The Fluxus Art Movement at it’s core was an interdisciplinary movement that’s main focus was on the process of art and not the final ‘product’.
Art is essentially two things – an expression of creativity and an echo of freedom. Throughout our history, humans have shown a natural urge for freedom of imagination and expression.
However, time and again controversial art has tested our commitment to artistic freedom. The idea that everyone has a right to decide what type of art they want to create or receive might be widely accepted.
Yet, history stands as a proof that every time the idea is put into practice, it has raised more eyebrows than hands to applaud.
In 1961, an unusual but revolutionary concept of art was introduced by George Maciunas. The art historian from Lithuania named this concept Fluxus.
Inspired by a composer, John Cage, a group of aspiring artists set out on a path to create art without the concept of an eventual end.
They struggled to free art from the reigns of conventional practices and instead introduce spontaneity and infinity to it. They carried on the bequest for the next twenty years.
Let’s explore more about this form of art and the realms of artistic freedom!
What Is The Fluxus Art Movement?
Fluxus is a Latin word which means flowing. In English, it is an act of flowing out. The founder of Fluxus, Maciunas, believed Fluxus was to “promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art.” Fluxus strongly resonates with the art movement of the early twentieth century, Dadaism.
The supporters of Dadaism rooted for the idea of blurring the line between life and art with a touch of humor.
They believed that there should be no definitions of what an artwork should be and rejected the impositions made by museums and other art institutions.
Fluxus was thus, experimental with the notion of expressing without limitations. This sat well with George Maciunas, who openly expressed that art performances should “flow” freely.
In 1961, the first Fluxus event was presented at the AG Gallery in New York. This event was followed by festivals in Europe in the year 1962. The most prominent centers of Fluxus activity were New York, Japan and Germany at the time.
When the founder, Maciunas, himself was asked to define Fluxus, he would play recordings of barking dogs and honking geese. Although the inquirer would be baffled at first, the explanation would become plain and simple. Fluxus was the experimentation and expression of absurdity at its core. The performances of Fluxus became commonly known as “Events.”
The Fluxus Manifesto
George Maciunas, like many of his peers, preferred to set forth his concept through a manifesto. The Fluxus manifesto was itself a piece of art that comprised of various dictionary definitions of the word “flux.” It also consisted of handwritten notes that elaborated the concept further.
The definition of fluxus as a purging or outflow of fluids, Maciunas put down:
“Purge the world of bourgeois sickness, ‘intellectual,’ professional & commercialized culture, PURGE the world of dead art, imitation, artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art, mathematical art — PURGE THE WORLD OF ‘EUROPANISM’!”
He went on to promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art and expressed his desire to take the non art reality to the common masses, rather than limiting it to critics, dilettantes and professionals.
He demanded to fuse the the cultural, social and political revolutionaries into a united front and action.
The Key Artists of Fluxus
An interesting thing about Fluxus is that it wasn’t really a movement, in fact it was more about a network or community. Due to this very reason, it is difficult to categorize the key Fluxus artists.
It was a community of visual artists, poets, writers, composers, etc. Many of whom were part of the community only for a short period of time.
The Fluxus community can be better described as a group of artists who wanted to liberate art out of the clutches of elitist institutions. They wanted to bring art to the masses to show that art and life could be fluidly interchangeable.
If George Maciunas can be called the father of the Fluxus Art, John Cage can be regarded as the ideological founder. Both of them contributed a great deal to the spread of the idea.
Maciunas studied architecture, art history, graphic design and musicology, while Cage was a composer, music theorist, artist and philosopher.
Other prominent avant-garde artists who are known as key Fluxus artists from the 60s are Joseph Beuys, Ben Vautier, Alice Hutchins, Yoko Ono, Robert Watts, Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik, Emmett Williams and Benjamin Patterson.
Fluxus did not have a single binding style that categorized the Fluxus artists under one umbrella.
Fluxus artists adopted a number of mediums and an autonomous style to create art. They would often stage random performances and use any material available for artwork.
The fans of Fluxus would regard it as democratic form of art that would embrace anyone unlike conventional standards of art. Artists would collaborate with different forms of art to create unique work.
But above all, they encouraged simplicity and anti-commercialism. This allowed spontaneity and free flow to be an integral part of Fluxus art. Humor was also an important element of Fluxus art.
A french artist, Ben Vautier, was especially known for his affiliation with this type of art. One of his famous Fluxus artworks was Total Art Matchbox from 1966. This art piece was a simple box of matches with some unique instructions printed on the cover. It said:
“USE THESE MATCHES TO DESTROY ALL ART – MUSEUMS ART LIBRARY’S – READY-MADES – POP-ART AND AS I BEN SIGNED EVERYTHING WORK OF ART – BURN – ANYTHING – KEEP LAST MATCH FOR THIS MATCH.”
Ben Vautier’s Total Art Matchbox was an exemplary anti-art piece of the Fluxus movement.
Fluxus started with George Maciunas and unfortunately, came to an early end with his demise. The father of Fluxus died in 1978, which also marks the end of Fluxus in the history of art. Eventually, Fluxus turned into an event, known as Fluxfeast and Wake. In this event, foods that were black, white or purple were served.
Many artists still continued their work, but all of it wasn’t considered to be Fluxus anymore. The Fluxus movement might have died with the passing away of the founder. But to this day, you can find the reflection of Fluxus in digital art performances, land and street art, graffiti, etc.
In fact, as long as there are artists who work beyond the physical boundaries of museum systems, the world will continue to witness artistic freedom testing its wings!