Fluxus
Avant-Garde Neo-Dada Art Movement.
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Fluxus Street Theatre, Paris (c.1963)

Fluxus (1960s)

Contents

What Was Fluxus?
Origins, Aims and Artworks
Fluxus Artists
Why Was Fluxus Important?
Collections



Breakfast (c.1965) Collection of
Fluxus founder George Maciunas.

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What Was Fluxus?

Fluxus was an important movement of avant-garde art, born in Western Europe, that heralded the coming of today's multi-media postmodernist art. Derived from the latin word meaning "flowing", it was a loose-knit international association of contemporary artists founded by the Lithuanian-born American art theorist George Maciunas (1931-78), which emerged initially in Germany before spreading rapidly to other European capitals and then New York, which became the centre of its activities. Inspired by the traditions of Dada and its activists like Tristan Tzara, and related to other contemporary art movements and genres such as Mail Art, Lettrism, Funk Art, Nouveau Realisme, as well as Neo-Dada, and the Situationist International, Fluxus was firmly opposed to conventional art, which it saw as elitist and remote. Instead, it sought to bring life and art closer together. Thus, instead of focusing on individual creative disciplines (such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography), and attaching overriding importance to individual works of art, Fluxus artists worked together in order to blend different artistic genres (visual, literary and musical) into a number of "events", involving installation art, conceptualism, happenings and photography as well as various types of performance art. During the 1960s, Fluxus festivals of contemporary art were held in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, London and Paris, as well as New York.

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Origins, Aims and Artworks

Fluxus was given its name in 1961 by Maciunas, originally for its magazine which promoted the contemporary art of a group of 20th century painters and other hypermodern artists centred around the American avant-garde composer and conceptual artist John Cage (1912-92), whose controversial musical composition '4-33' (1952) contained not a single note of music. According to Maciunas, the aim of Fluxus was to revolutionize the creative world in order to bring about a closer integration of life and art; a type of art with no barriers between the genres, and which embraced as many artistic activities as possible, from vaudeville to "found objects" and junk art.

Fluxus artworks embraced everything from the absurd to the commonplace, from the violent to the tedious, and often followed a socio-political agenda, in order to ridicule the conventional aesthetics of the art world and empower both the artist and viewer. In its attempt to unite life and art, the movement triggered numerous Fluxus newspapers, leaflets, anthologies and films, Fluxus festivals and concerts - even Fluxweddings and Fluxdivorces.

Fluxus Artists

In addition to George Maciunas, most radical modern artists of the time participated to some degree in the movement's activities. Famous Fluxus artists included the German hypermodernist Joseph Beuys (1921-86), the Japanese concept artist Yoko Ono (b.1933), the collage artist and father of mail art Ray Johnson (1927-95), the Swiss 'Happenings' organizer Ben Vautier (b.1935), the Romanian-Swiss sculptor Daniel Spoerri (b.1930), plus noted exponents of film and video art such as the Korean-born Nam June Paik (1932-2011) and the German avant-gardist Wolf Vostell (1932-98). Other members included Robert Watts (1923-88), Emmett Williams (b.1925), Robert Filliou (1926-87), Dieter Roth (1930-98), La Monte Young (b.1935), and Dick Higgins (1938-98), along with others like Allan Kaprow (1927-2006), from centres such as Black Mountain College, Rutgers University and the New School for Social Research in New York. Fluxus members included some of the greatest photographers of the 1960s. The movement was most active during the rebellious 1960s. Like the Dadaists and Constructivists before them, Fluxus artists tended to have anarchist sympathies, and viewed the 1968 street riots in Europe and America as one big "happening". The movement lost momentum in the early 1970s, but it still endures.

Why Was Fluxus Important?

The main contribution of the 1960s Fluxus movement was to expand the definition of art, which led directly to the pluralism of visual art, which we see today. Without tendencies like Fluxus, it is doubtful whether the Turner Prize, or groups like the Young British Artists, or individual postmodernist artists like Tracey Emin (b.1963), would have risen to fame in the way she did, during the 1980s.

Collections

Although the movement created relatively few permanent works of art, what remains can be seen in some of the best art museums in both Europe and America. These collections include:

- Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.
- Walker Art Gallery, Minneapolis.
- Tate Modern, London.
- Gallery of Contemporary Art, Kunsthalle, Hamburg.
- Pompidou Centre: National Museum of Modern Art, Paris.
- Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
- Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection

 

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