Element of Chance
By Diane Heilenman • firstname.lastname@example.org • November 2, 2008
Buzz up! Fluxus comes to Louisville, and that's a good thing.
Of course, if the tenets of Fluxus are correct, it will eventually appear everywhere.
The little-known but influential art movement of the 1960s is getting its due in Louisville because a major collection of Fluxus art in Cincinnati coincided with the arrival of a major scholar of Fluxus art in Louisville. The result is an exhibition and event.
"The Art of Experience: Fluxus Works from the Collection of Michael Lowe" opens at the University of Louisville's Cressman Center for the Visual Arts on Friday.
A performance Thursday at the Speed Art Museum presents the North American debut of "Fluxus With Tools, or Bon Appetit." It brings to town Alison Knowles of New York City, an original member of Fluxus and widow of founding Fluxus artist Dick Higgins, and their daughter, Hannah Higgins, possibly the nation's premier Fluxus scholar. Hannah Higgins is an associate professor of art history at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of "Fluxus Experience" (University of California Press, 2002).
As it happens, Higgins was thesis adviser for University of Louisville art historian and Fluxus exhibit organizer Susan Jarosi. She and 13 graduate students are producing the exhibition from her "Pop Art and Fluxus" seminar about the movements that developed simultaneously in the early 1960s.
The show includes works by Yoko Ono, George Brecht, George Maciunas (sometimes credited as the conceptual founder of New York City's celebrated SoHo cultural district), Bob Watts (a former Louisvillian), Takako Saito, Robert Filliou, Ben Vautier, Henry Flynt, Nam June Paik, Ay-O and Wolf Vostell.
Jarosi noted in an e-mail interview that while the original Fluxus artists were most active from 1962 until 1978, they continue to create, perform and publish. (You can find thousands of new Fluxists online, grouped together as Fluxlist Europe, Fluxlist Asia, Fluxlist Oceania, South America, Australia, etc.
By comparison, Louisville-area connections to Fluxus are slim but substantial.
They include Watts (1923-1988), who graduated from U of L in 1944 with a mechanical engineering degree. He was called "a conceptual artist and designer who helped start the whimsical anti-Establishment Fluxus movement in art" in his obituary in The New York Times.
Another figure is Cincinnati gallery owner Carl Solway, who pioneered the career of the late Nam June Paik and who owns a stellar collection of work.
Also, Jarosi said, students in another one of her graduate seminars on performance art organized and performed "FluxConcert" at the Speed Art Museum last April.
"As far as what Fluxus is," she said, "well, people have written volumes attempting to define it. I'll just stick with the basics:
"Fluxus was a dynamic network of international visual artists, composers and poets who formed a shared interest in creating individual and collective artworks that emphasized elements of chance, Cagean indeterminacy, economy (both material and conceptual), experimentalism, experiential engagement, humor, play and a democratization of media that combined poetry, theater, music and art.
Out of these interests, Fluxus artists invented such forms as the Event Score and FluxKit multiples, in addition to the terms Concept Art and Intermedia. In these regards, their work has influenced everything from conceptual art and mail art to performance and postmodernism."
Fluxus predicted the cultural empowering of cities and the intermedia reality of today, where sharing and social participation are increasingly commonplace and part of the ongoing revolution in communications, marketing, publishing, art and even economics.
Reporter Diane Heilenman can be reached at (502) 582-4682.