Dick Higgins - "Metadramas"


by Dick Higgins

Statement about my "metadramas"

by Dick Higgins

One of the main genres of Fluxus pieces of the 1960s is and was "events." These were first done before Fluxus, and came to be conceptually framed as a sort of cognate of happenings, which were new at the time-that is, intermedial, free-form pieces which lay conceptually among the bounds of music, theater and visual art. Events differed from happenings in that they were always as compressed as possible, minimal statements that would provide a mental or emotional impact. But, of course, they were highly abstract. I did them, George Brecht did them, and others of the Fluxus artists did them also though, for the most part, somewhat later than 1958 when George, I, AI Hansen and others studied with John Cage in his class at the New School for Social Research in New York, a story which has been told, more or less, to death.

However, events made their point and the genre became well defined over the years, through Fluxus concerts and individual performances and works by, quite literally, hundreds of artists. In the sixties, when purely formal explorations seemed essential to sweep away the overly personal baggage of the 1960s, this was a positive thing. However, in the 1980s, when personal expression has been minimized, and when art performances, the heirs in some respect of happenings, often celebrate boredom and almost always deal essentially with technical and formal concerns, it seems more desirable to do pieces which are mainly minimal emotional statements or narrative ones, complete with characterizations in most cases. I had done a few such pieces previously, but not so consciously as now. I call them "metadramas" because they must be dramatic in order to satisfy the criterion, and, the "meta-" part suggests that they are "next to" or "about" what they relate to-that is, some are dramas about the drama, while others simply don't pretend to be dramas but do point in that direction. I wrote about sixty of them in the summer of 1985, destroyed most of them, and then noticed that they seemed to define a genre to which the earlier events belong, though not vice versa.

Barrytown, New York
18 September, 1985

the artist

a metadrama

artist: "i'm hungry."
someone else: "here are twenty two ounces of honor."
artist: "i'm still hungry."
someone else: "here are twenty two more ounces of honor."


a metadrama

buddhist monk: "peace!"
sound of gunfire.


a metadrama

enters in a suit of medieval armor.


a metadrama

she giggles then sighs.
she giggles then sighs.
ad lib a couple of minutes.

flexible lumbar

a metadrama

nude, profile to audince.
demonstrates flexible lumbars.
two minutes.
words: optional.

follow the leader

a metadrama

two people nude and smiling one leads other follows.
after a while follower no longer follows leader does not change roles.
they look at each other.
leader does something follower does something different.
follower does something
leader does that thing.
leader follows the other away.

hat show

a metadrama

enters carrying pillow.
puts pillow on head.
removes pillow.
goes away.


a metadrama

She: "yes!"
offstage voice: "no!"
(may be repeated).


a metadrama

he: "no !"
offstage voice: "yes!"
(may be repeated).

how nemo got honored in his patria

a metadrama in three parts

i - solo

A bows to the audience stiffly and repeatedly for a minute.

ii - duo

A and B bow to each other stiffly and repeatedly for a minute.

iii - solo

B bows to the audience stiffly and repeatedly for a minute.

love story

a metadrama

two at a time.
"yes?" "no?" "no no?" "yes yes?"
grouping and regrouping

the philosopher

a metadrama

"i think so--absolutely--no!"

portrait of a man eating an apple

a metadrama

man eats apple.

a study in feet, or no second half

a metadrama

participants remove their right shoes and socks only.
they display their right feet to the audience and to each other.
they put their shoes and socks back on.


a metadrama

blindfolded. both enter from different places as silently as possible.
they find each other,
touch fingertips,
touch necks and hair,

two hard core pornies


i - hers

standing female.
someone stands behind her, massaging her breasts with a delicate
clockwise motion.
duration: 46.3".

ii - his

standing male.
someone kneels in front of him, rubbing head in his crotch.
duration: 46.3".

variation on an old theme

a metadrama

naked man: "i have no wings."
clothed woman: "so i see."

variation on a theme by shiomi

a metadrama

look for the vanishing smile.

the way things are

a metadrama

a couple, A and B.
A falls into B's arms.
B shivers.
A goes away.
B looks after A.


a metadrama

someone enters dressed as a zebra.
says: "i am not a zebra."
someone else says: "i'm naht so sure about that, dahling!"

New York City
September-October, 1985

Copyright © 1995 by Richard C. Higgins. All rights reserved. Portions of this text appeared in Malthus in 1987 and are copyright 1987. For performance permissions, please write to Dick Higgins, P.O. Box 27, Barrytown, NY 12507.

Return to Light and Dust Poets

Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry.