The Fluxus Reader

The Fluxus Reader

The Fluxus Reader

The Fluxus Reader


The Fluxus Reader offers the first comprehensive overview on this challenging and controversial group. Fluxus began in the 1950s as a loose, international community of artists, architects, composers and designers. By the 1960s, Fluxus had become a laboratory of ideas and an arena for artistic experimentation in Europe, Asia and the United States. Described as 'the most radical and experimental art movement of the 1960s', Fluxus challenged conventional thinking on art and culture for over four decades. It had a central role in the birth of such key contemporary art forms as concept art, installation, performance art, intermedia and video. Despite this influence, the scope and scale of this unique phenomenon have made it difficult to explain Fluxus in normative historical and critical terms.


A little more than thirty years ago, George Maciunas asked me to write a history of Fluxus. It was the autumn of 1966. I was sixteen then and living in New York after dropping out of college for a term. George had enrolled me in Fluxus that August. Perhaps he saw me as a scholar, perhaps simply as someone with enough energy to undertake and complete such a project.

Not long after, I grew tired of New York and I was ready to move back to California. That was when George appointed me director of Fluxus West. Originally intended to represent Fluxus activities in the western United States, Fluxus West became many things. It became a centre for spreading Fluxus ideas, a forum for Fluxus projects across North America – outside New York – as well as parts of Europe and the Pacific, a travelling exhibition centre, a studio in a Volkswagen bus, a publishing house and a research programme. These last two aspects of our work led George to ask me once again to take on a comprehensive, official history of Fluxus. I agreed to do it. I didn’t know what I was getting into.

This history project was never completed. in part, I lacked the documentation, and despite gathering documents and material for years, I never did accumulate the material I should have done to carry out the job. Moreover, I found that it was the ideas in Fluxus that interested me most, far more than the specific deeds and doings of a specific group of artists. While I am a scholar in addition to being an artist, my interest in Fluxus does not focus on documentation or archival work.

The documents and works I did collect have not gone to waste. They found homes in museums, universities and archives, where they are available to scholars who do want to write the history of Fluxus, as well as to scholars, critics, curators and artists who want to examine Fluxus from other perspectives. the history that I never finished gave rise to several projects and publications that shed light on Fluxus in many ways. This book is one of them.

The key issue here is explaining a ‘how’ and ‘why’ of Fluxus. Emmett Williams once wrote a short poem on that how and why, writing ‘Fluxus is what Fluxus does – but no one knows whodunit.’ What is it that Fluxus does? Dick Higgins offered one answer when he wrote, ‘Fluxus is not a moment in history, or an art movement. Fluxus is a way of doing things, a tradition, and a way of life and death.’ For Dick, as for George, Fluxus is more important as an idea and a potential for social change than as a specific group of people or collection of objects.

As I see it, Fluxus has been a laboratory, a grand project summed up by George . . .

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