Walker Art Center Celebrates Fluxus in All Its Manifestations

Walker Art Center Celebrates Fluxus in All Its Manifestations


The work of what has been called “the most radical and experimental art movement of the sixties” will be presented in an exhibition premiering at the Walker Art Center. February 14 through June 6. and subsequently traveling to New York City; Chicago; Columbus. Ohio; San Francisco; and Barcelona.

In the Spirit of Fluxus
provides an in-depth view of Fluxus, a largely unacknowledged movement whose ranks included an international array of artists, writers, composers, filmmakers, and performers. Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Fluxus, the exhibition will highlight the wide-ranging activities of the loosely knit group whose approach to art and life proved critical to the development of a number of major art forms, including performance art. Minimalism. video art. and Conceptual Art. Organized by Walker curator Elizabeth Armstrong and curatorial associate Joan Rothfuss, the exhibition draws from the Walker’s Fluxus collection and includes loans from numerous private collections, artists, and museums. Reflecting the multifaceted nature of Fluxus, it will include performance relics, books, Object multiples, posters, films, and full-scale reconstructions of Fluxus environments.

The Walker’s show examines the development of Fluxus, beginning with an introduction to the artistic context from which it emerged, providing a thorough examination of its peak years of activity from 1962 to 1978, and concluding with a selection of early and recent works by artists associated with Fluxus in spirit and sensibility. Among the many themes explored in the exhibition are those with which Fluxus was most concerned: the role of the artist in society, the relationship between art and everyday life, and the creative interaction between the viewer and the art object. According to curator Armstrong: ‘The questions raised by Fluxus artists – especially those having to do with long-held cultural assumptions about artistic quality. value and meaning – reflect a major shift taking place in society’s understanding of the function and practice of art. Thirty years later. these same concerns are being explored by a new generation of artists. historians, critics, and curators.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Walker Art Center will publish a scholarly catalogue examining the movement’s historical Origins and theoretical bases. A number of related programs are also scheduled, including film screenings, Fluxus performances, and a symposium that wI1I examine further the Issues raised in the exhibition and catalogue. (A complete listing of Fluxus events Is attached.) After Its run at the Walker, the show wI1I travel to the Whitney Museum of American Art. New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, Columbus. Ohio: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: and the Fundacio Antoni Tapies, Barcelona.

Genesis of Fluxus

Fluxus emerged in the early 1960s as an antidote to the atmosphere of the 1950s art world. In contrast to the championing of individual artists that characterized Abstract Expressionism, Fluxus strove to downplay reverence for creative genius and for the rarity ascribed to artworks. Propelled by the boundlessly energetic George Maciunas, who was the self-appointed “chairman” of Fluxus, the group struggled to break down the barriers between art and Its pubUc. This effort was manifested In a broad range of activities that celebrated chance occurrences and the ephemera of dally life.

Of central Importance to the Fluxus sensibility was the notion of intermedia – the attitude that an artwork need not be restricted to such conventional categories as painting or sculpture. Instead, as suggested by the Latin word that the group took as Its moniker – meaning a “continuous moving on or passing by, as of a flowing stream” the boundaries between media were blurred. Fluxus works draw from a variety of media, combining them In a unique synthesis that continues to defy traditional definition.

As a means of promoting its collective spirit, George Maciunas published editions of artists’ works under the Fluxus copyright. These editions were based on prototypes and ideas contributed by the artists, and ranged from newspapers and posters to games and small boxes filled with an assortment of objects. Because the editions were produced inexpensively and marketed through Fluxshops and mail-order. there was much greater accessibility to them than normally provided by the gallery system. Willem de Ridder’s European Mail-Order Warehouse/Fluxshop (1964-1965), which has been reassembled by the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, will be Included In the exhibition. In contrast to the monumental scale of traditional artworks, Fluxus editions encourage an intimate relationship with their audience via their small scale and “performative” quality. De Ridder’s “shop” contains a panoply of such material, in which interaction between the viewer and the object Is a necessary aspect of the experience. As viewers examine a work’s contents – reading text, playing with objects, following an event score – they enact a performance between themselves and the Fluxus piece, enlivening an otherwise static object.

Performance itself was crucial to the dissemination of the Fluxus sensibility, serving as a means to circumvent the traditional context of the art experience. Numerous festivals – referred to as “concerts of everyday livelong” by one artist – were staged across Europe and the United States In which the Fluxus goal of “living art” or “anti-art” was promoted. The performances capitalized on chance occurrences and emphasized the body as a site for artistic activity. These aspects are embodied in Nam June Pilk’s Zen for Head (1962), In which Paik used his body as the vehicle for paint. Renowned as the “father of video art,” Paik was one of the earliest participants in Fluxus.

In the Spirit of Fluxus highlights critical components of Fluxus

The multifaceted, intermedial nature of Fluxus is demonstrated in the exhibition through approximately 1,000 objects and documentary materials representing over 40 artists and covering the period from 1962 to the present. The exhibition includes works by Eric Andersen, Ay-O, Joseph Beuys. George Brecht, Robert Filliou, Ken Friedman, Geoffrey Hendricks. Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Milan Knizak, Alison Knowles, Arthur Koepcke, Shigeko Kubota, George Maciunas, Larry Miller, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Benjamin Patterson, Takako Saito, Carolee Schneemann, Paul Sharits, Mieko (Chieko) Shlomi, Daniel Spoerrl, Ben Vautier, Wolf Vostell, Yoshi Wada, Robert Watts, Emmett Williams, and La Monte Young, among many others.

In order to place this vibrant movement within its artistic context, the Walker’s show approaches Fluxus from several thematic perspectives. The political, social, and artistic milieu of Fluxus is introduced by an extensive audiovisual program in the museum’s Information Room. This introduction examines the historical antecedents of Fluxus, highlighting the diverse disciplines that converged to create this distinctive attitude towards art. Futurist theater. Dada, Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, and the late John Cage’s “new music” figure prominently among the many influences explore in this program.

Another component of the exhibition examines Fluxus festivals – such as the Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik (Fluxus International Festival of Very New Music), Wiesbaden (1962), the Festum Fluxorum, Dusseldorf (1963), and the Perpetual Fluxus Festival. New York City (1964/1965) – bringing together audio and video documentation, photographs, posters, and performance relics to provide a multidimensional context for an understanding of this Important aspect of Fluxus. This section of the show also includes Ben Vautier’s recreation of his Living Sculpture, Originally constructed in London for the 1962 Festival of Misfits, in which the artist Inhabited a gallery window for 15 days. This piece stems from earlier works In which Vautier literally signed human beings as works of art, further blurring the distinction between art and life.

Another section of the exhibition is devoted to the objects and publications created in a collaborative spirit during the group’s heyday (1962-1978). Hundreds of Fluxus editions were produced under the direction of George Maciunas, and they constitute the core of Fluxus visual material. Reconstructions of several environments in this component of the exhibition provide visitors with a unique opportunity to interact directly with Fluxus. For the first time since Its creation in Berlin In 1976. the 60-foot-long FluxLabyrinth, a combination funhouse, maze, and tactile obstacle course, will be reconstructed In its full scale so that visitors can themselves navigate its tangled paths. The Film Wallpaper Environment, featuring a continuously running montage of Fluxfilrns projected on the walls of a small room, will also enhance viewers’ first-hand experience. In the Flux Cafe, visitors can peruse reprints of Fluxus literature, such as the Fluxus newspapers known as V TREs, and watch Fluxus videotapes over a cup of coffee.

Fluxus never constituted a definitive movement, but it exemplified a certain attitude: in recognition of its non-static, ongoing character, a final section of the exhibition expands upon the parameters of Fluxus, suggesting that strict limitations cannot be Imposed on this elusive subject. Works that date from the late 1950s to the present reflect the Fluxus spirit and sensibility In a wide-ranging group of artists from Europe, Asia, and the United States who have contributed to this innovative endeavor.

Exhibition Publication

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Walker Art Center will publish a fully illustrated, 192-page book that provides an in-depth consideration of the movement’s historical origins and theoretical bases. This publication brings together scholars from various disciplines who are questioning previous assumptions about Fluxus and about modernism generally. Essays explore the social and political context from which Fluxus emerged, examining such topics as popular culture, philosophy, and politics of the 1950s and 1960s. Also included are essays on Fluxus publications, film, music, and performance that analyze the social and philosophical underpinnings of Fluxus; the Innovative and subversive contributions of its founder, George Maciunas; the interdisciplinary and international character of the movement; and its significant influence on experimental forms of contemporary art including performance, conceptual, and video art. Authors include German Uterary scholar Andreas Huyssen and British cultural historian Simon Anderson; art historians Kristine Stiles and Owen Smith; audio artist and historian Douglas Kahn; Walker Film/Video curator Bruce Jenkins; and exhibition curator Erizabeth Armstrong. The book is available in both hard- and softcover through the Walker Art Center; it is distributed nationally through D.A.P./Distrlbuted Art Publishers, New York.


Held in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition at the Walker, a two-day symposium on Friday and Saturday, February 12 and 13, will provide a forum for discussion on a wide variety of topics pertinent to Fluxus. This interdisciplinary symposium will examine not only the cultural and social milieu from which Fluxus emerged but wI1I also explore relationships between Fluxus and related forms, such as folklore and music. Issues related to the collecting and marketing’ of Fluxus, as well as to its critical reception. wI1I also be addressed. Among those participating in this event are a broad cross section of artists, scholars, curators, and critics, including Bengt af Klintberg, Dick Higgins, Hannah Higgins, Andreas Huyssen, Jill Johnston, Barbara Moore, Clive Phillpot, Kathy O’Dell, Kristine Stiles, and Ben Vautier, all of whom will bring their own perspectives to this multifaceted subject.

Perfoming Arts Programs
On Friday evening, February 12, Emmett Williams, the Internationally renowned performer, poet, painter, and printmaker, presents a vibrant and unconventional history of Fluxus as he takes his audience on a lively, uncensored tour of Fluxus past and present. Under the direction of Fluxus artists Ben Vautier and Larry Miller, in residence at the Walker during February, local artists and performers will present “classic” Fluxus scores at the museum. Their Interpretations of these pieces wI1I be presented in the gallery spaces during the members’ opening of the exhibition.

A second program focuses on the music of La Monte Young, a composer who has been seen as a link between John Cage and Fluxus, and will include a concert featuring his Chronos Kristalla performed by the California-based Kronos Quartet on Monday, February 15 in the Fluxus galleries. Young’s Annod will be performed by the Twin Cities-based new music ensemble Zeitgeist on Thursday, February 18, in the Walker Auditorium.

On Saturday, February 20, a special program will take place at the Arena Health Club In downtown Minneapolis, featuring dancers, musicians, actors, and artists performing site-specific works In the pool, gymnasium, handball courts, running tracks, and other areas within the club. This event will culminate with an “Informal” performance by New York’s Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

Film/Video Programs

A special series of film screenings will be presented during March to supplement the moving-image media within the exhibition. These programs begin with a retrospective of the films of Fluxus artist and filmmaker Yoke Ono curated by Whitney Museum of American Art Film/Video curator John G. Hanhardt and organized by the American Federation of Arts. This three-part series demonstrates the singular style and tone of Ono’s work and Includes her earliest productions for Fluxus and her collaborations with John Lennon.

A second related program focuses on three decades of video art by the pioneering Fluxus artist Nam June Paik presented In the Walker’s Videotheque series.

In April there will be a survey of Fluxfilms representing more than 20 artists who worked in association with Fluxus. This series will open with a new film portrait of George Maciunas by the celebrated Independent filmmaker Jonas Mekas. Subsequent screenings will mix a survey of Fluxfilms by artists Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell, and Paul Sharits, with silent comedies ‘by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.


In the Spirit of Fluxus is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The reconstructions of the Flux-Labyrinth and Ben Vautier’s Living Sculpture from the Festival of Misfits have been partially supported by Lila and Gilbert Silverman, Detroit, Michigan. The Walker’s ongoing program of Extended Artists’ Residences and related public programs is made possible by generous grants from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation. and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Major operating support for the Walker Art Center Is provided by the Dayton Hudson Foundation on behalf of Dayton’s and Target Stores, The McKnight Foundation, the General Mills Foundation, Burnet Realty, the Honeywell Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, and the Institute of Museum Services. Major support for the Walker Art Center exhibition program Is provided by The Bush Foundation.

The book accompanying the exhibition has been made possible in part by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation In support of Walker Art Center publications,