A Quick History
The Fluxus art movement began in the late ‘50s when a group of artists studying under John Cage decided to strike out against an elitist art culture by making artwork that reflected the simple beauty of everyday life, in a way that everyday people could understand. This simple idea sprung up to include artists of all mediums, making art of all sorts, as simply and affordably as possible.
Artists in the international Fluxus collective strove to integrate art and life. They incorporated conceptual art, found materials, and a DIY spirit. George Maciunas, the Lithuanian artist who coined the term “fluxus”, coordinated tours, festivals, performances, and publications to showcase this work. This including the uniquely interesting Fluxkits: a collection of compositions, games, records, films, and more created by Fluxus artists.
If you want a more personal, if somewhat patronizing, story of the Fluxus art movement, check out Fluxus artist Dick Higgins’s “A Child’s History of Fluxus”. While we love Fluxus here at MD, right now we’re more interested in its continued potential than we are in its history.
“Produced on demand by hand, using volunteer labour and the cheapest material, these provocative and amusing items were deliberately ephemeral, inexpensive, and intended for use rather than display.” — Lisa S. Wainwright
Fluxus was a movement that embraced the concept that everything can be art and everyone is an artist. Along those lines, here are a few simple ways to to jumpstart your own work and kickoff a new creative project in the spirit of Fluxus:
Leave it to chance. Find a die, flip a coin, or use a digital randomness generator. Create a rule for each option, then create a work of art. We’ve talked about the importance of constraints before, but here are two examples:
- Writers, pick up the last book you read. Set the random number generator to the same number as the last page. Generate a number and only use words from the third paragraph of that page to write a poem.
- Do you draw? Divide a piece of paper into six sections. Roll the die. You can only draw a straight line in the section with the same number as your roll.
Keep it simple. Look around your house for 3-5 items that you can live without, like a deck of cards, a bouncy ball, or an old pair of sunglasses. Find a way to combine them into a sculpture, include them all in a story, or develop an interesting beat with them.
If you can’t find anything or you’re overwhelmed with the options, go to a dollar store with five dollars and choose three things that appeal to you. (For an extra challenge, use some random numbers to limit yourself to certain aisles.)
Laugh. Like an art movement that inspired it—Dadaism—Fluxus embraces humor. You should give it a try, too! Think about something that makes you laugh out loud when you’re all alone. Maybe it’s silly. Maybe it’s straight up stupid.
We don’t care. Make an art piece about it.
“In Fluxus there has never been any attempt to agree on aims or methods; individuals with something unnamable in common have simply naturally coalesced to publish and perform their work. Perhaps this common thing is a feeling that the bounds of art are much wider than they have conventionally seemed, or that art and certain long established bounds are no longer very useful.” – George Brecht
Multimediate. Combine the two or three art mediums that you love. Do self-portraits of an experimental dance piece. Paint the notes of your last song. Better yet: collaborate on a piece with another creative who has a completely different style than you. Make it work.
Involve an audience. Much of the focus of Fluxus was making art affordable and accessible to anyone and everyone. Fluxus artists put their work into the world however they could—hosting free or cheap performance events, creating anthologies of their work, and hand-making and selling Fluxkits. You can see how this might appeal to us.
Send your work out into the world. Print some photos off of all those digital memory cards and mail them to a friend for appreciation. Or really push yourself, and ask a stranger to critique or collaborate on a piece you’ve kept in the darkness for too long.
Show your work.
How do you go with the flow in your creative work? If you decide to try one of these assignments, please post your thoughts on the outcome in the comments!