Fluxus Experience

Fluxus Experience

Hannah Higgins

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0520228677

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this groundbreaking work of incisive scholarship and analysis, Hannah Higgins explores the influential art movement Fluxus. Daring, disparate, contentious—Fluxus artists worked with minimal and prosaic materials now familiar in post-World War II art. Higgins describes the experience of Fluxus for viewers, even experiences resembling sensory assaults, as affirming transactions between self and world.

Fluxus began in the 1950s with artists from around the world who favored no single style or medium but displayed an inclination to experiment. Two formats are unique to Fluxus: a type of performance art called the Event, and the Fluxkit multiple, a collection of everyday objects or inexpensive printed cards collected in a box that viewers explore privately. Higgins examines these two setups to bring to life the Fluxus experience, how it works, and how and why it's important. She does so by moving out from the art itself in what she describes as a series of concentric circles: to the artists who create Fluxus, to the creative movements related to Fluxus (and critics' and curators' perceptions and reception of them), to the lessons of Fluxus art for pedagogy in general.

Although it was commonly associated with political and cultural activism in the 1960s, Fluxus struggled against being pigeonholed in these too-prescriptive and narrow terms. Higgins, the daughter of the Fluxus artists Alison Knowles and Dick Higgins, makes the most of her personal connection to the movement by sharing her firsthand experience, bringing an astounding immediacy to her writing and a palpable commitment to shedding light on what Fluxus is and why it matters.

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divisions could be precise.57 Although there are many other Fluxus food works, those I have described suggest a strong inclination on the part of Fluxus artists to work with food and taste. The problems of analyzing the works are significant, however. Few epistemologists have theorized on taste and smell, nor have art historians considered these elements in art. Fluxus food works are effectively marginalized, therefore, both because they fail to conform to a visual model of artistic practice and

world that values work according to prevailing aesthetic conventions. Interpretation of the experiential dynamic must therefore be both culturally specific and, however radical vis-à-vis normative artistic practice, arguably conventional vis-à-vis the avantgarde. Think Duchamp. I will return to this point in Chapter 2. Almost all Fluxus artists, however, far from retreating into a world of artistic habit and forever producing minimal Fluxkits and Events, also work in traditional artistic media, as

clearly directed . . . can reduce the attendance of the masses to these decadent institutions.”22 In this context, to “understand” would have meant to accept the complaints about Fluxus News-Policy Letter number 6 and the oppressive relationship it described between cultural institutions and the apparently unenlightened public. Mac Low’s criticism of the policy newsletter suggests, however, that this relationship is not necessarily—not always—oppressive, and that it can be effectively criticized

experience—can hardly be surprised [at seeing] Fluxus and Happenings grouped as a subject of a single manifestation. After all, Fluxus and Happenings were contemporaneous—Happenings surfacing only slightly earlier— and a good many artists swam happily in both of the currents of this great single stream. The difference, finally, if there is a difference, lies in their programmatic intentions.26 The “program” Lebel refers to here, of course, is the disputed activist political agenda associated with

thrived on adversarial debate (Streitkultur) rooted in a basic social consensus.’ ”76 Thus in Germany, Fluxus becomes, perhaps ironically and certainly unintentionally, affirmative culture: that is, it supports official cultural policy. Contemporary statements by Fluxus artists in the German art press likewise emphasize the pluralistic nature of Fluxus. For example, Kunst Köln published Ben Patterson’s comments on the exhibition “Fluxus-Virus 1962–1992” in terms that move the line of origin past

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