.
- Anon. "Nam June Paik: Section 2: Fluxus, Performance, Participation", Tate Online, n.d.
- Petra Stegmann (Ed.): „The lunatics are on the loose …“. European Fluxus Festivals 1962–1977. Die Irren sind los …. Down with Art, Potsdam 2012, ISBN 978-3-9815579-0-9.
- Maciunas himself joined the class in 1959–60, and was taught by Maxfield
- George Brecht; A Heterospective, Walther König, p28.[full citation needed]
- Michael Corris, MoMA, Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, 2009
- Anti-art, Art that challenges the existing accepted definitions of art, Tate
- Hapgood, Susan and Rittner, Jennifer. "Neo-Dada: Redefining Art, 1958-1962" Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 63-70.
- Performances at Yoko Ono's Chambers Street Loft
- Tate, Nam June Paik, Fluxus, Performance, Participation
- Dick Higgins on Fluxus, interviewed 1986.
- Amongst the earliest pieces that would later be published by Fluxus were Brecht's event scores, the earliest of which dated from around 1958/9, and works such as Valoche, which had originally been exhibited in Brecht's solo show 'Toward's Events' at 1959.
- full title, 'An Anthology of chance operations concept art anti-art indeterminacy improvisation meaningless work natural disasters plans of action stories diagrams Music poetry essays dance constructions mathematics compositions'
- Chamberlain, Colby. "Design in Flux" Art In America. Oct. 1, 2014
- Fluxus Manifesto, 1963, by George Maciunas
- Fluxus Codex, Hendricks, p22
- Fluxus Codex, Hendricks, p91
- Maciunas, Fluxus Prospectus, quoted in Fluxus Codex, Hendricks, p23
- Raoul Hausmann, quoted in Mr. Fluxus, Williams andNoel, p40. Letter dated 4 November 1962, according to The Dream of Fluxus, n.47, p65
- The lecture was actually given, in German, by Artus C Caspari
- The Dream of Fluxus, Kellein, p62
- Marcus Boon
- "Die Irren Sind Los" quoted in The Dream Of Fluxus, Kellein, p65.
- George Maciunas, letter to La Monte Young, 1962, quoted in Mr. Fluxus, Williams and Noël, p53
- Price listed in the Fluxus Preview Review, July 1963, quoted in the Fluxus Codex, Hendricks, Abrams, 1989 p217
- Maciunas, letter to Emmett Williams, quoted in Mr. Fluxus, Williams and Noel, p106
- Fluxus Codex, Hendricks, p24
- The Dream of Fluxus, Kellein, p69
- This was to go down to 50/50 within a year; Dream of Fluxus, Kellein, p88
- Maciunas sent out letters to 20 international artists between late 62 and early 63, demanding each artist relinquish any publishing rights and have Fluxus as sole and exclusive publisher. Maciunas likened his agreement to Cage's arrangement with Peters Editions. Only two artists—Henry Flynt and Thomas Schmitt signed up. Cage was not asked, due at least on Maciunas' side, to the aforesaid contract with editions peters. Dream of Fluxus, Thomas Kellein, Thames And Hudson, p69-71
- George Brecht, "An Interview with Robin Page for Carla Liss", In Art And Artists, London October 1972, p30-31 reprinted in Mr. Fluxus, Williams and Noel, Thames And Hudson, p109-10 ISBN 0-500-97461-6
- Art in Review, NY TImes
- Mr. Fluxus, Willims and Noel, p340
- The Dream of Fluxus, p93
- Julia Robinson quoting George Brecht in George Brecht, Events; A Heterospective, Walther Konig, p118.
- The Dream of Fluxus, p109
- Marriage of George and Billy Maciunas
- At the time, a member of the leftist set WWP, Mr Fluxus, p108
- Bloch, Mark. "On Originale.", from Bloch, Mark, editor. "Robert Delford Brown: Meat, Maps and Militant Metaphysics," Cameron Museum of Art, Wilmington, N.C., 2008.
- The Dream of Fluxus, p98
- Picket Stockhausen Concert! Flynt and Maciunas flyer, 1964. Reproduced[full citation needed]
- A particular bone of contention was Stockhausen's supposed referral to jazz as 'primitive... barbaric... beat and a few simple chords... garbage...' in a lecture given in 1958
- A film of the event, UbuWeb
- Dick Higgins, "A Child's History of Fluxus", 1979.
- The Dream of fluxus, note 104, p98
- Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik "The Originale"
- Stewart Home, The Assault on Culture, The origins of Fluxus and the movement in its 'heroic' period, Chapter 9
- Jackson Mac Low quoted in Mr Fluxus, p94-95
- Annual Avant Garde Festival of New York
- The Dream of Fluxus, p101
- Dream of Fluxus, p102
- Fluxkit, MoMA
- Fluxus Codex, p76
- MoMA, Interactive exhibitions
- containing empty pill packages
- fluxus codex, Hendricks, p124
- Yoko Ono, for instance, has claimed authorship of Mieko Shiomi's Disappearing Music For Face (aka Smile) for instance.
- fluxus codex p290
- Jon Hendricks, quoted in fluxus codex, p291.
- 'All contributors will receive a box in return...' Codex, p542
- O'Dell, Kathy (Spring 1997). "Fluxus Feminus". TDR. Retrieved October 6, 2015.
- The History of Artists and Art Production in SoHo, Danielle
- Harren, Natilee. "La cédille qui ne finit pas: Robert Filliou, George Brecht, and Fluxus in Villefranche." Getty Research Journal, No. 4 (2012), pp. 127-143.
- Fluxkit documenting the project
- Dream of Fluxus, p131
- The Dream of Fluxus, p132
- Dream of Fluxus, p147
- DiTolla, Racy (2015). "Fluxus Movement, Artists and Major Works". The Art Story.
- According to Hutching, quoted in Mr. Fluxus, p280. Maciunas was a transvestite and masochist.
- Ken Johnson, Liberating Viewers, and the World, With Silliness, NY Times, exhibition Review
- Fluxus at NYU
- Hendricks, Jon. 1988. Fluxus codex. Detroit, Mich: Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection in association with H.N. Abrams, New York.
- Robert Pincus-Witten on Fluxus, and Jon Hendricks's Codex
- MoMA exhibitions, October 2009 – August 2010 Retrieved 5 September 2010
-  Retrieved August 1, 2014
- Interview with Hannah Higgins
- Bloch, Mark. "The Boat Book: Alison Knowles"
- Drinkall, Jacquelene. "Human Telepathic Collaborations from Fluxus to Now"
- Galliano, Luciana (Summer 2006). "Toshi Ichiyanagi, Japanese Composer and "Fluxus"". JSTOR.
- Robert Filliou on Fluxus and art Retrieved 5 September 2010
- Ken Friedman, 40 Years of Fluxus Retrieved 5 September 2010
- Maciunas on Fluxus Retrieved 5 September 2010
- Fluxus and Happening, the Something Else Press Retrieved 5 September 2010
- UBUWeb Retrieved 5 September 2010
- Kellein, Hendriks, and Hendricks 1995[page needed].
- Brill, Dorothee (2010). Shock and the Senseless in Dada and Fluxus. University Press of New England Hanover and London. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-58465-917-4.
- Rush 2005, p. 24.
- On George Brecht, Robert Filliou and others Retrieved 5 September 2010
- Rush 2005, p. 25
- Smith 1998,[page needed].
- Higgins 1966,[page needed]
- O'neill, Rosemary. In the Spirit of Fluxus. Art Journal 53.1 (1994): 90-93. Web.
- O'dell, Kathy. Fluxus Feminus. Tdr (1988-) 41.1 (1997): 43-60. Web.
- Fluxus, More Flux Than History. Art-Press 391 (2012): 65-69. Art Source. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.
- O'Dell, 1997, p. 43
- Oren 1993, p. 8.
- Baas, Jacquelynn, et al. Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life, pp 80,86. Chicago and Hanover, NH: University of Chicago Press and Hood Museum of Art, 2011.
- Tate Archive and Public Records Catalogue
- Getty Research Institute. Selected Special Collections Finding Aids. Jean Brown papers, 1916–1995, bulk 1958–1985.. Retrieved 28 August 2008.
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Performance art|
- Links at Ubuweb:
- Interview with Ken Friedman
- 1962–2012 50 anniversary Fluxus in Germany
- European Fluxus Festivals 1962–1977
- John Cage on I've Got A Secret performing Water Walk, January 1960, from the same era as his teaching classes at the New School
- MOMA online archive of Fluxus 1, Fluxkit and Flux Year Box 2
- Museum Fluxus+ Potsdam Germany
- Subjugated Knowledges exhibition catalogue
- Fluxus Debris! Art/Not Art
- The Copenhagen Fluxus Archive
- Dick Higgins collection at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County
- Hendricks, Jon. Fluxus Codex. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1989.
- Higgins, Dick. 1966. "Intermedia." Something Else Newsletter. Vol. 1, No. 1.
- Kellein, Thomas, and Jon Hendricks (1995). Fluxus. London: Thames & Hudson.
- O'Dell, Kathy. 1997. "Fluxus Feminus." The Drama Review. Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 43–60.
- Oren, Michel. 1993. "Anti-Art as the End of Cultural History." Performing Arts Journal. Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 1–30.
- Robinson, Julia. 2005. George Brecht Events: A Heterospective. Cologne: Museum Ludwig and Bucchandlung Walther Koenig.
- Robinson, Julia. 2008. From Abstraction to Model: In the Event of George Brecht and the Conceptual Turn in the Art of the 1960s. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Princeton: Princeton University.
- Rush, Michael. 2005. New Media in Art. London: Thames & Hudson.
- Smith, Owen. 1998. Fluxus: The History of an Attitude. San Diego: San Diego State University Press.
- Williams, Emmett, and Ann Noel, eds. Mr. Fluxus: A Collective Portrait of George Maciunas. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.