Issue 11 : Summer 2001
On Thursday, October 26, 2000, at around 2:30 p.m., a small group of undergraduate
students climbed out, one by one, of one of the windows in Seminar Room
4 at the Courtauld Institute, came back in, and took a bow. In the course
of the following hour, other students ate apples, hopped, threw small
pieces of paper in the air, turned a lamp on and off, gave an impression
of a table and pronounced the word " south " for a determined
duration of time.
If this sounds like a rather unusual way of teaching the History of Art, it turned out to be most appropriate as an introduction to Fluxus, an international movement inaugurated in 1962 with a series of festivals in Germany, New York and many other places. When asked about Fluxus concerts, the leader of the group George Maciunas often told people to "do it themselves". In the mini Flux-fest which Mignon Nixon invited me to organise with students at the Courtauld Institute, this is exactly what we did. After a brief historical introduction of the movement, event scores written between 1955 and 1966 by Fluxus artists such as George Brecht, Yoko Ono and Ken Friedman were performed with humour and subtlety by the students, who acted both as audience and performers.
As in many Fluxus concerts, the authors and titles of the works were written on a board, but only the performers knew the instructions, which are in fact open to many interpretations, as for example Ken Friedman's Zen Vaudeville of 1966 which reads "The sound of one shoe tapping". After the festival, the students were invited to discuss the ways they chose to perform the pieces and to share their impressions of the works, demonstrating their sensitivity and understanding of the issues they raise. Let us have more do-it-yourself Flux-classes in the future.