shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


bet Harlan Ellison wishes he'd gotten this much press with the window stories

You've probably seen this NYT piece about the three novelists in a box (well, a large plasticy construction) installation; each will attempt to complete a novel by June 4. My first impulse is to snark and make jokes about David Blaine, but then, guiltily, as I do whenever I have a knee-jerk bad reaction to modern art, I turn to Matthew Collings' wonderful book This is Modern Art. (There's also a wonderful TV series by the BBC of the same name.) I do this to make sure I'm giving it enough thought and not just being unreasonably dismissive.

The installation is at the Flux Factory, which claims it's not got anything to do with the Fluxus movement but seems to anyway (see that Res mag article that reaches the same conclusion and they put it on their site so...). I thought I'd stick up a few of Collings' bits about Fluxus here, even though this doesn't directly correspond with thinking about the novelists on parade:

Three leaders
Andrew Breton was the leader of the Surrealists. Guy Debord was the leader of the Situationists. An off-shoot of both Surrealism and Situationism was the Fluxus movement, led by George Maciunas--another charismatic leader who also was notorious for having mad purging fits.

Fluxus was anti-art. All its manifestos were against it. Like Situationism, it was for some other kind of thing that was still creativity, but which would go on in the streets and in people's houses instead of in galleries and museums. It was full of light-heartedness. Maciunas was full of good humour and jokes and he frequently displayed a Zen attitude toward existence. In his last interview, conducted on his deathbed, when he was asked if Fluxus really was art after all, he said, "No, I think it's good inventive gags."

"I make jokes!" he said. But he was known to be an outrageous tyrant and control freak, as well as a Zen-fan, who had to control every detail of Fluxus events and personally design all the Fluxus posters and cards and statements. Or at least see that all such stuff was designed along the lines he initiated. And if anyone went off the strict lines they were excommunicated.

Is it odd or inevitable or banal that these Modern art movements, which valued jokiness, should have such angry leaders? Or are all leaders angry?

(...skipping section more about Fluxus principles...)

Zen v Mafia
Although the Fluxus look and the Fluxus attitude are trendy today, and they run through a lot of the art of well-known art stars of today--and the word "Fluxus" has some of the same impressive mystery power within a dinner table context as the word "Situationism"--Maciunas is little known. He died from cancer but his departure was hastened by some Mafia guys who beat him up badly and put his eye out, following an altercation over some building work which he considered to have been badly done and refused to pay for, which ocurred shortly before cancer was diagnosed. A Fluxus principle was that artists should live in communal situations and one of Maciunas's great contributions to the present-day lifestyle of artists was the conversion in the '60s and '70s of many loft spaces in New York's SoHo area into artist's living spaces. So this assault was a rare case of both Zen and avant gardism being defeated by the Mafia.


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