Fluxus encourages dialogue among like minds, regardless of nation. Fluxus welcomes the dialogue of unlike minds when social purposes are in tune.
A democratic approach to culture and to life is a part of the Fluxus view of globalism. A world inhabited by individuals of equal worth and value suggests -- or requires -- a method for each individual to fulfill his or her potential. This, in turn, suggests a democratic context within which each person can decide how and where to live, what to become, how to do it.
Some of the Fluxus work was intended as a direct contribution to a more democratic world. Joseph Beuys's projects for direct democracy, Nam June Paik's experiments with television, Robert Filliou's programs, Dick Higgins's Something Else Press, Milan Knizak's Aktual projects, George Maciunas's multiples and my own experiments with communication and research-based art forms were all direct attempts to bring democratic expression into art and to use art in the service of democracy.
When Nam June Paik read the earlier version of the `12 Fluxus Ideas, he pointed out that the concept of anti-elitism was missing. Modern societies produce value through professions based on education. Educated people create the material wealth that enables all members of a society to flourish through such disciplines as physics, chemistry or engineering. (...) In suggesting a world with no restrictions based on elite social advantage, Fluxus suggests a world in which it is possible to create the greatest value for the greatest number of people.
Unity of art and life
When Fluxus was established, the conscious goal was to erase the boundaries between art and life. (...) Today, it is clear that the radical contribution Fluxus made to art was to suggest that there is no boundary to be erased. (...) Another way to put it is to say that art and life are part of a unified field of reference, a single context.
Stating it that way poses problems, too, but the whole purpose of Fluxus is to go where the interesting problems are.
Imagine, perhaps, an art form that is comprised 10% of music, 25% of architecture, 12% of drawing, 18% of shoemaking, 30% of painting and 5% of smell. What would it be like? How would it work? How would some of the specific art works appear? How would they function? How would the elements interact? That's a thought experiment that yields interesting results. Thoughts like this have given rise to some of the most interesting art works of our time.
Fluxus applied the scientific method to art. Experimentalism, research orientation and iconoclasm were its hallmarks. Experimentalism doesn't merely mean trying new things. It means trying new things and assessing the results. In science, the notion of collaboration, of theoreticians, experimenters and researchers working together to build new methods and results, is well established. Fluxus applied this idea to art. Many Fluxus works are the result of numbers of artists active in dialogue.
Chance, in the sense of aleatoric or random chance, is a tradition with a legacy going back to Duchamp, to Dada and to Cage. (...) By the late 1950s, the world seemed to have become too routinized, opportunities for individual engagement in the great game of life too limited. In America, this phenomenon was noted in books such as `The Organization Man´, in critiques of `the silent generation´, and in studies such as `The Lonely Crowd´. (...)
Even so, random chance was more useful as a technique than as a philosophy. There is also evolutionary chance. In the long run, evolutionary chance plays a more powerful role in innovation than random chance. (...) Many possibilities exist. When the chance input is embodied in new form, however, it ceases to be random and becomes evolutionary. That is why chance is closely allied to experimentation in Fluxus. It is related to the ways in which scientific knowledge grows, too.
When Fluxus emerged, art was under the influence of a series of attitudes in which art seemed to be a liberal, secular substitute for religion. Art was so heavily influenced by rigidities of conception, form and style that the irreverent Fluxus attitude stood out like a loud fart in a small elevator. Play comprehends far more than humor. There is the play of ideas, the playfulness of free experimentation, the playfulness of free association and the play of paradigm shifting that are as common to scientific experiment as to pranks.
Simplicity, sometimes called parsimony, refers to the relationship of truth and beauty. Another term for this concept is elegance. In mathematics or science, an elegant idea is that idea which expresses the fullest possible series of meanings in the most concentrated possible statement. (...) From this perspective of philosophical modeling, Copernicus's model of the solar system is better than Ptolemy's -- must be better -- because it accounts for a fuller range of phenomena in fewer terms. Parsimony, the use of frugal, essential means, is related to that concept. (...) Simplicity of means and perfect attention distinguish this concept in the work of the Fluxus artists.
Implicativeness means that an ideal Fluxus work implies many more works. This notion is close to and grows out of the notion of elegance and parsimony. Here, too, you see the relationship of Fluxus to experimentalism and to the scientific method.
Exemplativism is the principle that Dick Higgins outlined in another essay, the `Exemplativist Manifesto´. Exemplativism is the quality of a work exemplifying the theory and meaning of its construction. While not all Fluxus works are exemplative, there has always been a feeling that those pieces that are exemplative are in some way closer to the ideal than those that are not.
Specificity has to do with the tendency of a work to be specific, self-contained and to embody all its own parts. Most art works rely on ambiguity, on the leaking away of meanings to accumulate new meanings. When a work has specificity, it loads meaning quite consciously. In a sense, this may seem a contradiction in an art movement that has come to symbolize philosophical ambiguity and radical transformation, but it is a key element in Fluxus.
Presence in time
(...) Fluxus works often embody a different sense of duration as: musical compositions lasting days or weeks, performances that take place in segments over decades, even art works that grow and evolve over equally long spans. Time, the great condition of human existence, is a central issue in Fluxus and in the work that artists in the Fluxus circle create.
Musicality refers to the fact that many Fluxus works are designed as scores, as works that can be realized by artists other than the creator. While this concept may have been born in the fact that many Fluxus artists were also composers, it signifies far more. The events, many object instructions, game and puzzle works -- even some sculptures and paintings -- work this way. This means that you can own a George Brecht piece by carrying out one of Brecht's scores. (...) The issue of musicality has fascinating implications. The mind and intention of the creator are the key element in the work. (...) Musicality is linked to experimentalism and the scientific method. Experiments must operate in the same manner.
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Some stand-alone quotes:
"The first Fluxus disappeared a long time ago. It replaced itself with the many forms of Fluxus that came after. Fluxus today isn't the Fluxus that was sometimes considered an organized group and sometimes referred to as a movement. Fluxus is a forum, a circle of friends, a living community. Fluxism as a way of thinking and working is very much alive."
"What was unique about Fluxus as a community was that we named ourselves. We found and kept our own name. Art critics named abstract expressionism, pop art, minimalism and conceptualism. Fluxus named Fluxus. What made it Fluxus was that it wasn't confined to art and perhaps that saved us from being named by others. If it locked us out of the art market on many occasions, it made it possible for us to make interesting art on our own terms."
"If you read your way down the many lists of Fluxus artists who were young and revolutionary back in the 1960s, the 1990s have shown many of them to be transformative and evolutionary. If it has not happened in exactly the ways that they planned, it is because there are no boundaries between art and life. What counts is the fact that it happened. Tim Porges once wrote that the value of writing and publishing on Fluxus rests not on what Fluxus has been but on what it may still do. A new and appropriate understanding of Fluxus leaves open the question of what it may still do. That is good enough for me."
Back in the 1980s, George Brecht wrote, "Fluxus has fluxed." A few years later, Emmett Williams said, "Fluxus has not yet begun." Perhaps they are both right.
Fluxus was created to escape the boundaries of the art world, to shape a discourse of our own. A debate that ends Fluxus with the death of George Maciunas is a debate that diminishes George's idea of Fluxus as an ongoing social practice. (...)
The other moment took place when Marcel Duchamp declared that the true artist of the future would go underground. To the degree that Fluxus is a body of ideas and practices, we are visible and we remain so. To the degree that Fluxus is or may be an art form, it may have gone underground already. If this is so, who can say that Fluxus is or isn't dead?
Despite the possibilities inherent in the Fluxus idea, the Fluxus people were too attached to their journey in the desert. They were too attached to the position they earned as misfits. They were too attached to their perpetual grumbling and complaint.
In suggesting a world with no restrictions based on elite social advantage, Fluxus suggests a world in which it is possible to create the greatest value for the greatest number of people. As a result, there must be and there is greater latitude for mistakes and transgressions in the world of the arts than in the immediate and results-oriented world of business or social policy. This raises the odd possibility that a healthy art world may be a world in which there is always more bad art than good.
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Ken Friedman, Forty Years of Fluxus, (3rd ed. 2002);
s.a.: Fluxus and Company; 1st ed. 1989, 2nd ed. 1998; in: The Fluxus Reader, John Wiley & Sons 1998