Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fluxus Movement as Precursor to Relational Aesthetics

In the last class we had a short discussion about the Fluxus movement and its accordance with Bourriaud‘s ideas about the contemporary aesthetics. Therefore, in order to continue discussion online, I decided to post a few facts that clearly describe the Fluxus movement and also accentuate its similarities to the contemporary relational art practices.

The Fluxus movement, which was influenced by Lithuanian-born artist George (Jurgis) Maciunas, emerged in New York in the 60's, moving to Europe, and eventually to Japan. The movement encompassed a new aesthetic that had already appeared on three continents. That Fluxus aesthetic includes part Dada, part Bauhaus and part Zen, and presumes that all media and all artistic disciplines are fair game for combination and fusion. Fluxus valued simplicity over complexity. This movement of art included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art world in favor of an artist-centered creative practice. Creative forms that have been adopted by Fluxus practitioners include fluxus performances (events), collage, sound art, music, video, and poetry. In terms of an artistic approach, Fluxus artists preferred to work with whatever materials were at hand, and either created their own work or collaborated in the creation process with their colleagues.

The main features of Fluxus movement include:

1. The Unity of Art and Life
The unity of art and life is central to Fluxism. When Fluxus was established, the conscious goal was to erase the boundaries between art and life. That was the sort of language appropriate to the time of pop art and of happenings. The founding Fluxus circle sought to resolve what was then seen as a dichotomy between art and life. For instance, some Fluxus performances were intended to blur the line between performer and audience.

2. Chance
One key aspect of Fluxus experimentation is chance. The methods and results of chance occur repeatedly in the work of Fluxus artists.

3. Playfulness
Playfulness has been part of Fluxus since the beginning. Part of the concept of playfulness has been represented by terms such as jokes, games, puzzles and gags.
When Fluxus emerged, art was so heavily influenced by rigidities of conception, form and style that the irreverent Fluxus attitude could be understandable. The most visible aspect of the irreverent style was the emphasis on the humor.

4. Simplicity
Simplicity of means and perfect attention distinguish this concept in the work of the Fluxus artists.

5. Presence in Time
Many Fluxus works take place in time. The ephemeral quality is obvious in the brief Fluxus performance works, where the term ephemeral is appropriate, and in the production of ephemera, fleeting objects and publications with which Fluxus has always marked itself. Fluxus performances were usually brief and simple. The Event performances sought to elevate the banal, to be mindful of the mundane, and to frustrate the high culture of academic and market-driven music and art.

In my opinion, the aforementioned features of Fluxus movement (especially, a time based non-formalistic approach to the artworks, a critique of the institutional market-based art system and a participatory character of the Fluxus events) let us question the novelty of contemporary relational art practices described by Bourriaud in his book Relational Aesthetics. On the other hand, Fluxus movement was very broad and diverse (the discussion about its time and geographic limits is still viable among the art critics), so its description is relative and can hardly be terminative.

Lukas Brasiskis


1. Friedman K. Forty Years of Fluxus, The Fluxus Reader, 1998



4. Williams E., Noel A., Ay-O (eds.) Mr. Fluxus: A Collective Portrait of George Maciunas 1931-1978, 1998

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