Beginnings of Fluxus
Fluxus was an avant-garde art movement that emerged in the late 1950s as a group of artists who had become disenchanted with the elitist attitude they perceived in the art world at the time. These artists looked to Futurists and Dadaists for inspiration, focusing especially on performance aspects of the movements. The Dadaist use of humor in art was also definitive in the formation of the Fluxus ethos. The two most dominant forces on Fluxus artists were Marcel Duchamp and John Cage, who championed the use of everyday objects and the element of chance in art, which became the fundamental attitude and practice of all Fluxus artists.
The early phase of Fluxus, often called Proto-Fluxus, began in 1959 when a group of artists who had met in Cage's class at The New School in New York banded together to form the New York Audio Visual Group. This group provided venues for experimental and performance art. Al Hansen, Dick Higgins and Jackson Mac Low were associated with this group, and would all be part of Fluxus. George Maciunas, often credited as the driving force behind what is otherwise a rather inchoate movement, would often be in the audience at the performance venues. Maciunas is credited with naming the group Fluxus, which means "to flow." The first Fluxus event was organized by Maciunas at the AG Gallery in New York in 1961, where he was co-owner. The event was called Bread & AG, and consisted of readings by poet Frank Kuenstler. That was the first in a series of performances that were staged that year at AG Gallery.
Fluxus: Concepts, Styles, and Trends
George Maciunas had strong opinions he frequently and forcefully expressed, often leading to contention between himself and other Fluxus artists. Maciunas articulated his beliefs in Fluxus manifestos, one being that fine art, "at least its institutional forms," should be, "totally eliminated." Other Fluxus artists such as Jackson Mac Low did not agree, once writing, "...I would not want to eliminate museums (I like museums)."
Maciunas was a bit of a volatile leader; he would indiscriminately expel individuals from Fluxus according to his whims and had no qualms about dropping artists for the most petty of disagreements. In 1963, Maciunas removed Jackson Mac Low from the Fluxus group, and the following year, expelled Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, and Nam June Paik.
Essentially, while a group of artists who were all considered Fluxus existed, they did not all agree to the same ideals and each viewed Fluxus in a different way. As filmmaker George Brecht put it, "In Fluxus there has never been any attempt to agree on aims or methods; individuals with something unnamable in common have simply coalesced to publish and perform their work."
Fluxus events included audience participation as a way of involving the public in the making of art. Such was the 1970 Fluxfest Presentation of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, where Maciunas made paper masks of John Lennon and Yoko Ono for the audience to wear. With this act, Maciunas shifted the role of the viewer from observer to performer .The use of the audience as the focus of the piece was a logical extension of his idea that, "anything can substitute for art and anyone can do it...the value of art-amusement must be lowered by making it unlimited, mass-produced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all."
Although Fluxus is mainly known for performances and organized events, Fluxus artists also created more plastic forms of art, such as boxes filled with various items (often called Fluxkits), prints, and Fluxus films. Sometimes these works were not signed, as per Maciunas' belief that the ego of the artist should be removed from the artwork, meaning all pieces should be signed as simply, "Fluxus."
Fluxus and Zen
Zen is a Japanese Buddhist philosophy that focuses on meditation and the importance of the present moment. No single moment is to be more important than another in life. Zen had a powerful impact on John Cage who thought that art should be concerned with equivalency of values instead of elevating artistic experiences from everyday experiences - "in this way art becomes important as a means to make one aware of one's actual environment." This comes directly from Buddhist teachings on the importance of being aware of every moment and present in every moment in life.
Fluxus artists sought to apply that philosophy to art. This idea comes from Cage's classes at the New School where some artists followed along these lines in their work related to Fluxus. Besides wanting to challenge the elitist art institutions, the other side of Fluxus was to reach a kind of enlightened state that involved art so much that art and life would meld into one, and there would be no distinction between them. Although Maciunas once stated that Fluxus was, "more like Zen than Dada." Maciunas himself was less concerned with the Zen aspect of things and more concerned with a political, nonsensical, and anti-art stance.
Later Developments - After Fluxus
Fluxus arguably came to an end with the death of Maciunas in 1978. A "Fluxfuneral" was held, as had been requested by Maciunas, and put together by Geoffrey Hendricks, where several Fluxus artists performed. Afterwards there was a "Fluxfeast and Wake," where, in typical Fluxus fashion, all food was black, white or purple. This was the last major Fluxus event, although smaller episodes are occasionally held, even today.
The influence of Fluxus resonates throughout the arts particularly with later incarnations of Performance art, Land art, and Graffiti and Street art, and those artists who deliberately work outside established museum systems. An artist like Banksy is a good example of the continuation of the Fluxus philosophy.
- George Maciunas was a founding member of Fluxus, an international community of artists, architects, composers, and designers. He is most famous for organizing and performing happenings and for assembling a series of highly influential artists' multiples.
- Yoko Ono is a Japanese-American artist, musician, author, and peace activist, known for her work in avant-garde art, music and filmmaking as well as her marriage to the lendary John Lennon. Ono was highly succcesful iin bringing feminism to the forefront of the art world through her performance and conceptual pieces.
- Nam June Paik worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the first video artist. Paik is credited with coining the term "information superhighway" and was known for making robots out of television sets.
- Allan Kaprow was an American painter, collagist, assemblagist and performance artist. Kaprow was best known for trailblazing the artistic concept "happenings," which were experiential artistic events rather than single works of art.
- George Brecht's artworks and musical compositions offered a different edge than the artists of the time and Neo-Dada peers. And he made important works constructed from everyday objects designed for viewer interaction.
- Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese multimedia artist, best-known for her awe-inspiring and captivating installations of polka dots and psychedelic colors. Through her installations, poetry, paintings, performances, and film she importantly contributed to many of the post-war art movements.
- Joseph Beuys was a German multi- and mixed-media artist best known for incorporating ideas of humanism, social philosophy and politics into his art. Beuys practiced everything from installation and performance art to traditional painting and "social sculpture." He was continually motivated by the belief of universal human creativity.
- John Cage was an American composer and conceptual artist who incorporated chance, silence, and environmental effects into his performances. An important art theorist, he influenced choreographers, musicians, and the Fluxus artists of the 1970s.
- Walter de Maria is an American sculptor, composer, and multi-media artist whose best known work is The Lightning Field (1977), consisting of 400 lightning rods situated on a field in New Mexico.
- Robert Morris is an American artist whose early L-beam and column sculptures were key works in Minimalism. His work also includes felt and c pieces, performance, body art, and earthworks, often with an emphasis on process and theatricality.
- Carolee Schneemann is an American visual artist, known for her discourses on the body, sexuality and gender. Her work is primarily characterized by research into visual traditions, taboos, and the body of the individual in relationship to social bodies. Schneemann's works have been associated with a variety of art classifications including Fluxus, Neo-Dada, the Beat Generation, and happenings.
Do Not Miss
- The term "happening" was coined by artist Allan Kaprow in 1957 to decribe a series of multi-media artworks on display in a single locale. In general, a happening is an art event, often staged or pre-scripted, that requires active participation from an audience to come to full fruition. This relatively new form of artistic media could be called participatory.
- Neo-Dada refers to works of art from the 1950s that employ popular imagery and modern materials, often resulting in something absurd. Neo-Dada is both a continuation of the earlier Dada movement and an important precursor to Pop art. Some important Neo-Dada artists include Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Robert Morris and Allan Kaprow.
- British artists of the 1950s were the first to make popular culture the dominant subject of their art, and this idea became an international phenomenon in the 1960s. But the Pop art movement is most associated with New York, and artists such as Andy Warhol, who broke with the private concerns of the Abstract Expressionists, and turned to themes which touched on public life and mass society.
Content compiled and written by Tracy DiTolla
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Content compiled and written by Tracy DiTolla
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
First published on 21 Jan 2012. Updated and modified regularly