About this term
Source: Oxford University Press
Informal international group of avant-garde artists working in a wide range of media and active from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Their activities included public concerts or festivals and the dissemination of innovatively designed anthologies and publications, including scores for electronic music, theatrical performances, ephemeral events, gestures and actions constituted from the individual’s everyday experience. Other types of work included the distribution of object editions, correspondence art and concrete poetry. According to the directions of the artist, Fluxus works often required the participation of a spectator in order to be completed (see Performance Art).
The name Fluxus, taken from the Latin for ‘flow’, was originally conceived by the American writer, performance artist and composer George Maciunas (1931–78) in 1961 as the title for a projected series of anthologies profiling the work of such artists as the composer La Monte Young (b 1935), George Brecht, yoko Ono, Dick Higgins (b 1928), Ben, Nam June Paik and others engaged in experimental music, concrete poetry, performance events and ‘anti-films’ (e.g. Paik’s imageless Zen for Film, 1962). In a manifesto of 1962 (‘Neo-Dada in Music, Theater, Poetry, Art’, in J. Becker and W. Vostell: Happenings, Fluxus, Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, Hamburg, 1965), Maciunas categorized this diversity under the broad heading of ‘Neo-Dada’ and stressed the interest shared by all the artists in manifesting time and space as concrete phenomena. Influences of Fluxus noted by Maciunas included John Cage’s concrete music (1939) and intermedia event at Black Mountain College, NC (1952), with Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and others; the Nouveaux Réalistes; the work of Ben; the concept art of Henry Flynt (b 1940); and Duchamp’s notion of the ready-made.
The first of many Fluxus festivals, or Fluxconcerts, was organized by Maciunas in 1962 at the Museum Wiesbaden in Wiesbaden, Germany, to promote the anthology. The International Fluxus Festival of the Newest Music (festum fluxorum) consisted of 14 concerts, presenting musical and performance work by Joseph Beuys, Brecht, Cage, Alison Knowles (b 1933), Paik, Wim T. Schippers, Wolf Vostell, Robert Watts (1923–87), Young and others. Fluxconcerts—sometimes called Aktionen—also took place in Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Nice, Stockholm and Oslo in 1962 and 1963. These events organized by Maciunas were influenced and paralleled by the independent activities of Young, Flynt, Robert Morris (ii) and others at Yoko Ono’s studio in New York in 1961 and Brecht and Watts’s Yam Festival in New York in 1963. All these artists were eventually associated with Maciunas and Fluxus, either through their collaboration on multiples, inclusion in anthologies, or participation in Fluxus concerts. The typical Fluxconcert consisted of a rapid series of performances of short events of scored actions and music. These events frequently consisted of physical performances representative of mundane activities, or music based on non-musical sound sources. They were often humorous and concerned with involving the audience, specifically to disrupt the expected conventions of musical and theatrical performance and spectatorship; their ‘event scores’ were characterized by reduction, repetition, improvisation and chance.
About nine major compilations of activities of Fluxus artists were planned. The first, entitled Fluxus 1 (Wiesbaden and New York, 1964), was termed a yearbox, because of its unique wooden packaging. The contents included texts and objects by dozens of artists associated with the first Fluxfestival, such as Ay-O, Brecht, Stanley Brown, Robert Filliou, Ken Friedman (b 1949), Geoff Hendricks (b 1931), Higgins, Takehisa Kosugi, Jackson MacLow (b 1932), Takako Saito, Tomas Schmit, Ben and Emmett Williams (b 1925). The publication of collections of object-based works by artists associated with Fluxus and the documentation of Fluxconcerts soon became the focus of Maciunas’s activities. Examples of these publications include: broadsides, such as Fluxmanifesto on Fluxamusement (edited by Maciunas in New York, 1965); the 11 irregularly published editions of the Fluxus Newspaper (New York, 1964–79); Fluxyearbox 2 (1966–8, 1976); the Duchamp-inspired attaché case of objects entitled Fluxkit (New York, 1965–6); the Fluxfilms anthology (New York, 1966) and the Fluxus Cabinet (New Marlborough, MA, 1975–7). Perhaps most important of all of Maciunas’s publishing activities remain the object multiples, conceived as inexpensive, mass-produced unlimited editions. These were either works made by individual Fluxus artists, sometimes in collaboration with Maciunas, or, most controversially, Maciunas’s own interpretations of an artist’s concept or score. Their purpose was to erode the cultural status of art and to help to eliminate the artist’s ego.
Fluxus embraced many of the concepts and practices associated with the post-war avant-garde of western Europe and North America, including those of Lettrism, concrete poetry, concrete and random music, Happenings and conceptual art, as first described by Flynt during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Under the organization and direction of Maciunas, a specific programme of ideological goals was formulated and disseminated through a series of manifestos. The manifesto of 1963 exhorted the artist to ‘purge the world of bourgeois sickness, “intellectual”, professional and commercialized culture … dead art, imitation, artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art … promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art, … non art reality to be grasped by all peoples, not only critics, dilettantes and professionals’. The Fluxmanifesto on Fluxamusement used innovative typography and ready-made printed images to communicate the concept of the self-sufficiency of the audience, an art where anything can substitute for an art work and anyone can produce it.
From Grove Art Online