WHAT HAS Fluxus CREATED?

By Klefstad, Ann | Visible Language, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

WHAT HAS Fluxus CREATED?


Klefstad, Ann, Visible Language


Abstract

A brief survey of current Fluxus-based practices and their relation to historical Fluxus opens an essay that examines current Fluxus-based practice. The author focuses on artists active in Fluxlist, an Internet discussion list that serves as a central locus of current Fluxus activity. Klefstad moves on to discuss the contentious problem of canonicity in Fluxus, reflecting on the changing role of the art canon in an era of artistic innovation. In such a time, the author contends, critical categories can no longer be the basis of canon construction. Instead, collectors and arts institutions create the canon and the rise in economic value of selected artifacts determines their canonical status. At the some time, the exclusive-and exclusionary-nature of the canon helps to establish and reinforce economic value. A complex network of economic and political dynamics points to a central question that asks how such anti-canonical groups such as Fluxus can relate to the possibility of such a canon. Klefstad concludes by proposing that the continuing spirit of Fluxus is found in the actions of those excluded from the canon.

IN 1992, KEN FRIEDMAN, CHRISTEL Schuppenhauer and others organized an exhibition in Cologne to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Fluxus. The exhibition title was Fluxus Virus. The exhibition included work by artists working in the Fluxus mode who were too young to have been part of the original Fluxus group. The title of this show has proved, I think, prophetic: Fluxus today has gone viral.

By "viral" I mean that the dissemination has become horizontal and not vertical; spread by Web and acquaintance. This spread is not unlike that of the original group, but it is different in one significant way. In contrast to the implicit and explicit ideals of Fluxus in the 19605, the era of its first flowering, today's dissemination is shaped by a now existent history of Fluxus with associated realities of followers and acolytes and even the development of a canonical Fluxus.

In fact, the very notion of a Fluxus canon has caused some bitterness within the large and loose group who now pursue Fluxus-style actions. Alien Bukoff, a maker of Fluxus works and events and the keeper of Fluxus Midwest, which in the past consisted largely in a well-maintained internet archive of Fluxus works and provided an important source of Fluxus documentation for many younger artists, has felt snubbed by the "original" Fluxus artists. For these artists have seemingly not been willing to admit him into the charmed circle of the canon of historical Fluxus. He sent an embittered letter around the Fluxus community, and replaced his websites, using their domains instead as a place to post his letter of protest against the Fluxus group. Eric Andersen, a member of the "original" Fluxus community though not a founding member, thinks that Ken Friedman, certainly by all accounts historically part of that group as a very young man, is not legitimately a member of Fluxus. He has mounted a campaign to de-canonize Ken in any forum where he can get a hearing. His hounding of Ken has sometimes been carried to great lengths.

Accounts of the interactions surrounding many modernist artist-made groups - attempts to expand a particular canon, explode it, make it irrelevant, pull it together, purify it, etc., are all very familiar, and indeed familiar to Fluxus. Alarms and campaigns such as these alternately enliven and embitter the Fluxus forum known as the Fluxlist. The Fluxlist, a Fluxus-inspired internet mailing list, has become the primary forum for a discussion of, and engagement with, Fluxus today. Such struggles over recognition or control are particularly intractable in the groups that form around the notion of Fluxus; this is in part because ideas of Fluxus vary so much that room for argument is created.

To some Fluxus was a group of people who performed certain actions and produced a certain set of artifacts bounded by a specific time frame. …

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