Fluxus (1960s)

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Fluxus can be defined as a loose network of artists who shared certain sensibilities. Its project, inasmuch as it had a unified goal, was very similar to that of the S.I.; those involved saw greater potential for movement and expression within daily existence than was currently sanctioned by society, and, through their various artistic projects, sought to live and advocate the creative life.

Whilst it was perhaps less explicitly radical than either Dada or the S.I., Fluxus was motivated by the same essential concerns, and, at bottom, shared the same enemy; the stifling influence of an advanced capitalist system. Inasmuch as Dada could be perceived as a predominantly destructive project – an attempt to destroy the values that it considered corrosive – Fluxus could be seen as largely the opposite. In the wake of Modernism, there was, in a sense, nothing left to destroy. Fluxus emerged at a time when the stable meanings of pre-Modernist society – faith in progress, order, and reason – had already been reduced to rubble; a time, on the cusp of what was to be referred to as Postmodernism, when all that was left to do was play amongst the ruins. If there was nothing left to destroy, then the only thing to do was build. Its project was realized through prolific acts of creation, most of which took place under the watchful eye of its unofficial ‘CEO’, George Macuinas.

Of particular importance were the ideas of participation and do-it-yourself. In advocating creative living, Fluxus pointed towards a way of life that was theoretically accessible to everyone, and through its initiatives it sought, like Dada, to combat the idea that art was the exclusive province of the artist, and to reintroduce the idea of creativity as a valuable part of daily existence.

Fluxus artworks were various in number and content, but notable among them was the Fluxbox. Primarily a way of re-categorizing various everyday objects – objects that we may have become mindless to - in a bid to stimulate imagination, each box would contain an assortment of objects, together with an image or text that aimed to reframe them, to explode their possibilities. One box, for example, contained a number of lengths of dried spaghetti, its title reading ‘flux-snakes.’ Another contained seeds, shells, twigs, keys, and a chesspiece, with the instruction to ‘Spell your name with these objects.’

Also notable were ‘Event Scores’ – these worked in a similar manner to musical scores, only instead of containing musical notation they generally contained written instructions. Dick Higgins score ‘Danger Music Number Eleven’, for example, contains the instruction to “Change your mind repeatedly in a lyrical manner about Roman Catholicism.”

Imagination was key to those involved in Fluxus, and their playful interventions were a way of reinvigorating a fundamental human capacity that was, and is, perpetually in danger of being dulled by a system that serves to limit the truth of the individual.

“Fluxus is inside you, is part of how you are. It isn’t just a bunch of things and dramas but is part of how you live.”8


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