The Fluxus Manifesto, Fun-Art for All
In the tumultuous 1960s, Georges Maciunas founded Fluxus, an artistic movement that fought the commercialization of art.
In the Fluxus Festival of 1962, Nam June Paik dipped his tie in ink to then leave its trail on a large piece of paper. The audience oscillated between perplexity and laughter. Afterwards, the group of artists, among whom stood Georges Maciunas –of Lithuanian descent and organizer of the movement–, who was up to no good parsimoniously destroying a grand piano. Again, the audience responded with sonorous laughter.
We could say that this was hardly serious, considering it was art; a game played by grown-children, who resemble more a group of semi-subversive buffoons than a true artistic movement ––an attitude that is too casual and jovial to correspond to the culturally-encumbered idea of what art is, or should be.
Fluxus, meaning flow in Latin, is born precisely to question this historical convention of the idea of art. Driven by the anarchical conceptions of Dada and John Cage’s sonorous experiments, the Fluxus movement materializes a current that had been forging since the Second World War. Europe’s moral bankruptcy tottered every convention, and the 20th century would be in charge of destroying the idols of high culture.
In the agitated 1960s, Fluxus denounces the notion of art conceived as an exclusive and necessary product, the privilege of a select audience and the fruit of the skilled expertise of the artist and his innate talent. To Fluxus, according to the exiguous program Maciunas informally published, the then notion of the artist placed him as an indispensable character in society —thus justifying his work and conceding the product of his activity an exceptional value as merchandise. Therefore, art had to seem complex, pretentious, profound, serious, intellectual, inspired, skillful, meaningful, and theatrical. It must seem calculable as merchandise, so that it can give the artist an income.
Fluxus eludes every systematic workproduction, deriving in a dematerialization which Conceptual Art was already announcing. Fluxus’ productions, mainly linked to music, are conceived as ephemeral acts which shun any repetition. A Fluxus action is always new, as is, definitively, every action in life.
In Fluxus, life and art are confused to the degree of losing their contours, and in that loss of precise limits, the artist is expropriated from his historical legitimacy, his exclusivity, to bestow his privilege to the whole of society. Art can and should be practiced by all; any quotidian act can be transformed into true art. This is the revolution that Fluxus promotes.
Everybody can be an artist… You can lead a complete artistic life if you pull an artistic experience from everyday life, from quotidian ready-mades; then you can completely eliminate the need for artists.
This is how Maciunas pronounced himself during a radio interview in 1978, concerning this movement that would attract figures like Nam June Paik, John Cage, Yoko Ono, Wolf Vostell, Charlotte Moorman, or Robert Filliou:
Fluxus is, above all else, a mood, a way of life impregnated with a superb freedom to think, express and choose. In a way, Fluxus never existed, we do not know when it was born, and there is no reason for it to end.
Like every anti-artistic movement (Dada, for instance) Fluxus is defined by its resistance to every attempt of categorization. Its actions trespassed the sacred border of artistic disciplines, freely transiting from one to the other, fusing poetry, music, sculpture, painting and performance in actions that put into practice its manifest’s declaration to create fun-art. This should reach all, serve all, and be able to be practiced by all.
The value of fun-art must be reduced by making it unlimited, mass-produced, attainable to all and, eventually, produced by all. The Fluxus revolution was that of a total art, inaugurating the extended concept of art. However, as with every revolutionary movement, Fluxus was not born without contradictions: the only way to spread its actions was by documenting them through photographs and videos which ended up having the aura of the artistic object which they were trying to avoid. The ephemeral was set to be reviewed afterwards, and time would cover the walls of museums with the visual leftovers of their activity.
Regardless of it all, perhaps Fluxus was the last great movement of 20th century art. Its trail, as that of Nam June Paik’s tie in the 1962 festival, can be traced throughout contemporary art. Its gesture was the necessary answer to a world in the midst of change, to a growing democracy, thirsty for novelty and transgression. When, again in the 1962 festival, we see the group of suited bureaucrats meticulously destroying a grand piano, we are witnesses of the end of a historical era. Art, after Fluxus, will never be what it was.
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