George Brecht,  <em> Water Yam, c. 1963</em> thumbnail
George Maciunas,  <em> Flux Box 2 </em> thumbnail
George Brecht,  <em> Water Yam, c. 1963</em>
George Maciunas, Flux Box 2

George Brecht, Water Yam, c. 1963

George Maci­u­nas, Flux Box 2 

Fluxus was a group of avant-garde artists, poets, design­ers and archi­tects. Most pro­lif­ic in the 1960s and 1970s, Fluxus art prac­tices empha­sized exper­i­men­tal­ism, chance, and the blur­ring of art and life. Fluxus was inspired by pre­vi­ous artists and move­ments includ­ing Dadism, Bru­tal­ism, Haiku, Mar­cel Duchamp and the exper­i­men­tal music and teach­ing of John Cage. Indi­vid­u­als asso­ci­at­ed with Fluxus includ­ed George Maci­u­nas, Dick Hig­gins, Ali­son Knowles, George Brecht, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys, Robert Watts, La Monte Yong and Alan Kaprow. Fluxus was, and is, a rad­i­cal depar­ture from tra­di­tion­al con­cep­tions of art, with key mem­bers under­stand­ing their prac­tice to be social and par­tic­i­pa­to­ry rather than aes­thet­ic. As Ken Fried­man (1998) reflect­ed on the Fluxus rela­tion­ship to the art world, “art was so heav­i­ly influ­enced by rigidi­ties of con­cep­tion, form and style that the irrev­er­ent Fluxus atti­tude stood out like a loud fart in a small ele­va­tor” (p. 249).

One of the most explic­it­ly artic­u­lat­ed visions of the Fluxus phi­los­o­phy can be found in the Fluxus Man­i­festo writ­ten by George Maci­u­nas in 1962. Maci­u­nas’ explained that the pur­pose of Fluxus was to “purge the world of bour­geois sickness…Purge the world of dead art, imi­ta­tion, arti­fi­cial art, abstract art.” This was fol­lowed by the Fluxus desire to pro­mote “liv­ing art, anti-art…to be grasped by all peo­ples, not only crit­ics, dilet­tantes and pro­fes­sion­als.” Sig­nif­i­cant Fluxus projects includ­ed George Brecht’s Water Yam, a card­board box hous­ing an assort­ment of print­ed cards in var­i­ous sizes that con­tain abbre­vi­at­ed, haiku-like prompts called ‘event scores.’ These open-end­ed instruc­tions invit­ed par­tic­i­pants to enact every­day actions or con­tem­plate impos­si­ble sce­nar­ios. This even­tu­al­ly mor­phed into what became known as Fluxk­its, which often includ­ed a wide range of objects and provo­ca­tions often con­tained with­in a suit­case or box.

Fluxk­its and Flux edi­tions were often pre­sent­ed to audi­ences dur­ing Fluxus per­for­mances. What was con­sis­tent across the Fluxk­its and Fluxus per­for­mances was that each had a sense of imme­di­a­cy and both were cre­at­ed with ratio­nal­ly defined para­me­ters in mind. This is not to sug­gest that Fluxk­its or Fluxus events were rigid­ly chore­o­graphed, but rather that enabling con­straints were put in place to guide inde­ter­mi­na­cy and chance. For exam­ple, a famous 1962 piano per­for­mance cre­at­ed by Philip Cor­ner and pro­duced by Maci­u­nas called Piano Activ­i­ties includ­ed ‘event scores’ for nine pos­si­ble roles for “many pianists.” Pos­si­ble roles includ­ed “play­ing the piano in an ortho­dox man­ner, drop­ping objects on the strings, act­ing on the strings with objects such as ham­mers or drum sticks, and “act­ing in any way on the under­side of the piano.”  Over­all, the Fluxus approach gave rise to new con­cep­tions of art and edu­ca­tion and is relat­ed to a notions of inter­me­dia and inter­dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty in which knowl­edge flows across dis­ci­pli­nary boundaries.