Saturday, October 22, 2011

FLUXUS and the Essential Questions of Life REVISED

'FLUXUS and the Essential Questions of Life' is an exhibition currently on view at NYU through December 3. The exhibit focuses on some of the vital questions pertaining to life, as seen and addressed by the Fluxus artists. These questions are explored through an examination of daily events as containing the qualities to be viewed as art. The exhibit presents to the viewer a true international collaboration of artists with similar goals.This idea of art as 'social process' is introduced through a collection of objects, event cards, and art-as-games-in-boxes. Their collections of specific objects or instructions packaged into 'Fluxkits' underline their views on the interrelation of life and art. These kits would then be mailed out or sold at art stores to facilitate the spread of a fluxus way of life.

Often comical and ironic, fluxus object compositions, theories, instructions, language and terminology all propose to the viewer an opportunity to reexamine quotidian events and object in terms of art. The work is attributed to an international network of artists who sought to question art as commodity. Fluxus originated with George Maciunas in the 1960s, and grew into a movement that integrated everyday actions and events into art and art into everyday life. They blurred the boundary between the two, demonstrating how any mundane action can transform into a performance.

The exhibit is organized into several categories, all of which intend to guide the viewer through essential questions the Fluxus artists were addressing. 'Change? Danger? Death? Freedom? God? Happiness? Health? Love? Nothingness? Sex? Staying Alive? Time? What am I?' These questions are explored through clever compositions of objects and concepts, as well as collections of phrases, instructions, and correspondence. 'Fluxsyringe' by George Maciunas, for example, found in the 'Health?' section is a metal pump with fifty-six needles. Bearing the familiar concept of a syringe, the abundance of needles give it a threatening appearance and strong underlying commentary on western medicine, as equating the amount of medicine consumed to the state of health.

Nam June Paik's 'Zen for Film' under the 'Nothingness?' section is at once comical and exploratory, questioning the definition of nothingness as a 'lack of' something, and rather characterizes it as the space contained by a form giving that form utility and function. The idea of emptying one's mind, of letting go of everything material in order to attain a higher state of being, is explored in Paik's blank film that acquires information (dust, scratch marks) over time as it is continuously spun through the projector.

The show is successful in addressing issues Fluxus artists were confronting, namely the commodification of art, the accessibility of art to greater public as 'art part of life', and the integration of art in everyday life as a playful/analytical way of handling and observing objects.


  1. Your review is very clear and starts off well. I would break up the sentence that starts, “The work is attributed to an international...”, into a few sentences. I like that you included the questions from the exhibition and then gave examples in detail for “Health?” and “Nothingness?”. I would integrate the John Cage quote more and make it clear whether it’s a quote for your review or a quote that was in the exhibition. Good job summarizing the show in the last paragraph. I would add one more sentence at the end that would be the hook that would make the reader want to go.

  2. I agree with the above commenter that the review is clear, although for me many of the sentences were hard to digest without reading and re-reading them. Maybe if you separated some of your sentences as Liz suggested, or even soften the vocabulary a little bit. That isn't to say "dumb it down," but just make it more easy to read. This sentence in the first section particularly: "The exhibit encompasses the vital questions pertaining to quotidian life and incorporation of quotidian events..." I think as much could be said with a few less syllables...