Fluxus Ministry

Article excerpt

Vilnius's Fluxus Ministry is situated in an imposing Soviet-era building that once housed the Ministry of Health, located at the far end of Gedimino Prospektas, a wide boulevard dotted with Starbucks imitations and high-street shops. The Ministry was instigated by the former mayor of Vilnius and current member of the Lithuanian parliament, Arturas Zuokas, who is best known for heading somewhat utopian, often tourist-oriented developments. Apparently much loved by the younger generation in Lithuania, Zuokas is equally reviled for alleged low-level corruption and the perceived squandering of public money by others. At the opening of the Fluxus Ministry on 29 April this year, attended by over 3,000 people, Zuokas declared that he has 'no doubt that Vilnius will succeed in its mission of becoming the global centre of Fluxus for the 21st century', reviving the movement in homage to its founder George Maciunas, perhaps Lithuania's best known ex-pat artist of the 20th century.

Born in Lithuania's second major city Kaunas, Maciunas moved first to Germany at 13 and then later to New York, where from 1966 he began to buy up old manufacturing lofts in SoHo, transforming them into 'Flux Houses'. As Sharon Zukin noted in her study of art and real estate Loft Living, Maciunas galvanised a group of artists to begin living and working in these housing co-ops, transforming SoHo into an artists' community and thus unwittingly giving birth to its subsequent gentrification and real-estate boom. Vilnius's Fluxus Ministry is akin to its predecessor in centring its aims on supporting a creative community, and also equally entangled in a relationship with property speculation. The original press release for the Fluxus Ministry describes it as a one-year initiative; however, Zuokas has recently hinted that it may be extended if the financial crisis retains its grip on economic development in the capital. With the building that houses the Ministry donated by private investors, which had previously left it empty for seven years, one imagines that the project could remain in place for a significant period of time while they wait patiently for some of that original Fluxus real-estate alchemy to materialise.

The city's Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Centre (paying homage to another famous son of Lithuania, Jonas Mekas) is also currently capitalising on Maciunas's legacy with an exhibition entitled 'George Maciunas: Father of SoHo', while the city's contemporary art centre has recently reopened its permanent Fluxus Cabinet. At the Fluxus Ministry, his reclamation is less of a tenuous, nationalist connection to an artist who spent most of his life in the US. In contrast to those other institutions that rely on Maciunas's Lithuanian roots as a reason for displaying his work, the Ministry has drawn inspiration to begin something new from Fluxus, unashamedly paying homage but not stifled by the association.

The bar plays host to bring-your-own-meat barbeques on Fridays, well attended by both those involved in the arts and locals curious to participate in what is more an experimental social centre than an art gallery. …