Fluxus is the most radical and experimental trend

Alison Knowles. Wounded furniture, 1965
Alison Knowles. Wounded furniture, 1965

The most radical and experimental trend in the art of the sixties of the twentieth century

Fluxus is an international art movement of the 60s-70s of the XX century, whose followers in their works combined various ways of artistic expression and means of communication. The main idea of ​​fluxus is a spontaneous process of creativity, expressed in the form of a happening, performance, installation, action or performance, and the result of such an action is of minimal importance for both the artist and the audience.

Fluxus often includes not only elements of the visual arts, but also components of music, poetry, choreography, and acting. Supporters of this movement deliberately rejected any restrictions in creativity, and their philosophy has much in common with the popular avant-garde movement of the early twentieth century Dadaism.

Dick Higgins Performing at Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik, 1962
Dick Higgins Performing at Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik, 1962

Distinctive features of fluxus

Fluxus, according to most of its followers, is the complete opposite of both academic and commercial art. The artists created many works in a satirical and even hooligan manner, thereby trying to erase the boundaries between the ordinary life of people and high art.

Fluxus. Christian Wolfe. Sticks from a collection of prose, 1971
Christian Wolfe. Sticks from a collection of prose, 1971

The main distinguishing features of fluxus are:

Globalism. Supporters of this movement do not recognize the boundaries between cultures of different countries, but stand for free access to art for any person, regardless of his social status, origin or nationality.

Widespread use of intermedia. But the application of this or that media technology should have a deep meaning, and not be part of the commercial component.

Randomness. Any action by the artist must be unpredictable, and deliberate interference to achieve a predetermined effect is not allowed.

Fluxus. Piano performances by Philip Corner, 1962
Piano performances by Philip Corner, 1962

The game. The creative process should be fun, not only artists but also spectators can take part in it.

Simplicity. The author expresses the idea in the most simple forms with the help of the most trivial things, in which you can always see the unusual.

The experimental nature of creativity. There can be no mistakes or failures in it, and every job has the right to life.

Musicality. Moreover, a real artist can create musical material from the most unusual things that most people absolutely do not associate with music.

Fluxus significantly differs from other modern movements in a huge variety of followers, to which representatives of different professions belonged (artists, poets, composers, writers, musicians and philosophers). In addition, the revolutionary movement has given the world a unique type of work of art “scores”. The essence of the score lies in the fact that the artist describes in detail the sequence of actions on paper that any person can perform in order to join the art.

Fluxus. Ben Patterson. Double Bass Variations, 1962
Ben Patterson. Double Bass Variations, 1962
The history of the development of fluxus

The history of fluxus dates back to the late 1950s, when, at a lecture by renowned composer John Cage, the young artist George Maciunas first heard the theory of the simplicity of art and the beauty of everyday things. At the same time, Allan Kaprow developed the concept of “happening” and presented it to the general public, and Ray Johnson came up with “mail art”.

It was then that Machiunas had an idea in his head about creating a new trend in contemporary art, which, according to the author’s plan, was to unite ideas:

  • Dadaists;
  • abstract expressionists;
  • Chinese Zen teachings;

founders of the German Bauhaus school. With an energetic nature and powerful charisma, Machiunas began to form a group of like-minded people and began to develop a coherent concept of the movement. At first he decided to call the revolutionary movement “new Dadaism” and even wrote a letter outlining his ideas to one of the most famous Dadaists Raoul Hausmann. But the recognized master of avant-garde art suggested changing the name to “fluxus” so as not to mislead the public.

Ay-Oh. Happening Rainbow, 2012
Ay-Oh. Happening Rainbow, 2012

In 1962, Machiunas and a group of supporters organized a series of Fluxfest festivals in several Western European countries, at which original works of the movement’s participants were presented. The main purpose of these events was to raise funds for the publication of the magazine Fluxus, where the artists intended to publish their works.

However, in reality, events developed in a completely different way. The publication of the magazine was postponed for several years, but thanks to the festivals, the new movement gained many followers in different parts of the world. Joseph Beuys, one of the founders of the movement, invited Machiunas to write a programmatic manifesto outlining the main ideas of fluxus, which were distinguished by their extreme radicalism of views.

Yoko Ono. Performance Cut a Piece, 1964
Yoko Ono. Performance Cut a Piece, 1964
Fluxorum festival

The manifesto was first announced at the Fluxorum festival in Düsseldorf in 1963, but the ideas presented in it led to a split in the new movement. Some of its members, led by Karlheinz Stockhausen, refused to take part in radical actions against museums and theaters, for which they were immediately excluded from the fluxus.

Despite this, Machiunas subsequently continued to work closely with the excluded participants in the movement. Simultaneously, he began to form a network of regional branches of the current around the world, trying to create a manageable homogeneous structure under his leadership. But among innovative artists, it was very difficult to realize the idea of ​​a centralized flow with a strict discipline, although Machiunas never gave up on it.

Over time, many regional branches even removed the word “fluxus” from the name of their associations. However, this did not stop them from taking part in festivals and communicating with other artists. For almost 20 years, Machiunas remained the main driving force of the movement, who, with his pressure and dedication, attracted many new participants every year and tried to coordinate the actions of various branches. But in 1978, the creator of the course died of cancer and the course finally lost its controllability signs. After that, over the next 20 years, interest in fluxus on the part of the public and critics decreased markedly, only to then flare up with renewed vigor already at the beginning of the 21st century.

The most famous followers of fluxus

Among the adherents of the movement, there are many iconic figures in the history of modern art. And yet, the most famous followers of fluxus include:

George Machiunas is an American artist and composer of Lithuanian origin, the undisputed leader of the movement for 20 years. Machiunas got along well with people and literally infected them with his non-trivial ideas.

George Brecht is the inventor of the famous scores of events, a chemist by training, an artist and musician by vocation. Brecht was also a fan of Zen Buddhism and even translated the ancient philosophical text Xinxin Ming from Chinese.

Joseph Beuys is a German artist, original speaker and creator of numerous performances. In his works, Boyce often touched upon the theme of the alienation of modern man from living nature.

Yoko Ono is a Japanese avant-garde artist and singer, widow of John Lennon, author of many striking performances.

Fluxus ideas have proven to be very viable. The philosophy of the movement continues to live in festivals, exhibitions and forums of contemporary art. In the 21st century, fluxus museums began to open in different parts of the world, and on the Internet there are many sites dedicated to the history of the emergence, development and promotion of this extraordinary trend of contemporary art.

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