Notes to
"Pre-Fluxus Conceptual Developments and Generative Influences"
Chapter 1 of Fluxus: The History Of An Attitude
by Owen F. Smith

1. For example, see Aldo Pellegrini, New Tendencies in Art (New York: Crown Publishers, 1966) and Irving Sandler, The Triumph of American Painting (New York: Icon Editions, Harper & Row, 1970).

2. For more information on the development of an aesthetic modernism, see Peter Burger, Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).

3. It is partly for this reason that some of the artistic developments in the fifties and early sixties, especially Fluxus and related developments, were often incorrectly referred to as Neo-Dada.

4. Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, many artists sought to establish new forms of art and to return art to a social praxis. This concern was based on the desire to establish an art that would be direct in nature and collective in approach. In the middle and later 1950s, the ideas of the second form of modernism developed in two directions: the political and social implications of these ideas were developed by the Lettrist International and International Situationism groups, and the non-rational, intra-arts potentials found expression in the visual arts in the work of Pierro Manzoni in Italy, Yves Klein in France, and some of the other artists who would later be grouped under the name Nouveau Realisme. Fluxus was not a direct evolution from any of these ideas or groups, but it was part of these general cultural developments, so that many of the general ideas explored by these groups and individuals would find new forms of expression through the artists later associated with Fluxus. One of the key links was that in addition to creating new collective visual, aural, and written modes, they simultaneously developed alternative methods of distribution. The Fluxus group with its stress on collaborative enterprises and its desire to create an oppositional distribution mechanism was part of this history of alternative culture in the post-World War II period. Fluxus, though, has some significant conceptual differences from these groups that sets it apart from them. This is most evident in the significance of play and humor that increasingly affects the development of Fluxus. For more specific information on these groups and their activities, see Jergen Schilling, Aktionskunst Identität von Kunst und Leben? (Frankfurt: Verlag C.J. Bucher, 1978) and Stewart Home, The Assault on Culture (London: Aporia Press & Unpopular Books, 1988).

5. This idea of two separate modernisms is discussed at length in Burger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, and in Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1987 [1977]).

6. The critic and historian Peter Burger has discussed the development avant-garde modernism as a turning against both "the distribution apparatus on which the work of art depends, and the status of art in bourgeois society as defined by the concept of autonomy" (p. 22). The network of ideas/concerns/issues that links the attacks of the avant-garde with the revolts of the post-World War II anti-modernists is a general critique of the institutions of art in the twentieth century. This took the form of a desire to establish a life/art continuity in opposition to the notion of artists as romantic geniuses or alchemists with a socially proscribed role as non-utilitarian perceivers of the world. The result of this position was a shift towards a dematerialization of art, from the object to an emphasis on processes, actions, performance, behavior, and life. Within this shift a key idea was the recognition of indeterminacy as a characteristic of life (i.e., nature), which also carried over into an interest in a life/art continuity.

7. For a discussion of this connection between the avant-garde (as separate from modernism) and the development of postmodernism, see John McGowan, Postmodernism and its Critics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991); Andreas Huyssen, After the Great Divide (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986); Rosalind E. Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1985); and others. For a specific discussion of the connections between the post-World War II anti-modernists and postmodernism, see Dick Higgins, "Postmodern Performance: Some Criteria and Common Points," in Performance by Artists, eds. A. A. Bronson and Peggy Gale (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1979).

8. Dick Higgins, "Fluxus: Theory and Reception" (unpublished essay, n.d. [1982]). A copy of this manuscript is contained in the Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart. A revised version of this essay was published in Lund Art Press Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 25-50.

9. Bruno Corradini and Emilio Settimelli, "Weights, Measures and Prices of Artistic Genius-Futurist Manifesto 1914," trans. J. C. Higgett, Futurist Manifestos, ed. Umbro Apollonio (New York: The Viking Press, 1973), p. 146.

10. Tristan Tzara, "Dada Manifesto," in Dadas on Art, ed. Lucy R. Lippard, trans. Margaret Lippard (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1971, pp. 17-18.

11. Tzara,"Dada Manifesto 1918," p. 20.

12. For further information of Surrealism as a social and political weapon, see Herbert S. Gershman, The Surrealist Revolution in France (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1969). For further information on the relationship between Dada in Paris and the development of Surrealism, see Richard Short, "Paris Dada and Surrealism," in DADA Studies of a Movement, ed. Richard Short (Buckinghamshire, England: Alpha Academic, 1980).

13. Higgins, "Fluxus: Theory and Reception," p. 6.

14. Ben Vautier, "What is Fluxus?" Flash Art, 84/85 (1978), p. 52.

15. The need to consider Duchamp separately from Dadaism and Surrealism is also a result of the fact that his relationship to these two movements is a very complex one, for he was not specifically a member of either but worked with several Dadaist groups and with Surrealism at various times.

16. For more information, see Marcel Duchamp, "A Window onto Something Else," [discussion between Marcel Duchamp and Pierre Cabanne], Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, trans. Ron Padgett (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc.: 1987 [1967]), pp. 39-43.

17. Duchamp, in Cabanne, p.100.

18. Duchamp, in Cabanne, p.16.

19. Duchamp stated that "The idea of 'chance,' which many people were thinking about at the time, struck me too. The intention consisted above all in forgetting the hand, since, fundamentally, even your hand is chance. Pure chance interested me as a way of going against logical reality . . ." Duchamp, in Cabanne, p. 46.

20. Referring to his piece "In Advance of a Broken Arm," Duchamp said, "the word 'readymade' thrust itself on me then. It seemed perfect for these things that weren't works of art, that weren't sketches, and to which no art terms applied. That's why I was tempted to make them." In Cabanne, pp. 47-48. For a further discussion of readymades, see Anne d'Harnoncourt and Rynaston McShine, eds. Marcel Duchamp (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1973)

21. It is worthwhile noting at this point that in raising these kinds of questions, Duchamp does not infer that if an artist says so, it is a work of art. The post-World War II emphasis that anything is potentially a work of art is in fact a result of John Cage's influence in the transmission of the questions first raised by Duchamp. For more information of the relationship between the ideas of Cage and Duchamp and their impact on artists in New York in the 1950s, see Irving Sandler, The New York School: The Painters and Sculptors of the 1950s (New York: Harper & Row, 1978).

22. Henry Martin, Part One: Never change anything. Let changes fall in. Einfallen. Es fällt mir ein Part Two: Never say never. A conversation with George Brecht by Henry Martin (Bologna: Exit Edizioni, 1979.), pp. 40-42.

23. Vautier, "What is Fluxus?" p. 52.

24. John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1966), p. 8.

25. Cage has stated that "Those involved with the composition of experimental music find ways and means to remove themselves from the activities of the sounds they make. Some employ chance operations, derived from sources as ancient as the Chinese Book of Changes, or as modern as the tables of random numbers used also by physicists in research." Silence, p. 10.

26. Silence, p. 12.

27. Cage has expressed his belief that if "there is a lack of distinction between art and life, then one could say: Well, why have the art when we already have it in life? A suitable answer from my point of view is that we thereby celebrate." In Michael Kirby and Richard Schechner, "An Interview with John Cage," TDR, 10, No. 2 (1965), p. 58.

28. Cage, in Kirby and Schechner, p. 65.

29. Sandler, The New York School, p. 163.

30. For more on this, see Michael Kirby, "The Art of Time: The Aesthetics of the Avant-Garde," in The Art of Time: Essays on the Avant-Garde (New York: E.R. Dutton, 1969), pp. 17-62.

31. Cage, in Kirby and Schechner, pp. 50-51.

32. For a description of this performance, see Kirby and Schechner, pp. 51-53

33. This performance was in Donaueschingen, Germany, and is recounted in Hans Stuckenschmidt, Twentieth Century Music, trans. Richard Dereson (New York: McGraw Hill, 1969), p. 218.

34. La Monte Young, "La Monte Young" [interview between Richard Kostelanetz and La Monte Young], Richard Kostelanetz, The Theater of Mixed Means (New York: Dial Press, 1968), p. 191.

35. For more information on the significance of the works and ideas of Cage on these two musicians and composers, see Kostelanetz, pp. 190-94 and Martha Gever, "Pomp and Circumstances: The Coronation of Nam June Paik", Afterimage, 10 (Oct., 1982), p. 12.

36. Cage said of this period that one of interests in the late 1950s was teaching the ideas that he was himself developing to other people. What he envisioned as teaching was to make himself available to those who were showing an interest in the possibilities contained in his compositions and ideas. John Cage, "[The New School]," in John Cage, ed. Richard Kostelanetz (New York: Praeger, 1970), pp. 118-20.

37. Dick Higgins, Postface, p. 51.

38. The specifics of these classes are described by both Higgins in Post-face, pp. 48-52 and by Alan Hansen in A Primer of Happenings & Time / Space Art (New York: Something Else Press, 1965), pp. 91-102.

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