In 2011, Other Minds presented a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Fluxus. The three-day series at SOMArts in San Francisco included performances in person by Alison Knowles, film screenings, a special exhibition curated by Other Minds, a radio tribute, and new realizations of groundbreaking Fluxus works by Knowles, La Monte Young, George Brecht and, arguably, the most recognized member of the group, Yoko Ono. Host Charles Amirkhanian delved into the world of Fluxus in interviews with Knowles and her daughter Hannah Higgins, author of Fluxus Experience.
Inevitably, the question is asked, “What is Fluxus?” According to Webster’s dictionary, a state of flux is “a state of constant and continuous change.” Simply stated, a Fluxus performance is one in which attention is paid to something rather ordinary. Of course, many of the most iconic Fluxus pieces involve extraordinary events: smashing a violin or screaming repeatedly are hardly everyday occurrences. But then again, neither is sitting still while listening quietly for four minutes and thirty-three seconds.
Fluxus performance, painting, sculpture, poetry, and experimental music are often characterized as anti-art. In many ways, Fluxus could be considered as the progenitor of what we now term conceptual or performance art. For example, how does the violent destruction of a violin constitute art? Fluxus can be considered as extraordinarily simple in their means and surprisingly complex in their meanings. A clear definition is beside the point; with Fluxus the event occurs whether or not we think it’s art or find it meaningful. Perhaps we use the word Fluxus because there is simply no other term.
The celebration included a selection films by and interviews with George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Ben Vautier, Nam June Paik and more, curated by Other Minds board member and filmmaker Peter Esmonde, and live performances featuring Alison Knowles and Hannah Higgins of works by Knowles, Yoko Ono, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, and La Monte Young.
Also featured was “Something Else // on the air,” a special edition of Music From Other Minds, hosted by Charles Amirkhanian, KALW 91.7-FM. On this show, Fluxus composer and visual artist Henning Christiansen (1932-2008) was celebrated. He composed his Abschiedssymphonie, Op. 177 (“Farewell Symphony,” 1985- 1987), by altering a recorded concert given in Hamburg on November 29, 1985 by Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, and the Danish composer. Christiansen’s thought-provoking compositions, from chamber music to the happening-like material in his Abschiedssymphonie were broadcast.
Here’s a link to the archive of this broadcast.
FLUXUS EVENT PROGRAM
Saturday, September 17, 2011
SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco
7pm Panel Discussion
Solo for Contrabass (1962)
Yoshi’s Sound Store (2011) World premiere
Danger Music No. 17 (1962)
Alison Knowles & Hannah Higgins
Fluxus With Tools
Lighting Piece (1955)
Sweep Piece (1955)
Wall Piece for Orchestra (1962)
An anti-personnel CBU-Type cluster bomb unit will be thrown into the audience (1969)
Sanitas No. 35 (1962)
Loose Pages (1983)
Also presented in performance, installation, and display:
George Brecht – Chair Event (1962), Drip Music (1959, Second Version), Five Places (1963), Ladder (1963), Stool (1962), Table (1962), Two Signs (1962)
Alison Knowles – Bean Turners
Adam Overton – The Topless Spectator (2010)
Performers: Luciano Chessa, Adam Fong, Hannah Higgins, Alison Knowles, Adam Overton, Tashi Wada, Yoshi Wada
Video from the Fluxus Event
Loose Pages (1983)
Loose Pages is a performance art piece by Alison Knowles, an artist associated with the Fluxus movement, an international and interdisciplinary group of artists, composers, designers and poets that took shape in the 1960s and 1970s. The performance was a part of Something Else – A Fluxus Semicentenary, an event produced by Other Minds. The piece was performed by Alison Knowles with Hannah Higgins on Saturday, September 17, 2011, at SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco.
Yoshi’s Sound Store (2011), World premiere
This is the World premiere of a performance art piece by Yoshi Wada, a Japanese sound installation artist and musician, now living in the United States, who joined the Fluxus movement in 1968. The performance was a part of Something Else – A Fluxus Semicentenary, an event produced by Other Minds. The piece was performed by Alison Knowles with Hannah Higgins on Saturday, September 17, 2011, at SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco.
Historic Video For Context
Nam June Paik
TV Cello (1964)
Nam June Paik was a Korean American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the founder of video art. He is credited with an early usage (1974) of the term “electronic super highway” in application to telecommunications. In 1964, Paik moved to New York, and began working with classical cellist Charlotte Moorman, to combine his video, music, and performance. In the work TV Cello, the pair stacked televisions on top of one another, so that they formed the shape of an actual cello. When Moorman drew her bow across the “cello,” images of her and other cellists playing appeared on the screens. [Wikipedia]
Cut Piece (1964) excerpt
Ono was a pioneer of conceptual art and performance art. A seminal performance work is Cut Piece, first performed in 1964 at the Sogetsu Art Center in Tokyo. The piece consisted of Ono, dressed in her best suit, kneeling on a stage with a pair of scissors in front of her. She invited and then instructed audience members to join her on stage and cut pieces of her clothing off. Confronting issues of gender, class and cultural identity, Ono sat silently until the piece concluded at her discretion. The piece was subsequently performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1965 and London’s Africa Center in 1966. [Wikipedia]