The History of the Fluxus Group
Fluxus is an international avant-garde collective founded in the 1960s, founded by Lithuanian/American artist George Maciunas, which continues to exist today. Fluxus started as a small but international network of artists and composers, which was characterized as a shared attitude rather than a movement. Rooted in experimental music, it was named after a magazine that featured the work of centered musicians and artists such as avant-garde composer John Cage. Fluxus founder Maciunas stated that the group's objective is: 'to promote a revolutionary flood in art, to promote living art, anti-art'. Clearly this has strong echoes of Dadaism, the art movement of the early 20th century. The Latin word Fluxus comes from the word to flow, and Fluxus' main centers of activity were New York, Germany and Japan. The first event was held in 1961 at the AG Gallery in New York and in 1962 at festivals in Europe. Fluxus has played an important role in opening up definitions of what art can be and has profoundly influenced the nature of artistic production since the 1960s, which saw a diverse range of artistic forms and approaches exist and flourish side by side. Unlike other movements, Fluxus did not have a single unifying style and was intentionally uncategorized. Fluxus projects were comprehensive and often multidisciplinary, humorous and based on cheap, everyday materials and experiences – including everything from breathing to answering the phone. Undoubtedly, Fluxus was an alternative to academic art and music, a democratic form and creativity open to anyone. Collaborations were encouraged between artists and between art forms, and also with the public or spectator. Humour, simplicity and anti-commercialism were valued, with chance playing an important role in the creation of the works.
Many 1960s artists participated, including Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins, Alice Hutchins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Ben Vautier, Robert Watts, Benjamin Patterson and Emmett Williams. When asked to define Fluxus, Maciunas would often respond with recordings of dogs barking, in order to question but also demonstrate experimentation and acceptance of the absurd at its core. Performances – which Fluxus artists called “Events” in order to distinguish them from Happenings and other art-based forms of performance – were a significant part of the movement. These were largely based on sets of written instructions, called “scores”, giving reference to the fact that they were derived from musical compositions. Following a score would result in an action, event, performance or one of the many other types of experiences that were generated from this vibrant movement.
Many were inspired by the older artist, songwriter and musician John Cage. Through his work and charismatic teaching, he demonstrated that art and life can be fluidly reconciled. This is reflected, in part, in his works by having embraced chance in his musical compositions – including ambient noises or sounds of audience members coughing, moving their seats and sometimes even bothering the artists – and using things as objects. everyday households as tools. Cage's drive to find artistic potential in everyday life resonated with Fluxus artists. Widely recognized as the originator of musical minimalism, composer and artist La Monte Young has also been associated with Fluxus. His compositions were characterized by their reduced structures and exceptional duration. In 1960, he collaborated with the artist Yoko Ono to organize a series of events for artists, dancers, musicians and songwriters held at Ono's studio in downtown New York, known as the Chambers Street Loft Series. George Maciunas attended, as did many other artists who would become involved with Fluxus. the studio ofYoko Ono it has become a center for new innovative and experimental work.
In 1964,Yoko Ono debuted cut piece, sitting alone on a stage with scissors in front of her, instructed the audience to approach and use the scissors to cut off a piece of her clothing. She remained almost motionless and expressionless as several members of the audience obeyed, sometimes aggressively. As he wrote about the experience in 1966: “People went on cutting the parts they do not like of me finally there was only the stone left of me that was in me but they were still not satisfied and wanted to know what it’s like in the stone ."Yoko Ono he repeated the play over the years and wrote the performance step by step for anyone to recreate—which many people have done, and many more are likely to continue to do.
Like many of their peers, early Fluxus members Nam June Paik and Alison Knowles worked in technological ways. Paik, considered a pioneer of video art, was one of the first artists to create performative works that immersed audiences in rich visual and auditory experiences, centered on ingeniously altered television sets and manipulated video cameras. He collaborated with avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman on several musical performances.For his part, Knowles has created performances, sound pieces, installations, sculptures, book objects and prints that have their roots, in part, in the artist Cage. In 1962, the composer stated: You can stay with music while you're hunting mushrooms. [A] mushroom grows for such a short time, and if you happen to come across it when it's fresh it's like coming across a sound, which also lives a short time.” Knowles believes that the time they spent together looking for wild mushrooms was important in helping her develop her vision and led to her incorporating food into the various Fluxus projects.
How important is Fluxus now?
Although it might be an exaggeration to say that the Fluxus movement revolutionized the art world or the real world in the way that Maciunas called for in his manifesto. However, this movement helped to radically transform notions of what art can be. Fluxus artists pushed art outside of conventional venues such as galleries and museums. His informal, spontaneous and often ephemeral pieces were not only difficult to collect and explain; they were also sometimes difficult to recognize as art. But museums and galleries eventually caught up with and absorbed these works. The same has happened to the younger generations of artists, who continue to build on the freedom that the movement introduced into art with their own work. The next time you walk into an art space and find a sculpture made up of objects you can find in your own home, thank Fluxus for helping to lay the groundwork.