Henry Flynt at the Cafe Oto in October 2008.
|Movement||Anti-art, concept art, avant-garde music, nihilism|
Henry Flynt (born 1940 in Greensboro, North Carolina) is an American philosopher, musician, writer, and artist associated with the 1960s New York avant-garde. An influence on the concurrent Fluxus movement, Flynt coined the term "concept art" in 1961 and received attention for his anti-art activism in subsequent years. In recent decades, he has focused on philosophical work related to nihilism, science, and mathematical logic. A number of his archival musical recordings were released in the 2000s.
Henry Flynt was raised in North Carolina and was a trained violinist. He later attended Harvard University on a scholarship, where he studied mathematics alongside later companions Tony Conrad and John Alten. He soon dropped out and visited New York in 1960, where he was introduced to La Monte Young and other figures in the city's avant-garde scene. Young would dedicate his 1960 composition "X for Henry Flynt" to Flynt. In 1960 and 1961, Flynt took part in the monthly concert series held at Yoko Ono's Chambers Street loft.
Flynt’s work developed from what he called "cognitive nihilism", a concept he first announced in the 1960 and 1961 drafts of a paper called Philosophy Proper. The concept derives from insights about the vulnerabilities of logic and mathematics, and aims to turn the empirical principles of scientific positivism and analytical philosophy against themselves. Flynt refined these dispensations in the essay Is there language? that was published as Primary Study in 1964.
Concept art and activism
In 1961 Flynt coined the term "concept art" in the Neo-Dada, proto-Fluxus book An Anthology of Chance Operations (co-published by Jackson Mac Low and La Monte Young) that was released in 1963, alongside works by Fluxus artists such as George Brecht and Dick Higgins. Flynt's concept art, he maintained, devolved from cognitive nihilism. 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 (accusing Stockhausen of white supremacy and cultural imperialism). 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. In the 1960s, Flynt also performed music both solo and in collaboration with others.
In 1987 he revived his "concept art" for tactical reasons; and spent seven years in the art world.
Henry Flynt is also known for his musical work, often with him performing on violin, ukulele, or guitar, that attempted to fuse avant-garde music with hillbilly music. Other influences included the free jazz of Ornette Coleman; rhythm & blues and Delta blues music; garage rock protest music; and the North Indian classical music learned with singer Pran Nath. He briefly performed with the Velvet Underground in 1967 as a fill-in for John Cale, and received guitar lessons from Lou Reed. With the exception of his 1981 cassette release You Are My Everlovin'/Celestial Power, none of his recordings were released until the 21st century.
Much of Henry Flynt's subsequent recorded output has been release on the Recorded and Locust 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 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). In 1966, he recorded several rehearsal demo tapes with Walter De Maria and others as Henry Flynt & The Insurrections, a garage rock band, which were later compiled and released in 2004 on Locust Music as I Don't Wanna.
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.
Flynt's early philosophical writing, including the 1961 draft of Philosophy Proper, was published in Milan in the book Blueprint for a Higher Civilization (1975). In the 1970s, he returned to college to study communist economics. From about 1980, Flynt has written on philosophy and economics in mostly unpublished papers, focusing on two concepts which did not achieve the notoriety of the early actions: his concepts of meta-technology and personhood theory. Deriving broadly from his early arguments around "cognitive nihilism," Flynt's work in these areas aims to challenge the dogmatic scientism and apparent coherence of contemporary scientific and mathematical discourse. In the late 1970s, he organized several meetings on the "crisis in physics" in an attempt to identify the areas where modern science represses incoherent or irrational logics in order to propagate its "objective" worldview. Much of his writing is available on his website.
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.
- Grubbs, David. "Read an excerpt from David Grubbs's Records Ruin The Landscape". The Wire. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
- 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" .
- 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. 956
- Cope. J. "Henry Flynt & The Insurrections: I Don't Wanna." Julian Cope Presents Head Heritage. Julian Cope's Album of the Month. November, 2005. http://www.headheritage.co.uk/unsung/albumofthemonth/henry-flynt-and-the-insurrections-i-dont-wanna
- Beta, A. "Henry Flynt/Insurrections: I Don't Wanna." Pitchfork. Pitchfork Music Festival.com. Feb. 19, 2004. http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/3288-i-dont-wanna-with-the-insurrections/
- Home, Stewart. "Stewart Home Interviews Henry Flynt". Stewart Home Society. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
- 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
- Christophe Levaux, (2015) Henry Flynt et la réinvention des racines culturelles, tacet 4.
- 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 (1986; recorded 1980-81)
- Graduation and Other New Country and Blues Music, Ampersand (2001; recorded 1975-79)
- Raga Electric, Locust Music (2002; recorded 1963-71)
- C Tune, Locust Music (2002; recorded November 17, 1980)
- Back Porch Hillbilly Blues, Volume 1, Locust Music (2002)
- Back Porch Hillbilly Blues, Volume 2, Locust Music (2002)
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 2: Spindizzy, Recorded Records (2002; recorded 1968-1983)
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 3: Hillbilly Tape Music, Recorded Records (2003; recorded 1971-78, 2001)
- I Don't Wanna, Locust Music (2004; recorded 1966)
- Purified by the Fire, Locust Music (2005; recorded December 14, 1981)
- Henry Flynt & Nova' Billy, Locust Music (2007; recorded 1975)
- New American Ethnic Music, Volume 4: Ascent to the Sun, Recorded Records (2007; recorded December 2004)
- Dharma/Warriors, Locust Music (2008; recorded 1983)
- Glissando No. 1, Recorded Records (2011; recorded 1978-79)
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Henry Flynt|
- Henry Flynt: Philosophy
- Works by Henry Flynt at the Museum of Modern Art
- Online reading: Henry Flynt's text "The Meaning of My Avant-Garde Hillbilly and Blues Music".
- 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
- Henry Flynt in New York (29 videos)
- 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