film in flux

the superlative ubuweb has made a group of 37 short fluxus films from 1962-1970 available online in quicktime format. i for one am not exactly a fan of fluxus as a movement. it seems, in my far from scholarly view, that it is in fact a perfect model for what not to do as an artist. namely: claim to reject “limiting art theories” then explain your position by putting forth wordy, convoluted, and vague theories of your own. add to this one of they key components of the movement, the rejection of “pure aesthetic objectives” and what does that ultimately leave you with after the “aktions” are over? 40 years worth of words i guess.

this is not to say that the movement, or the individuals who took up the fluxus banner, were not important in context. though not exactly a roll call of giants the fluxus movement does call some heavies it’s own (beuys being the most revered, yoko ono probably the most visible). it’s just that intellectual circle jerks do nothing for me. worse, the movements that rise from the ashes of pervious movements, lacking the contextual fire which animated the original, continue to plod through the artistic landscape like the conceptual un-dead. but like i said, i’m no scholar, this is my gut reaction. be that as it may i still trust my gut more than 40 years worth of literature trying to convince my mind otherwise.

from text on fluxus, by ben vautier. 1979

Fluxus is the “event” according to George Brecht:
putting the flower vase on the piano.
Fluxus is the action of life/music: sending for a tango
expert in order to be able to dance on stage.
Fluxus is the creation of a relationship between life and art,
Fluxus is gag, pleasure and shock,
Fluxus is an attitude towards art, towards the non-art of anti-art, towards the negation of one’s ego,
Fluxus is the major part of the education as to John Cage, Dadaism and Zen,
Fluxus is light and has a sense of humor.

in my estimation fluxus in these terms sounds suspiciously like the experience of simply having a creative consciousness. seeing the surprising poetry in everyday life and seeking to celebrate it. an innate sense. a natural phenomena present in varying shades in every artists mind. in which case, naming it, claiming it, explaining it, is all totally unnecessary.

my view may be the result of a simple misunderstanding however. george brecht has this to say about fluxus:

The misunderstandings have seemed to come from comparing Fluxus with movements or groups whose individuals ‘have had some principle in common, or an agreed-upon program. In Fluxus there has never been any attempt to agree on aims or methods; individuals with something unnameable in common have simply naturally coalesced to publish and perform their work. Perhaps this common something is a feeling that the bounds of art are much wider than they have conventionally seemed, or that art and certain long-established bounds are no longer very useful. At any rate, individuals in Europe, the US, and Japan have discovered each other’s work and found it nourishing (or something) and have grown objects and events which are original, and often uncategorizable, in a strange new way.”

so perhaps the whole idea of naming “individuals with something unnameable in common” can be chalked up to human weakness. the need to belong. the need to react against that which comes before or moves along side. the need to justify. perhaps the desire to convert or even conquer? i say “weakness” because by and large movements striving at ideals of freedom, openness, liberation, are not well served by their own codification. i’d think that was obvious. or perhaps the problem stems more simply from history. from history’s need to categorize. perhaps fluxus, beautiful in it’s intimate moments, when it was an innocent young creature with dewey lips and soft skin, changed once history grabbed hold of it and began the rough process of fitting it into a square hole. i don’t know.

in any case though my girlfriend sometimes refers to me as “the rejector” (pronounced as a super villian’s name might be) it was not my intention to critique fluxus. i am only qualified to try and understand it. i admire some of the work which came from it’s belly. i admire some of the ideas which serve as marrow to it’s skeleton. i just don’t respond well to isms, as you may have guessed by now. and unfortunately, in that fluxus spurned “pure aesthetic objectives” there isn’t that much of it which shines for me outside of it’s original context. but hey, being in the moment was part of the point. i can’t help it if that moment was 40 years ago.

the films are certainly of historical interest for any artist. they are like ultrasound images showing the pea sized embryo of the video art which emerged from it’s gallery-housed puberty only in the last decade. for more related flux check out ubuweb’s fluxus anthology which focusses on the audio aspects of the movement. for further reading try something about fluxus by george brecht, text on fluxux by ben vautier, a childs history of fluxus by dick higgins as well as his statement on intermedia. and hell while your at it why not check out some fluxus flags. oh and thanks to pcl for unintentionally sending me down this road this morning.