Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life

“Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life”

George Maciunas, Burglary Fluxkit, 1971, seven-compartment clear box with white paper label containing seven keys, including a roller skate key, dimensions variable.

Dartmouth College, 6034 Hood Museum of Art
April 16–August 7

Discussing his text-based event scores, George Brecht once wrote: “Rather than an image of a concrete moment in life, [they are] a signal preparing one for the moment itself. Event scores prepare one for an event to happen in one’s own now.” His remark, about how the score projects through itself into the experiential now, might serve as a concise introduction to “Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life,” which, in presenting over one hundred works from Fluxus artists including Brecht, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, and Robert Watts, seeks an operative rather than historical value in Fluxus. The show asks, “What’s Fluxus good for?” A lot, it turns out.

The Hood’s George Maciunas Memorial Collection forms the core of the exhibition, its holdings supplemented with loans from MoMA and the Walker Art Center, among others. Guest curator (and original Hood director) Jacquelynn Baas has organized the various puzzles, event scores, films, books, and Flux-objects, all tightly displayed in a series of three small galleries, categorized under a set of fourteen “essential questions” including “Love?,” “Freedom?,” and “Time?” in groupings both considered and (often) lighthearted.

The heading “Danger?” includes Maciunas’s playful Burglary Fluxkit, 1971, which holds seven keys to aid in all manner of unlawful entry. More ominous is another Maciunas work, a door outfitted with large metal blades affixed to its exterior: Titled Giant Cutting Blades Door from Flux Combat with New York State Attorney (and Police), 1970–75, it addresses Maciunas’s legal difficulties in New York in a manner both determined and tongue-in-cheek. To be sure, the door raises the stakes of one interpretation of George Brecht’s Word Event (Exit), 1961, displayed here under “Death?”; yet Brecht’s work, like much on view, graciously accommodates many possible variations, posing numerous questions all its own.

Edward Vazquez

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