torsdag den 22. november 2012


I once met an artist who put his entire archive in pickle jars and sold it on the condition that if the buyer decided to open them, he or she would destroy the documents, memorise their contents and pass them on orally. During the last two years, while I was busy collecting eye witness statements for the Lunatic exhibition, it struck me that with Fluxus, the opposite is the case. There turned out to be a surprisingly large number of people still around in Denmark who had witnessed Fluxus events and had a large stock of Fluxus anecdotes they passed around to their friends or acquaintances, but that had never been written down. Composers such as Ib Nørholm, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Per Nørgaard, Fuzzy and Axel Borup Jørgensen were involved in the organization of Fluxus concerts, wrote about them or simply witnessed them, not because they felt in any way connected to Fluxus, but simply because they thought it was a phenomenon that deserved attention.

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the first official meeting between Fluxus and Denmark, I would like to make a case for the importance of making sure that these people’s memories – their tall stories and amusing anecdotes – can continue to circulate. Effectively, what they have done is to keep Fluxus alive for 50 years. I feel especially privileged to have had the possibility of speaking to Axel Borup-Jørgensen, who was seriously ill and recently passed away, aged 88. His memories of the first-ever Fluxus festival on Danish soil, a six day event that was held at Nikolaj Church between 23 and 28 November 1962, were unbelievably vivid and gave a very strong impression, not only of the historical event, but also, and perhaps even more so, of the way such an event can stay with a person for the rest of a lifetime. It is important that an effort is made to ensure that these events, and especially the personal stories about them, can continue to circulate even when the eyewitnesses to which they attach themselves, are no longer with us.

While working on the Lunatic project, I have thought a lot about the difference between research and scholarship. At its most basic, research must be the retrieval of evidence, pure and simple. It is important work, but it is not scholarship. An essential prerequisite for it, but nothing more. Scholarship presupposes a contextualization of the material collected by means of research, a qualified effort to make it speak. It is tempting to conclude that research without scholarship is useless. However, precisely these stories, their living character, their obvious subjectivity, can make me consider the merits of the opposite as well. I could also be persuaded to say that the personal quirks these stories display and their stubborn refusal to come together in a unified narrative have merits entirely their own.  It is important to write them down, where they can join other types of evidence to create a coherent account of the events in hand, but it is equally important that they can circulate. Why? Because they do not draw the straight line of a scholarly argument but indicate a vague field within which everyone can find a pattern for themselves. They can promote living history.

Now I should note straight away that they can only do so if all the available accounts are granted the same status. As soon as a dominant account emerges, the others will group themselves around it in difference or conformity. This goes for the oral accounts of privileged individuals such as the performers and artists involved, but also for apparently solid documents such as photographs and film and audio recordings. Like oral accounts, the latter also contain elements of selection and translation. This said, I would nevertheless like to end this special 50th anniversary blog entry with a double call: for everyone to continue to tell stories about Fluxus events and for people who possess such stories to come forward and share them with all the rest of us. Both are necessary if we are to preserve Fluxus as a living phenomenon and  something to have a stake in.

mandag den 12. november 2012


The following is an English translation of a short article of mine that appeared in the Danish newspaper Politiken on Saturday 10 November. Currently, Politiken has a series on the subject of “nothing”. Readers can contribute with comments or photographs and have done so industriously. Of course my contribution takes Fluxus as its point of departure. Here it is:


“It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine an exploration of the concept of Nothing without Fluxus. Not only has Fluxus had intimate dealings with Nothing during the 50 years of its existence, it even turns into Nothing itself as soon as one tries to tie it down. The experts still do not agree on whether Fluxus was a movement or a network. One thing we do know about it is that the name was invented by George Maciunas, who between 1962 and his death in 1978 organised many Fluxus concerts and published many Fluxus editions. However, history also shows that Fluxus can manage just fine without him. Many of the artists involved still create works in the no-man’s land between music, visual art, poetry et cetera in a true Fluxus spirit.

In connection with Fluxus, ”Nothing” should be understood in at least two ways, on the one hand as a Zen-inspired, philosophical, meditative flirt with Nothing and on the other as an art rebellion that would prefer to hurl Nothing into the face of the audience. The difference between the two can be hard to spot. French Fluxus artist Ben Vautier, for example, specialized in signing everything and therefore signed Nothing as well. Philosophical or anti-artistic? Even his own mother pointed out in connection with the signed Nothing that Nothing does not exists. Vautier embraced this maternal correction and wrote on a box containing Nothing: “This Box Contains Something” in a manner that can be understood as both the one and the other.

Maciunas’ plan to market Vautier’s box as a ”Flux Nothing Box” was never realised, but a Fluxus multiple that comes close in spirit is Vautier’s Flux Holes. The holes, too, take one of the artist’s own objects as their point of departure, in this case Trou portatif (”portable hole”, 1964), a box with a handle and holes in the sides. The Fluxus edition took the shape of small plastic boxes containing objects with holes in, cards with holes in or photographs of objects with holes in. The label showed bare ladies’ buttocks with the words “Fluxholes Gathered by Ben Vautier” right where the hole is or etchings of an anal examination. Vautier: “No comment. I just like holes, maybe because they have something to do with non-art”.

Fluxus’ first visit to Denmark in November 1962, with a festival consisting of six concerts, resulted in a scandal. Not because of the substance of the performances, but because of a perceived lack of same. Robert Naur, Politiken’s music critic at the time, wrote that Fluxus “wanted nothing, had nothing to contribute with and delivered nothing except an insistent, slow display of absolute impotence”. How? Danish author Uffe Harder highlighted in Dansk musiktidsskrift (”Danish Music Magazine”) a piece that had been performed during the fourth of the six concerts, Alison Knowles’s Proposition. What Knowles proposes is to “make a salad”, and that is exactly what she did, persistently and for a long time. Harder left the performance after twenty minutes, outraged by the implicit “demand to contemplate this nothing”, as he wrote. The problem was not that there was nothing there, but that he was forced to witness it. Vautier’s mother was right: Nothing does not exist. There is always a poor soul there to experience it.

In connection with the same Nothing, Harder also criticised Fluxus’ ”drive towards destruction, monotony and a point zero”. He did not understand Nothing to mean “no thing”, but the absence of several very specific things: of art, of development, of respect for the spectators’ busy lives. The Nothing that Harder experienced during the Fluxus festival consisted of the absence of several specific things he expected to experience, but in a provocative or thought-provoking manner felt robbed of. Like Vautier’s objects, Fluxus’ performances of Nothing were – and are – boxes that contain Something, namely the power to provoke and frustrate. And like Vautier we ought to say “No comment” if we want to hang on to Nothing, because as soon as we comment on it, Nothing changes into Certain Things and their absence.”

torsdag den 1. november 2012


And now things get serious. After all those months, no, years, our interactive digital Fluxus extravaganza comes to Copenhagen. The official opening takes place tomorrow at 5 pm at Kunsthallen Nikolaj. The title of the exhibition: "Die Irren sind los!... europæiske Fluxusfestivaler, 1962-1978". Everybody is welcome. The picture in the corner is the invitation, but none is needed to join in the festivities, which indeed I hope you, reader, will. If you cannot make it, the exhibition is on until 25 November, so there is still time to see it. As George Maciunas would have said: "Come one! Come all! Hurry! Hurry!"