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by Owen F. Smith

Speaking Personally: Some Topics of Correspondence Between Fluxus Artists on Fluxus

It can no longer be said that Fluxus is part of the forgotten post-World War II avant-garde (or rear-garde as George Maciunas called Fluxus). In the last decade or more, the information available on Fluxus has grown exponentially. The relatively large number of recent shows, exhibitions, catalogs, books, and articles have significantly added to our knowledge of Fluxus. All of this new or more widely available information has helped to expand our understanding of what Fluxus was, but it might also be argued that it has also hindered the recognition of what Fluxus is. In short, I ask as a somewhat rhetorical question, as Fluxus becomes fixed in history, are we losing the most significant lessons that Fluxus has to offer?

Although Fluxus was mostly ignored or dismissed by historians, scholars, and critics up into the 1990s, there is nonetheless a surprising amount of material on and about Fluxus. It is in part the nature of this material and its sources that make it both interesting as well as potentially problematic. A central issue is not so much what is/was Fluxus (although it is still a debated and discussed issue), but which history is the "real history," or even if there is one? Or, alternatively, is this even an important question at all? If history is fundamentally tied to its manufacture (construction and reconstruction), then another question needs to be asked about Fluxus. To what degree is Fluxus what the artists have told us it was, as opposed to other historical alternatives or present interpretations? This question is not just a matter of hyperbole.  Nor is it reflective of a desire on my part to find "the truth" of what actually happened so much as a factor that shapes our understanding of Fluxus and that we should be aware of. This situation is primarily connected to two interrelated factors. First, Fluxus is, and in some ways has always been, a construct which is a direct result of the artists' own awareness of themselves and their actions in relation to history. Fluxus as a name has always been both a way of creating and maintaining a public face for the Fluxus attitude and a methodology aimed at interrupting the processes of identification and delimitation upon which history writing has been so dependent. Second, many of the histories of Fluxus, particularly early descriptions, have been either written by the artists involved with Fluxus or have been principally shaped by what these artists have later said about Fluxus and its history. It should be noted that I am not making these comments as a preface for arguing that "only by the impartial and objective analysis of trained historians will be able to finally sort out what Fluxus truly was and did," but as an observation about how our awareness and understanding of Fluxus are shaped, particularly in relation to "primary sources." These comments are also intended as a background to the ways in which I have chosen to develop and present this essay. Rather than construct a linear argument that is supported by the inclusion of quoted materials, which I have to admit has been my past approach as a historian, I have chosen to stress the primary sources in and of themselves suggesting their existence as part of a rhizomatic matrix. I have left the "intellectual and historical gaps" between the quoted materials in an attempt to offer a sense of Fluxus, its situational and shifting nature, without rigidly confining it in an historical straitjacket. This essay is intended as a Text on Fluxus in that it is a methodological field that aims to subvert classification, act as a process of demonstration, and ultimately exist only as a temporary assemblage, or as part of a Deleuzian hodgepodge. It is my hope that in choosing such an approach it will encourage you, the reader, to actively participate in seeking your own situational awareness of Fluxus and what it might offer you and the present moment.

I selected the excerpts from artists’ correspondence on or about Fluxus that make up the bulk of this essay as reference points to issues of potential importance for or about Fluxus. Their presentation has been organized around a series of six themes which I feel were both motivational and operational issues as Fluxus developed "in" history, as well as those which still concern us "outside" of Fluxus history. Among the many possible themes that might have been included, the following were selected because of what I believe to be their centrality for Fluxus as both developmental factors and historical frames. They are as follows: 1. Fluxus Aesthetics; 2. The Formation of Fluxus; 3. Fluxus Activism;  4. Fluxus, Collectivism and Group Dynamics; and 5. Fluxus and George Maciunas. These themes should not be thought of as the only possibilities, or even the most significant ones, but they do reflect some of the most repeated topics of consideration that emerge from the available correspondence by Fluxus artists about Fluxus. One other topic has also been included in addition to those already mentioned: 6. The Institutionalization of Fluxus. I included this theme for a slightly different reason than the others.  The Institutionalization of Fluxus was included as a sixth topic because the comments of the artists in this context are intended to function as not necessarily as a counterpoint to this essay, but as a reminder of the potential issues we face with Fluxus if we cease to continue to see it as a continuing and even growing set of concerns and modes of operation.

As partial response to Fluxus artists’ self-awareness, I have chosen to limit the materials included in this essay to artists' correspondence from the early 1960s up through the 1990s. This distinction was purposefully maintained, even though there are many other statements, writings, and comments that also pertain to these issues, but have not been included here (although many are included elsewhere in this collection). The chosen materials were restricted to correspondence because by limiting the materials included to one particular form, that of personal correspondence, the significance of that form as the central means of communication, discussion, debate and even argument on and about the nature of Fluxus becomes more evident. I would also like to note that the selection and subsequent presentation of these letters here is not only shaped by the thematic concerns mentioned above but also by the practical issue of the availability of correspondence; specifically, there are many more letters currently available from or to Dick Higgins and George Maciunas than any of the other artists associated with Fluxus. The individual letters in each thematic section are organized chronologically. This structure should not be considered important as a reflection of history as chronology, but as a means to reflect the interrelated nature of each of these themes as they developed over time. Lastly, although I have personalized my comments in this essay, this was done not to exert any individual authorial control but to indicate that I am ultimately not an objective, distanced voice; I am a participant, not in what Fluxus was so much as in what Fluxus is or can continue to be.


There is no date on which Fluxus can be said to have begun. There are, of course, dates for the first public use of the name, for the first public performance, for the first Fluxus festival, for the first Fluxus publication, and so on. To ascribe any of these dates as the beginning of Fluxus would, however, be misleading at best. Fluxus began before the name was ever used, and what is now thought to be Fluxus did not fully appear until after several of the "firsts" mentioned above. Fluxus evolved out of associations of like-minded artists in the late 1950s and early 1960s who came to recognize that there was a need for a vehicle through which their works and ideas could be publicly presented. For this reason, Fluxus was initially conceptualized not as a specific group of artists who shared a unified ideological view, but as a magazine to present a wide range of "interesting" work. It was from this general notion of a magazine titled Fluxus that a more specific group of artists with overlapping ideologies emerged by the early 1960s. Central in this evolutionary process was an expanding awareness of the nature and direction of the work being created on an international scale. In addition, a number of artists associated with Fluxus in this period felt an increasing desire to focus on particular types of works, what was called action music or events.

One of the more significant records of the evolutionary process which Fluxus went through between 1961 and 1962 is a series of letters sent between the general editor of the proposed Fluxus magazine, George Maciunas, who was then living in Germany, and one of the "area" editors, Dick Higgins who was then living in New York. Although this series of letters is somewhat incomplete, for not all the letters directly correspond and there seem to be some missing letters, they do offer a significant sense of the dialogue between Maciunas, Higgins, and other artists about the direction, focus, and evolution of Fluxus. This discussion was concerned with the development of Fluxus as both a publication and as a sponsor for a series of concerts that Maciunas and Nam June Paik had begun to plan in late 1961 as an extension of the magazine (what were to become the European Fluxus Festivals of 1962 and 1963).


Postcard from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins, November 28, 1961.
[mailed from NY on Dec. 1, 61], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

I must have your essay (extension), Dick, in 3 weeks also tape of your last piece - I may possibly play it here in a series I am organizing also in a grandiose "caravan" concert tour Paik is organizing. We will also perform your other things (I mean musical things) if I get my trunk with your sheets. ...Dick - send your essays and the index - categories, people, their addresses - works etc.etc. also to Stan Buetens . . . he will collect them all bulk and mail by parcel - air post - will be cheaper this way. that index is very important - don't forget to send it. Other editors are working on it also so, they may get in touch with you on account of it. I was de-activated for almost a month for lack of cortesones (in a hosp.) but now have them, so FLUXUS got delayed and other things also. . . . Fluxus is growing very well + seems like will have enough subscribers and materials.


Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
nd [but prior to January 18, 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

I just received a lovely letter from Paik. . . . Next time you write me a note, please tell me what he looks like.

About the diagram in your Fluxus scroll. Seven Points: 1.)I don't think you know Al Hansen's work, but I think you did very well to place him where you did, by Kaprow in the Concretist area. 2.) I see my box is big enough, so please call me "Dick" not "D." . . . 3.) Has Jackson written theatrical music? I think your theatrical box should be longer to clarify what he does. 4.) Is D. Johnson Dave or Dennis? If Dave, he belongs in note music, since that 's what he likes best and is most interested in. . . . 6.) At each end of Cage's box you should put a small Isidore Iseu [sic] box. 7.) I strongly question your mention of Varese up on top for anyone but Earle Brown (who has never written a tape piece on his own, just collaborated with Cage and Feldman, while Feldman has written one on his own, so that category is all balled up) and David Johnson. Varese conceived of tape music back around 1918 but never made any of it till about 1952. He invented one notation for musical diagrams, but it did not work very well, so he abandoned it. And he did no theatrical music. You must know, though, from Musica ex Machina, that Charles Ives had a colossal influence on all the composers in your "Note Music" and "Theatrical Music" categories, since he was, to my knowledge, the first to go heavily for indeterminacy, anyway, that's what all of us were told and how we think of him, whether or not we care about his music.

About Fluxus Magazine: I see you have many musical things.

. . .for #4, I think you should do Kirchner, because there is nothing on him at New York or Colombia or Yale. . . . In #5, a paper should be done on abstract writing, but for goodness sakes, why not ask Isou to do it? He's articulate but a bit shattered.

#1. My essay was intended primarily for continental Europe, and I'm certainly annoyed not to say what I want to say to the people I intended to say it to. . . .I intended to explain my feeling about commitment in avant-garde art here and abroad, particularly in direct contradiction of points Adamov makes in L"Aveu and Sarte in some essay I have. . . . Furthermore, you have assembled such an interesting collection of peoples work, most of whom are too poor or disinclined to get to Europe, a German or  French edition is virtually the only way this work could be made available to anyone on the continent.

. . .

In your concerts, almost any of my pieces could be used in #10. If you want to use me in #9, I have one piece- you know it- To Everything Its Season, in The Musical Wig- that could be appropriate. In #12 I suggest you invite Al Hansen to contribute. . . . In #14 I am sending you the second making of my long tape piece with a formal analysis of it. You may rearrange the piece according to some formal criteria, or play it on various machines, or copy it systematically, or blend any number of tracks on to two tracks of a small piece tape . . . and attach these end to end. When all these movements are played in sequence I call it "Requiem for Wagner the Criminal Mayor", and any structure you put together out of that should have a similar name, preferably limited to local politics. . . .  If you can pun so much the better.

There is said to be a group of electronic composers in Rotterdam doing work unlike the prominent Dutch bigwigs. I suggest you might be able to turn them up, perhaps for #22. . . .

My own going projects . . . a series of music-happenings called Mus(i)cula Politica, a big orchestral ooze, and a movie-lens-happening.  Fishy's Quadrilaterial is almost wired, and it may be done at the benefit for La Monte's Anthology . . . .


Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
postmarked Jan. 18, 1962, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

He [Paik] is very modest and unpretentious which is in great contrast to many people here and in NY. In fact he is not eager to perform or have his work performed at all, which is even more unusual. I also met Bussotti and Metzger . . . also unpretentious. They all will be of tremendous help for the magazine and festival. Also met Maderna who looks like a fat butcher, and Helms who (very much like Flynt) is absurdly arrogant and with pretensions toward world shattering originality and genius bordering on megalomania.

I met also people like Mary Bauermeister . . . Kagel, Boemer + others whose names I now forget. They showed me some diagrams + perform. instructions of new composers which seem very good (especially a group of Sicilians doing good work) Also quite a few doing concrete compositions.

2. Fluxus Diagram
a) I was thinking of Jackson's piece for audience which tends to depend considerably on theatrical or on eye rather then ear. then he has of course straight theater pieces too.
b) I thought of Dennis Johnson. Is David Johnson really any good? I just heard one electronic piece (at Cooper concert) which I though was quite mediocre, but then I would rely on your judgment for the diagram, since you are more familiar with his + others works.
c) Isidore Isou will be in European diagram.
d) By Varese I only meant as transmitter of Futurist + Dada bruitisme from Paris to US like John Cage. No direct influences meant. (this only concerns noises, nothing else) Theratre, theatrical music, I would have attributed to some Dada theatre - Happenings' influence. I did not attribute inderterminism to anyone in particular, but your idea of placing Charles Ives is good. Your suggestions were most constructive. Maybe now the diagram begins of look a little better.
3. I will include in Fluxus - your Inroads Rebuff'd and at least 2 events etc. But The_____ I did not understand all this grammar you were throwing at me. You will notice from revised contents, that Metzger undertook to do Kirchner, which will be excellent - much better then if I did it.
4. I will ask French editor, (possibly Alvard) to request Isou to write about letterism. By abstract chirography [sic] I was thinking of the very speedy handwriting (like signatures) more closer to Japanese "grass style" (Morita, Equchi etc.) or in France people like Degottex, few things of Viseaux, Mathieu, and some scribbles of Hidai (not his paintings).

I changed name of "distant past" to just "past" so 19th and early 20th cent. can be included.

I will appease you and we will have German edition of 1st issue, that will appear 2 months later. OK?

Will you send me programs etc. of your performances. Also keep me posted on your new work. When you so come to Europe next fall, you could participate in the Festival, no? By that time it may be held in Paris, Florence, or Warsaw. I think Wiesb[aden]., Berlin, Koln and Stockholm may pass by then.


Postcard from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
Postmarked 21.2.62 [February 21, 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

. . . Met there [London] Michael von Biel who is doing very nice things, better then Cornelius Cardew anyway, and much better then those New Departure people, who are only departing backwards. Got M. von Biel to edit English nothings for European issue II (FLUXUS). also arranged festival in London for Oct. (that's definite) June is fixed for Koln. . . . As editor of happenings can you obtain some materials for Fluxus from Hansen, Oldenburg etc. I got some things from Kaprow. Also - I hear nothing form Walter De Maria - nothing at all . . . (I sent him three letters.)  . . . If he wants to drop off he should at least tell me or you. Would you take over plastic arts ??? As it is now the whole issue consists of music & poetry only. (nothing from Simone Morris either).

P.S. With next mail I will send 1st. proofs of first issue, translations, revised festival program and final proof for fluxus prospectus. I got very nice cartons from small disposable enema units, (with all instructions written over). I want to mail out the Fluxus prospectus in them, nice?


Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [February 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

Are any of these good?
(for FLUXUS) & Fluxus diagram?

Artist List


This list is from James Goldsworthy, I don't know how trustworthy it is. Can you weed names out. Reduce it to just good ones? (if there are any)

Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,

nd [prior to March 19, 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

I have been looking over your list from Goldsworthy, and I see that the entire list consists of visual artists. Therefore they should not be diagrammed unless you want to diagram the visual arts more extensively then you have . . . But the ones I mention bellow might be listed in your index to the American avant-garde at the end of fluxus along with a couple of others that I'd add on.

John Chamberlin, does terrible sculptures strictly for Martha Jackson. Is avant-gardist by association. Very Posh gent.

Bruce Conner, likes to collage . . . all kinds of fetishable objects into highly erotic twist-pieces. [He] is surpassed only by Helms and Isou in self-importance.

Sari Dienes, is very social, like Yoko, to the point of getting very little done. The quality of the work she does makes me wish nobody would speak to her - there's just not enough of it. . . .

Jim Dine - very faddy gent, made junk art when that was the thing, did happenings when Alan came along (though his own were very vaudevillian psychological entertainments more then happenings), now has gotten very neat, and is painting neckties. . . .

Rosalind Drexler - paints obscenities for her children, plus neo-neo-mystical crucifixions that cannot be carried in processions. ...

Martha Edelheit - see R. Drexler. Not the same, but equally undistinguished. . . .

Jean Follet - makes junk sculpture rather well. . . .

Peter Forakis - has a very original style of sculpture. . . .

Red Grooms - makes comic strip cut-outs very large ( so does Steve Vasey - why include the one without the other?)

Ed Higgins - makes cryptic sculptures - elegantizes junk a la Johns and Rauschenberg.

Alfred Jensen - makes Compulsive geometric paintings. . . .

Jasper Johns - is about the best of the junk artists. His work is very evocative of something that goes well beyond what it is. . . .

Ellsworth Kelly - is a good commercial interior decorator, who has an original geometric style because geometric artists are generally not good interior decorators. . . .

Iris Lezak - . . . nobody but ray Johnson that I know of has ever seen her work. . . . Oldenburg - he is a realist of a wholly original cast. For example when he wanted to do work on a store, he went out and rented a store. . . . Again, his paintings are based on wholly improbable and literary situations, generally for moral and sociological purposes. . . . His happenings were vaudevilles, like Dine's, but they never represented situations, they were much more concrete, and they had a very patient bear-like power that nobody's but Alan Kaprow's had. . . .I really admire his work, totally different though it may be from my own, aesthetically and structurally. I have the notion that Claes and myself are the only two realists in theater, and, except for Jackson and perhaps Dick Maxfield, the only realists on the American scene. I think it is really to bad you never asked him for something for Fluxus . . . if it is not too late). . . .

Joseph Stella is Castelli's fair-haired boy (except that his hair is dark). . . .

Robert Whitman . . . Whitman has various odd ideas about there being something uniquely American in American art. He is the ultimate in fanatics about the old American originality bit. He also thinks that progress in art consists in outdoing, so he always thinks about somebody else's work and settles down to outdo them . . . but whether or not one likes his work seems to depend mostly on how much one wants to see Kaprow first simplified and then pushed to absurdity.

H.C. Westerman, of Chicago, is an old warrior-dada-futurist type, now about 55, who has done very little work, because of his habit if enlisting in anti-anything wars. [goes on to describe his involvement in a number of wars] . . . Nobody really Knows very much about him - George Brecht once spent a very talky evening with him - but he is a legend. . . .

To be added to your index:

Phyllis Yampolski started something called the "Hall of Issues" where visual art that was in some way committed definitely to a stand or point of view towards life could be exhibited in the context of political pamphlets, arguments, and all that sort of thing also was committed. . . . Of course, it only worked for the first month, and has since petered out. But that is the kind of thing she's interested in

Dick Tyler and Dorothea Baer are out and out anarchists. . . . Dick is actually convinced that he has the makings of a mass movement coming along- and it is not anarchic pacifism like Jackson's artist-ridden crowd of moaners. Dick and Dorothea are really involved in real Marxist-Bakunin anarchism . . . From an academic point of view, their work could be taken as junk art but with occult or anarchic-social materials instead of art.


Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
Postmarked 15.3.62 [March 15, 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

It seems like Walter de Maria is dead or a primadonna or unwilling to go to a wedding so I must be bothering you to save the situation. . . . Why not edit for Fluxus happenings, theater together with all other visual-plastic arts (minus cinema)... For happenings - it would be very nice of you to collect a nice box with nice essays, instructions from nice people you know like Hansen, Dine, Oldenburg, Whitman etc. and send them to me nicely like a nice person. Same for visual-plastic arts-environments etc. - a nice box of items, things, objects, scraps (1000 of each), essays, photographs (one of each) of what you like or think is worthwhile. Do you agree? OK? I still think (in spite of it being outdated) it may be worthwhile to do some anti-action painting - essaying - I mean a scholarly review-study of origins and imitational nature of this type of painting (abstract expressionistic, action informal - what you like) especially since this whole crowd of beatniks is still active - giving a fraudulent impression about their originality, doings etc.etc. (Floating Bear, Scrap, It is etc, etc.). It would be best if you could write something on this subject considering your familiarity with it. . . . I will delay Fluxus a whole month to get these nice things from you. OK? . . . Horowitz may write about the reactionism of English new Writers (like himself) and Michael von Biel against concrete music (like his own). Dugoszewsky wrote against all new music - indeterminacy, concreteism [sic], neo-dada, happenings - all of it. So we still need something on painting. Let me know about the things you will send me. . . .


Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
nd [Spring 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

This note is to say that yes we will come to Europe in the fall and will participate in Fluxus.

I think you can do without a visual editor for Fluxus in NYC since better no visual editor than a reluctant one. I will not get you a contribution from Dine of Whitman since I think they are Floating Bear Mannerists and unrealistic. I will get in touch with Claes and I will see if I can contact Hansen . . . to do something for you. Yes I will collect for and serve as visual editor if none other suitable can be found, but do not name me as any sort of visual editor for this country. Theater and politics are quite enough. . . .

Yes, Alison and I will come to Europe, possibly for a while with two of my performers. We want to do something of my theater pieces, perhaps Inroads would be appropriate. We want to be there from October to December. . . .


Postcard from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
Postmarked 19.3.62 [March 19, 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie.

[I] received your nice review of N.Y. plastic artists. . . . I want to print it in Fluxus the way it is  - OK? (maybe minus the reference to Jackson, not to antagonize him) OK? Will you add comments on : Lichtenstein ? (Castelli) + Rosenburg or rosenfield ? (Green) also Chryssa, Jay de Feo, Wally Hendrick, Robert Indiana if you think they are any good. . . . Would you also ask Oldenburg to write something within a whole month? Also maybe for special issue on the past? . . . I hear Larry Poons is writing too, so with Oldenberg + Kaprow things have + your writings there should be enough for plastic arts. I also think your films should be incorporated in the cinema section, so why don't you call up Jonas Mekas. . . . I may get a graphic freelance job with an Air Force (U.S.) printing section, I could then use APO + send more bulk like translation of your essay for your approval + other things. I will have Fluxus printed in Japan, because those Germans know nothing about offset. . . .


Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [Summer 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

It looks like I may hold on to this job for some time more and make some $ meantime. When you come mid. Sept. - you will be just in time for the "happenings" part of the festival in Wiesbaden. You should stay for a year, because in 1963 we may pull off a grand tour through Siberia. . . . We also made final arrangements in Paris for festival there in Dec. 1962. They have a good man there in Filliou - who does some messy happenings and has a gallery besides, in his hat, selling all kinds of small junk to passers (I mean from his hat). Ben Patterson is rather good also (in Paris) Spoerri & Bayle agreed to collaborate both for Fluxus & festivals. . . .

SEND ME: your first Danger Music pieces, like no.1,2,3, etc. Can we print the whole series of Danger Music? Can we make a continuous record from your requiem to Wagner ?? Also of your Constellation no. 2 ???? Constellation should sound nice on a record. Long period of silence - just surface sound - then Bang & over. So you give permission to make record? (to be included in Fluxus I) Caspari's theater in Koln want's to perform some of your plays OK with you ?


Letter from Dick Higgins to Claes Oldenburg,
June 26, 1962, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

Maciunas, who lived here the last ten years, asked me incredulously were there any interesting visual artists in this country. I said yes four, David Smith, Larry Poons, Alan and you. Maciunas did not like David Smith, but he liked what photos I had and asked me to keep in touch. Next he went to Europe to live, to avoid paying debts. When I heard from him again he was in the money, had a stable in the little air-force city of Wiesbaden in southern Germany, had bought a printing press, and had decided (wisely) that the only any of the stuff he wanted to see in print would be to print it and distribute appropriately. He knows how, since he spent the last seven years in graphics offices in publishing and magazine houses. The format, he decided, would be to make a periodical to exist in boxes, the periodical to be called "fluxus" to be issued quarterly in runs of 1000, with another 200 "luxus fluxusses"- tentative name for the special issue- to contain originals, unprintable matter, unmanufacturables, film strips, photos, newspapers, etc. Each issue will be broken up arbitrarily into nations and geographical regions. The first issue is to be American and is to be published in English, French and German. Then comes French, then German, then eastern European, etc. The material he likes is the experimental and "lively." He collected most of his material while you were in Texas. It may be too late for you to be in the first American issue (there will be another in two years). I hope not. You can send him anything that might be folded or boxed or sent through the mails or some such. He has contributions from George Brecht, Joe Byrd, Phil Corner, Lucia Dlugoszewski, Henry Flynt, myself, himself, Dick Maxfield, Simone Morris, Jerry Bloedow, Diane Wakoski, Richard Boldt, Walter de Maria, Al Hansen, Larry Eigner, Spencer Holst, Terry Jennings, Dennis Johnson, Allan, Alison, Jackson, Ben Patterson, Larry, Griffith W. Rose, Stan Vanderbeek, Emmett Williams, La Monte, I guess that's all. He will print four letter words, as many of each as you like, but you should not get his mag banned from the mails..."


Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [Summer 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.

. . .great thanks for your efforts in fishing up Al Hansen & Claes. Fluxus will be more complete now. I got stuff from Kaprow (but no essay) from Larry Poons (diagram & few words) I hope Claes will send an essay in addition to other things. Walter de M. sent a portrait of Cage & his followers. Also got things from Dennis Johnson & a thick batch of poetry etc. from JML & his friends. We will issue Fluxus in a box form - with bound pages & loose inside all neatly packed. Box will be very nice so it can substitute covers. dimension will be 8"x8"x1" or 2" if some loose things get bulky.

Your pieces (graphis 82 & handshake) must have been very good to see. We should include then in the European festivals. Handshaking piece could be for audience, include in the program as first composition - but never announced so who-ever shook hands meeting friends performed it. OK?

. . . I'll keep this shitty APO job till June 15th. . . .

The festival has been arranged in Paris for Dec. 1962. Ben Patterson, Bayle & Schaeffer (from above) are all collaborating. So when you come in Oct. you will have to go directly to London. November is still unsettled but we hope maybe Florence may come off. then Dec. in Paris & I hope 63 - Winter & spring in E. Europe & Siberia. . . . We are joined now by some good people like Daniel Spoerri, Robert Filliou, Vostell, Ben Patterson - all happenings people. Ben Patterson has a good piece for double-base which he will perform. Nam June Paik finally agreed to include an evening of his own pieces in each series.




Much has been written by the artists associated with Fluxus, emphasizing that there is no unified philosophical platform or aesthetic motivation that they all equally share or believe in. As many Fluxus artists have indicated in their statements, even if Fluxus might contain some conceptual coherency, there are no static visual or conceptual qualities, complete in themselves, upon which one might construct an aesthetic of Fluxus. Accepting this, however, does not preclude the existence of points of congruence on artistic and cultural matters that motivated the artists and shaped the development of the Fluxus group. As several of the artists associated with Fluxus have stated, most directly Dick Higgins in "Theory and Reception" and Ken Friedman in  "Fluxus and Company," even though it might be problematic to formulate a single Fluxus aesthetic, one can find some similarities or shared concerns in most Fluxus work. Beyond a discussion of what these conceptual nodes of Fluxus might be, one can gain a general sense of an attitude in most Fluxus work. This attitude is based on an unpretentious directness that brings into question the elitist aspects of high art or, as some of the Fluxus artists referred to it, "serious culture." In this way, Fluxus was and is part of a much larger development in the twentieth century that seeks not to change art so much as to change the manner in which people understand the world and perceive culturally dependent differentiations.

My intention in selecting the following letters is not to give a whole sense of a Fluxus aesthetic, or even all the potential conceptual nodes, but to reflect on some of these points of congruence. The letters that were selected for inclusion in this section were part of the ongoing dialogue, discussion, and argument as to what Fluxus meant, what it contained, and what might be done with it. The points of view that they offer are contradictory and even self-contradictory. This is, however, not the result of some failing. It is instead a reflection of the very nature of Fluxus as an assemblage and its sensibilities, attitudes, and/or aesthetic concerns. They in part evidence that aspect of Fluxus that revels in a carnivalesque participation of open-ended principals, such as de-centering, fragmentation, and a kind of Barthian textuality. In this way, these letters are part of the Fluxus attitude that seeks to establish meaning principally within a shifting code of situational references, and it is in such a context that they can be seen as containing some congruence.


Letter from Dick Higgins to Don McAree,
nd [ca. 1960], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Assumption One: reality and our experience or apprehension of reality both give the illusion of being totally disorganized.

Assumption Two: this is true because, since most things are explainable in terms so simple that we can hardly notice them or, more accurately, in terms of an overlay of identical principles of which matter is only one concretion, we do not accept the rationale, since we prefer to think of ourselves and our world as highly complex.

Conclusion: complex and irrational art is unrealistic.

Corollary: the only realistic art is concretion, i.e., the art which is a concretization of the processes of reality in its operation, internal and external, subjective and objective.

Corollary: non-realistic art must be based on illusion, assuming that it is made in good faith, and the illusions are most easily explained as psychology, i.e., as the interposition of deluded will or bad faith between the object or process experienced and the mind, or as a sort of mental feedback. Granted that such feedback may have pleasurable value, for a realistic attitude to be adopted it must be recognized as feedback, as distortion.

Let us leave psychology to Rilke and Jack Tworkov and Artaud and Franz Liszt. Realism remains something of value as long as there is any value in reality. concretion is necessary in order to avoid psychology. Concretion might be taken as an aesthetic process of being right without telling THE TRUTH. Concretions are all realistic.


Letter from La Monte Young to Dick Higgins,
nd [ca. 1961/62], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . naturally I expect that once a piece gets in someone else's hands the someone else will probably do it his way - so - If you want to perform poem that is very nice but I am sending you four newer pieces - Poem is getting old fashioned & besides, it is often altogether too entertaining for the audience. But its up to you - if you want to do poem or one of the new ones I'd be delighted either way - If you do a poem I have only one remark - NO Acting - each event is simply to be enacted but not acted - when the performance is put on it should not be smooth like a piece but it should be as though the performers just happened to wander into the performance area (we never tell the audience when the piece is beginning) if you do the piece do you want me to send you a list of events to choose from (at random or as is convenient) or would you prefer to choose your own? Which ever is the most fun for you. . . .


Postcard from George Maciunas to Nam June Paik,
nd [before August 15, 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Note on Stockhausen piece: I accepted your ultimatum & included him in the program [all underlined from included] ( his Klavierstuck IV), But I think eventually Fluxus festivals & book must lean more towards Neo Dada - action music - concrete music at least [dashes in this sentence are arrows]. Otherwise we will slide backwards to Darmstadt. No? Therefore, in future, I think we should eliminate all non-action, non neo-dada, non-concrete pieces even if they are very beautiful. I do not say Stockhausen is not beautiful NO! His pieces may be very beautiful, but so are pieces of Webern, Schonberg, Stravinsky, J.C. Bach, Monteverdi...etc.etc. We can not include them all - so we must draw the borderline somewhere. If we include Stockhausen we should include 100 others like him, but you will agree that Fluxus is not interested in all that is produced today. Stockhausen may be as famous as Cage, but Cage has originality while St. has not. Fluxus is interested in originality, fresh thinking not imitations or overworked forms.


Letter from George Maciunas to Nam June Paik,
nd [late 1962 or early 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

About FESTUM FLUXORUM. Will you have time to perform? & prepare some of your pieces? I did not know what pieces you would want to perform so in the program I sent to Beuys & Wilhelm I have written: Nam June Paik - to be determined.  . . .Beuys asked whether I should not include Vostell, Hulsmans, & Trowbridge. So I included Vostell and Hulsmans. I do not know what composition of Trowbridge could be performed so I could not include them. Poetry or prose readings really do not go well in Fluxus concerts unless they border on music - so action music like Mac Lows letters, but maybe Hulsmans can read a short piece, no longer than 5 minutes. Each composition in this festival will be SHORT & FAST.

. . .

Furthermore I think it is immoral to destroy food. That is one reason we never performed (after Wiesbaden) Dick Higgins danger music with eggs & butter. That is also the reason that I am hesitant about Vostells - decollage Kleenex cake throwing, unless he comes up with variation - it's about time he did come with variation of Kleenex. One cant just perform the same single thing over & over & over & over. We try to vary every piece in each performance. Some of course vary by there indeterminate structure (like Mac Lows letters, or Ichiyanagi, etc.) Some are varied by substituting different actions (Emmetts Alphabet or my Olivetti, Higgins Constellations).


Letter from George Maciunas to George Brecht,
postmarked January 9, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I do not particularly desire distinctions between "optical" & "acoustical." This is one reason I envision a graphic presentation of such a topology as a cylinder so that the area between pure optic & pure acoustic is between maxima & minima. Same applies to "artificial" to "concrete" definitions. Transition is very gradual. So one's life would belong in the category of "readymade" or non-art event, which is between optic & acoustic. By non-art I mean anything not created by the artist with intent to promote "art" experience. So your events are non-art since you did not create the events- they exist all the time. You call attention to them. I did not mind at all that many of your events were "lost" in our festivals. The more lost or unnoticeable the more truly non-artificial they were. Very few ever thought the vase of flowers over the piano was meant to be a piece & they all waited for a "piece" to follow.

I agree to the term art, science, etc. as mind-forms of mind-conceptions. Yet I can not see mind-form or conception (active) being imposed over non-art, non-science, etc. It would seem one could instead impose on them mind perception (private), since a non-art has already been formed of conceived, before mind contacts it, so a contact can not form it, furthermore but instead can perceive it and possibly form itself (mind) or reform itself. As soon as you form or reform it, then you create art. So I think art & non-art can be defined just as well as mind-form & non-mind form, even though non-mind-form depends on mind-form for its existence it does not eliminate its distinction of being non-mind-form. (+ -) Your calling attention to respond correctly & in need to any "Exit" for instance would be mind-perception or non-mind-form, since you do not form either the "Exits" nor the responses of all taught to respond correctly. But if you create an exit (or exit sign like we did in festivals) or create a situation for the "audience" to exit, then it is mind-form, or art, even though it may use readymade sign, exit etc. But situation is not ready made. (or event is not readymade). . . .


QUIBB-Art questionnaire by Gaul & Alvermann 
Dusseldorf, Jan. 30, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

[This questionnaire was filled out by George Maciunas (GM) and Dick Higgins (DH) in 1963. Only specific questions have been selected for presentation here]

1. Do you believe that the object is dead in modern art? If yes, which object?

DH-yes because it doesn't say yes or no. None do.

GM-what is "modern art"?

4. Do you love art? If yes, in which color?

DH-Blue, Green, Magenta, and Gray

GM-no. I like "no art."

5. Do you love culture or the German culture? If yes, how many times a year?

DH-Yes - I love all nations, but hate many tendencies-398 times a day.

GM-no, I don't like culture or "kultur"

10. What do you think of the plan to paint the Sahara desert silverbronze? If yes, with what pattern? (please include sketch)


GM-This would be art. Up to now art only spoils what is not art. Leave Sahara alone.

15. Do we have your opinion of a valid society? If not, do you believe that modern art is to blame?

DH-Art expresses society and its directions - it does not make it.

GM-culture is to blame

16. Do you see in art:

[from the list of nine possibilities the selected:]

DH-a) phenomenon which exists.

GM-i) an urgent necessity [draws arrow to section in his own handwriting] an unnecessary urgency. waste of man power, waste of human & material resources.

18. do you think that QUIBB-Art would give your life a new meaning? if so, which?

DH-Art doesn't give anything. it helps teach. QUIBB has the same message as SQUIB toothpaste.

GM-I don't think any art can give life new meaning.


Letter from George Brecht to George Maciunas,
nd [early 1963], Maciunas' personal microfilms #1/108, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

You are right in thinking that the event scores were not intended for performance in the traditional sense. I hadn't thought of them as temporal readymades, but that description certainly fits. Using the first of the THREE YELLOW EVENTS as an example: at a certain point (imperceptibly beginning) it became evident that an event like Yellow Yellow Yellow could occur, and the score was written down. Some time later, possibly days or weeks, I was walking one very foggy evening  and saw three dandelions growing from a single point. Later, on another evening, about midnight, I saw three yellow traffic lights blinking in unison. So- not only was the score unintended, but so were the realizations. I am not against injecting intention into the situation, and so realizing these works in a theater (which their sparseness certainly permits), but I think they may often be lost there unless surrounded with enough emptiness or formality. (Alison Knowles has said some performances were "lost" that way, which of course is also fine in its own way. The same thing happened to a realization of the table and chair events I did in a recent show in Philadelphia. . . .  A table, tablecloth, and two chairs were provided ( all white ), and the table set, at various times during the show, with either a place-setting, newspaper, solitaire game arrangement, etc. What happened was - many people used the furniture to put their coats on, to rest, etc., and the piece was effectively lost in ordinary life! nothing special! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha - I am very happy about that. (Watching people sitting in the furniture was very much like watching a "performance", except "ordinary" people were acting naturally, without self-consciousness, and without the special training actors and dancers say is necessary to overcome that self-consciousness.)

. . .

As far as your article: I think it successfully applies a conceptual scheme to the present state of affairs, so for totally ignorant people used to a conceptual approach it may have clarified things for them. Of course if you could get them to give up all their mental furniture you would be even better off! Anyway, I think looking "under" Duchamp's work, and "under" Cage's (for example) is a more likely way to find what it is presently nourishing to think about, then sticking to the Neo-Dada label, which is very inaccurate, (I know you are aware of this: what I am probably getting at is, bad labels don't even do label-lovers any good.)  . . .  Concerning the last Paragraph: since anti-art is opposed to art, it depends on art for its existence. Hence anti-art is an aspect of art. Since art (like science, religion in the organized sense, language, myth, etc.) are mind-forms, rainfall may not be art according to whether or not a mind-form is imposed upon it. Beyond these mind-forms, art and anti-art, and non-art, are not involved, since no distinctions are imposed. Then, finally, the subject-object distinction is dissolved, concepts and methods disappear (since no-one acts), and everything becomes exactly itself.


Letter from Dick Higgins to Jackson Mac Low,
nd [Prior to March 18, 63 - date of response], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

One very small thing you mentioned in the course of your last letter: you said that I was "less cool" than others of the post-Cage thing. Actually since around the time of Saint Joan at Beaurevior and the most of the Graphis series I don't think I've really been in the post-Cage thing. Except for very small pieces, most of my work is moral, social, or political analysis and testament. I'm always awfully conscious of the social implications of my activities. Except on a very remotely spiritual plane, I don't think La Monte's circle or George Brecht's is particularly conscious of this. I think of my work as falling into two categories: social activities and sermons. I like the function of parlor games in that they have accidental qualities and they tie people together that would otherwise just drift around in the same room. I love sermons. I think you and I have made many fine sermons, and Alan Kaprow too(on a purely moral plane) . . . Al Hansen perhaps similarly.

Others, Phil Corner for example, may be very concerned about social matters but it never seems to affect more the title of his works. As a result, I feel increasingly less affinity with George and La Monte, and after FLUXUS I may not work with them anymore. It is a question of affinity and changes in my own concerns more than any disrespect. Somehow I become a little impatient when one is above mundane considerations.


Letter from Henry Flynt to Dick Higgins,
nd [1963?], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

There is a relation of From "Culture" to Brend to politics, but the core of problems I am concerned with in the book is apolitical. Your thinking about "culture" cuts across mine. You are like the traditional revolutionary, + intellectuals of the '30's, not really caring about "culture" one way or the other. Your arguments + Maciunas' against "culture" are utilitarian, that is wasteful. But since my doctrine in FCTB is apolitical at the core, I don't care who it catches on with first; I would just as soon have it catch on through the existing bourgeois channels + then be picked up by the Reds if that is easier - which ever way is easier. Thus my plans for picketing, and it is to be decided as much on experiential as on theoretical class grounds whether the picketing will have accomplished anything.  FCTB is apolitical just a physics is. And I think you are wrong about pure math, that it is as independent as anything from the class struggle - although I argue against pure math; of course, econometrics is not class-independent, but that it is a different matter. You will find that when you hear FCTB  that I discuss problems that you simply haven't thought about. I consider art, amusement, a.s.f. on their own terms. You and Maciunas may not care about "culture", + evaluate it only in utilitarian terms; but what happens is that after a revolution has failed to take place, or after it has taken place + and the pressing material needs are met, then the "culture" which you did not actively combat because you were indifferent rises again and becomes autonomous and important.

As for your political activities - your shocks - sure - why not - I'll go along with them - they can't do any harm. Now I didn't realize that your "show" is political-didactic; I thought it was a music concert or something to comment on slogans and show - first, some generalities. When we intellectuals come up with something we think is good for the workers and present it to them, they are flattered by our attention, + are trusting, and will give it a try. Thus I think we have a great responsibility not to get them involved in something which, while not harmful, ultimately brings them no nearer the solutions of their problems, + eventually disappoints them.


Letter from Eric Anderson to Dick Higgins,
September 9, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . You wrote about art. I want to postulate that totalart today is just the same as antiart, because both totalart and antiart at this moment is: the basic artistic engagement without medie [media]. I think Christian Wolf mixed up two things, when he said that all things got melodically. 1.: of all artistic mediums are music the nearest to antiart. 2.: our attention is crescendo.

I am sure that the only way to definite "the basic artistic" is to deal only with the relationship between ideas we construct for that purpose and not deal with the considering. then we get a new conception, and then I think the word totalart will be relevant.

I want to say that I don't accept any kind of neo-dada and polemic antiart, because the both directions end in the present conception of totalart and stop there (perhaps the work is necessary pedagogically and historically, but I can't calculate with these things,). I think that I am on the way to the new conception.


Letter from Jackson Mac Low to Dick Higgins,
April 22, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . I have no sympathy for Henry's kind of attacks on serious culture, even though I'm disgusted by its corruption & commercialization, & I agree that certain kinds of art, music & literature have acquired completely wrong kinds of prestige, & that far too many people have been bullied & bulldozed into trying to "succeed in the arts." . . . I am not, however, against all concerts & exhibits, either of older works or ones recently composed &c. . . . I doubt, however, that my sole criteria wd ever be ones of political, moral, or generally, social 'usefulness.' & it seems questionable to say that some 'useless' or 'purposeless' works are 'useful' just because of their 'uselessness' or 'purposelessness.' That is, such usages of words strike me as language games of questionable validity. Some works of art, &c, may be socially useful, that is, of use to most people or to 'society in general'(if that phrase has any content beyond "the welfare of most people"); other works may have a much more limited 'use' . . . I am not willing to rule out the later kinds of works . . . .



Letter from George Brecht to George Maciunas,
nd [early 1963?], Maciunas' personal microfilms # 1/109, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Received FLUXUS newsletter #5, George, which answered some questions of mine and engendered others. It has been evident to me for some time now that, even beyond the value of individual works right now, there is a more important change taking place in the nature of the actions we find it nourishing to undertake.  . . . (or say: "the nature of the acts we find being taken.") So I am very pleased to see FLUXUS taking form (as in your newsletter) as a sort of (center of activity) or (focus of action). In this sense, FLUXUS is like YAM Festival, another (somewhat less focused) center of action. Here are some thoughts and questions on the focusing of FLUXUS:  1) AUTHORS: Somehow I have the feeling that I would like to see little less emphasis on "authorship" (since the "person" is such an approximate, one might say "inaccurate", and overworked construction.) Thus I would rather see my complete works called YAM FESTIVAL, Aqueous Aspect (and in small letters: arranged by G. Brecht), than "Complete Works of George Brecht" , or similar. This encourages connecting the box with other aspects of YAM Festival, rather than with other aspects of George Brecht. 2) GLOBAL ASPECT: FLUXUS seems to be an anational, rather then an international, phenomenon, a network of active points all equidistant from the center. These points can proliferate, new points arise, at any place on earth where there is life.  . . .I think we should stop thinking that only "cultured" individuals lie within our reach.  . . .I would be interested in knowing generally, how large the FLUXUS system is, and how you envision its makeup. For Example, would it be like (magazine) subscriptor [sic] services, also include stores and galleries? or? NEWSPAPER: If you like the newspaper idea, YAM & FLUXUS festivals might somehow work together on it. These festivals overlap already . . . Could you sound out others' interest in this idea? We need an anational editorial group. . . .

3) FINANCES/COPYRIGHT, ETC.:  . . . As in my letter, I am against copyright unless absolutely necessary. If you were sent any works exclusively, couldn't you publish . . . before others could copy? also, you mention "unauthorized performances". Do you envision giving permission for performances? Won't this lead to the crappy situation of German tape music. . . .  Especially with my work, "permission to perform" becomes rather meaningless. 4) GENERAL: What is FLUXUS "propaganda"? what kind of "demonstrations"? "infiltration"? co-ordination with useful people in what kind of activities?



Letter from Thomas Schmit to George Maciunas,
nd [Spring 1963], copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

dear george (as well Brecht as Maciunas since i am not sure who is responsible for the V TRE . . . i am deeply disappointed and angry about that "V TRE" !!!!! . . . maybe somebody can give me the right version of what "V TRE" means at all ??? - then, first page: this photo of the new editorial council is really too much true: this page, and the whole paper, looks exactly like what comes out if bourgeoisie gets drunk - maybe you know the german "kegelklubs" (sort of bowling clubs . . ., which is a very typical institution of german bourgeoisie: if those people make a feast, they print newspapers - "bierzeitungen" - that look really to mush like your V TRE: nicely mixed up and nicely silly ---- and we ( and all german students) used to make such papers . . . just to enjoy ourselves ----- BUT FLUXUS people should keep away from just only enjoying themselves!!!!! . . . the other junk . . . and the mixing up . . . i say its terrific silly!!! [referring to all the materials on the first page] ------(george M: you said that i were turning into a beatnik: well, i never did and will never do  such a beatnik-like thing as the V TRE is!!!! . . . second page: same story - like the Brecht things, especially the new ones - BUT: in that surrounding they actually look like feuilleton (: nobody will get the intention to read them carefully and concentraitedly, -which is nothing more than a real pity), since everything else is more or less sort of junk!! . . . the third page same story: some good things - BUT: the ben-attestation and the ape are simply do not fit together (make misunderstandings) - and no surrealism, please!!! -- and the krumm-list only as a "line" concerned mainly with the layout ??? things like this are too important to even have something else on the same page!!!! . . . fourth page . . . worst thing: this paik essay - it is an essay written by paik, isn't it?! - anyway: to keep this in the japanese language is (or surely looks like) bare snobism - since not more than 3% of the readers will be able to understand japanese (or is it koreanese? i dont know --anyway) --- and many other worst things: why those comic strips? - why this christo-fotomontage??(i like people doing good things not having good ideas !!!) -------oh no, all those fingers, comics, nice photos, silly stories...no no no NO!!!!! -----: you simply cant expect me distributing that in germany!! dont send me any more - please look for another fellow doing the distribution! . . . george: i hope you regard this letter as part of my constructive way of FLUXUS collaborating - i do so - its really a bad thing the V TRE. . . .



Letter from Dick Higgins to Eric Anderson,
nd [ca. July 6, 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I have so much enjoyed your and Henning Christiansen's pieces. I like his idealism. I like your sense of community. There are political implications in your work which may not be very interesting to you, but which I love. And how!

. . .[you] refer to Cage. Remember that once, when Schoenberg was asked to name his most interesting pupil, he named Cage. Remember that Cage is the Wagner of our time and that it is our joy and duty to destroy him. Remember that he is much too influential and that this has badly damaged many young composers.

Art is as art does: that is the nail on which we will impale John Cage. Art is not an existential situation in the 19th century phase of the idea. When I became tired of John's music I went into the woods and looked for mushrooms with him. Therefore he is my uncle and I love that man while I fight the artist. Oil on a orange salad: that is my relationship to John Cage.


Letter from Robert Filliou to the editor of the newspaper Berlinske Tidende, Copenhagen,
December 21, 1963, copy of the original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

It is not true that I refused to participate in the Fluxus Festival in Copenhagen (November 1962). On the contrary, it is my Fluxus friends who decided, for technical reasons, not to put up anything of mine, although my name was on the program. . . .  Of course, the Fluxus group is composed of individuals who differ much in their personality and their work. The general human approach of all, however, is sensibly the same, I think, namely to fight hard against the bottomless stupidity, sadness and meanness that keep plaguing our lives; and for a world in which spontaneity, joy, humor, and -why not?- some sort of higher wisdom (many of us have been influenced by Zen Buddhism), and true social justice and welfare (most of us are politically of the left) would become as green are my woman's eyes.

Some program! I know. Still, we're busy at it. Our main problems are, as I see it, to avoid: - falling into mere slapstick, or into the trap of anti-art (neo-dadaism); -being slack in the choice of works, by fear that the bad (the imitations) should drive out the good (the original contributions); -becoming prisoners of a 'system'.



Letter from Wolf Vostell to Dick Higgins,
November 13, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

In Berlin was a Gag festival and I am sorry so say you that Spoerri sold his Fallenbilder like Gags/everybody can tell you know that so hole avantgarde may be seen like a big GAG/

So perhaps we can work out together a new kind of group/people which have the same moral, and publish under this Leitidee/(rays idea of opening eye children's book very good) this from the beginning I Aspected from fluxus really to create a new moral and art/and it became the opposite a reactionary, perfumed decorativ stuff/ George couldn't understand what I had in mind in the discussions/so I was the first man to leave Fluxus/



Letter from Mieko (Chieko) Shiomi to George Maciunas,
nd [ca. 1964-1965?], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

How many shall I make? [referring to her work "Endless Box"] It is impossible to mass produce by machine. If possible, it is not practical for 10 or 20 set. I prefer to do all process by my self. . . . I found it is very silly to exchange with object. because very few people do it with sincerity. Partly I had been feeling some resistance to that whole commercialism in New York. Always sell, sell, sell -- But maybe it is the only way to spread our work and continue to do work, since we live in this mechanism of the world. And after finished my work - not during being involved to that - I could become indifferent whether it is on sale or not. I have no objection, if people want to buy and our work could spread little by little in this way.


Letter from Eric Anderson to Dick Higgins,
nd [1966], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . the point is : what he [Vostell] has done is that he took advantage of everybody possible and forgot about the rest - muddle-headed person. - He destroy an opportunity for honest information. what did he give us instead : a book built on easy lay-out ideas

an unhonest information about phenomenons mentioned in the book

an impression that vostell is something and that everybody seems by their activity to confirm his own activity (which is definitely not true )

THE BOOK IS A LIE !!!!!!!  -(isn't that enough)

it is a monument over the german happening - but the german happening does not exist ! - it is a book which tells us that vostell most of all is inventive - but vostell is NOT inventive! - vostell has NEVER created anything (doesn't he know of piscator, kaprow, and raymond haines ). . . .

. . .does he react against human and social structure ? NO he confirms it as stupid artists always have done by relations to single attributes of the society. - to day we react against, spain, tomorrow vietnam, the day after to-morrow portugal, then the negro problem etc.* [* "such activity is founded on the lie : to demonstrate is to ask or present an alternative.] - by his activity and viewpoint himself he confirms the sources of the same problems, - can't you see the line he is on establishing : national-masturbation as 1. - the banal political influences (that is what in fact confirms the sources which gave us the vietnam, spain, etc.) as 2. and the personal reputation and myth around his person as 3. ( I can understand that you haven't read german magasins [sic] as der stern for a long time).

tell me dick : is the problem:

who made the NY happening

who made the french happening

who made the german happening

who made the danish happening

who made the norwegian happening

who made the tibet happening

etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. ???????????????????????? "



Letter from Ben Vautier to George Maciunas,
August 28, 1966, The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

But what does Fluxus mean to me. When I think of Fluxus I think of a general spirit in art consecrating the notion of Everything in: Detail, Life, simple gestures, non professionalism, divertissement etc. I think of George Brecht's pieces, La Monte Young's compositions, Ray Johnson's letters etc. I also think of a concert composed of small non artificial pieces ranging from Paik's violin solo to Georges simple piano pieces, of items from Watts, A-Yo [sic], Fine, Shiomi, Kosugi, Schmit, Joe Jones, Eric Anderson, etc. Yes all these people mean fluxus to me Even if they are not Fluxus, or have quit, or have been expulsed [sic], or have never been Fluxus. Yet everyone of them taken separately has his personality some very important. So calling them Fluxus or not will never transform their originality but on the other hand it helps to strengthen and link. Together the same spirit.

I personally call all pieces that join the Fluxus spirit Fluxus. I don't call my complete works Fluxus because in my complete works are such things as poems, more like Ginsburg's poems then Fluxus. Another important reason to continue calling fluxus concerts Fluxus, is that too many people are giving nowdays bad Fluxus influenced concerts with lots of spectacular scenes, which could lead to an unnecessary confusion in the publics mind.

I think that Dick Higgins is Fluxus and it would have been fine if his press was called Fluxus too. I dont think that Dick and Maciunas compete and event if they do. Didn't the Dadaist's and Surrealist's fight like dogs, I personally believe in ego, even when its to promote collective art. Higgins and Maciunas are collectif [sic] individualists both concerned with promoting the same-spirit in art. And instead of fighting should come to an arrangement dividing the work to be done. (There is lots to do) for instance: (Books) Higgins (Items) Maciunas etc. It seems to me silly and a necessary that because someone is on Higgins' list Maciunas could have nothing to do with [h]im, or vice versa.

. . . Of course maybe I'm in no position to know what's really happening, maybe this letter is useless but it gets a weight off my mind.



Letter from Ben Vautier to George Maciunas,
April, 1967, The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

I am working hard on a theoretical work on: (All is Art)(Non Art)(Anti Art) for it I am using extracts of ---

1 Dada

2 Cage

3 Maciunas (Manifesto)

4 Flynt

5 Moo tse toug

6 Int Situationiste

7 Provo

8 Ben

9 Brecht (maybe)


. . .

I enjoyed your diagram - of course lots think it false what is interesting is that in the red diagram you finished up with Fluxus in the latest diagram you finish up with Brend and Red Guards - you seem also to forget my personal opinion on AntiArt I have since 1965 . . . I feel strongly since a very long time and Flynt knows it that Art is Useless because if must change and that one of the only ways it can change is through AntiArt which is in fact very close to political reality too AntiArt for Newness sake and AntiArt for Human and political sake. . . .



Letter from George Maciunas to Ben Vautier, March 25, 1967, The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

. . .your program sounds fine! you are getting very efficient & proficient. The fact that Kopcke & Anderson called you a great entertainer confirms my view that FLUXUS is amusement, entertainment like gags & Vaudeville. THATS WHAT IT SHOULD BE. Fluxus is not serious culture

. . . About Paik pieces. If you read my diagram and notes carefully you will see why I would be reluctant to include them. 1st they are mainly "sensational" and Swedish newspapers confirmed it by showing photos mainly of Paik pieces. Well, they were composed mainly for the purpose of causing sensation, in other words, they were done for newspapers & publicity sake. I think a piece can be strong, and not be sensational, in the sense of being either involved with sex, masochism, sadism, etc, I think, for instance your audience pieces are very strong but not sensational in the sense of using sex of masochism as a device. Pouring water or cream on oneself or sticking head into black paint is definitely masochistic. I think that to rely on these perverse devices for success indicates lack of imagination. It's too easy to cause an interest in audience by disrobing in public or the like, much more difficult to cause an interest by some ordinary act.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Nam June Paik,
August 2, 1969, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

It's beautiful thinking about the ugliness of the sixties from a distance isn't it. Remember my old horror at the glut of Wiesbaden? Well, these were the Wiesbaden years for America, except, of course, for artists like us. We didn't participate in their boom, and so we won't participate in Their Bust. Every night I pray for Dow Jones 400. I really admire ugliness from a distance, and the only difference between beautiful things and ugly things is how close one wants to look into them, no?



Letter from George Brecht to Jan Van der Mark,
September 8, 1974, copy of original in Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

It seems to me that each observer can find or decide for himself when the work is finished (for him at that moment). Why should it ever be finished once and for all? (it could never be anyway.)

The event, for me, has always been a more individual focusing than a performance. With a few exceptions (like the "Motor Vehicle Sundown (Event)", which was barely out of musicdom into eventdom, or the "Three Telephone Events") the event-scores could always be "performed", or, better-said, "realized" by anyone, anywhere, coincidentally. It was really later, through Maciunas and Ben, that Events became known as pieces for public performance (which of course was alright with me).

"Duchamp held the choice..." I don't think it's so much a matter of aesthetics as of transcension (if that word didn't exist it does now, that is, neither ascension (toward good taste) or descension (toward bad) but a crossing into a state in which "taste" does not exist, is meaningless, in which state one can readily admit to good or bad taste on anyone's part (including one's own).



Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
November 19, 1974, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I do not believe in amateurishness: that isn't what it is all about. But in amateurism, in simplicity. In art (by which I also mean non-art, if you prefer, so long as it is aesthetic in some way) on which one cannot hang a cycle of professional crafts and dependence. An art which by its very nature denies its perpetrators their daily bread, which must therefore come from somewhere else. Such an art must be given, in the sense that experience is shared: it cannot be placed in the market place. and in this way it differs profoundly from the Fluxus-derived "movements" of earth-works or media-hype forms of concept art. Much of that work I enjoy - I even love: especially Acconci, Smithson, Beuys. But finally I must reject it, not because it isn't officially Fluxus, but because it isn't free. It's just so many hat racks for careers to be hung onto. When the name of the artist determined the market value of a work and not its meaning is our lives - beware!



Draft of letter a from George Maciunas to DAAD,
nd [ca. 1976], copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .in present art great emphasis is given to idea or contents rather then form & craftsmanship. In concept art particularly there is practically no Form. In such case the idea beg [sic] the important must be inventive - an original and sor [sic] give the work any value. if it is a copy of some one's else's idea as the great many present conceptualists work then it has noting left. no form and no idea. In the work of Takaho S. [Takako Saito] one can find a rare quality of both Original idea & expert form and craftsmanship. The idea of game as an art form is typically Takaho S. there are very few practitioners of it and she excels in the inventiveness and craftsmanship of this genre.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Hans Sohm,
June 23, 1978, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I was noticing just yesterday how subtle Maciunas's views were. I was moving my big graphic chart history of Fluxus into my house from my studio, and I noticed how at the heading he described Fluxus not as a one-track, narrow art-historical "movement" but as a form-- and groups it with other sensual forms. Very cool and shrewd on his part, because it explains how the group doing that for behaves, rather than splitting up as art movements inevitably do.



Letter from Ken Friedman to Owen Smith,
July 23, 1991, Collection of the author.

There are two forms of existentialism that must be discussed. . . .  One, mid-20th-century existentialism, is seen in America and perhaps to some degree France. It seems to place a stress on the individual over against or in opposition to the universe. The other existentialism is in many ways close to Zen. It lays stress on the individual as a responsible actor in the universe. This seems to be the existentialism of Kierkegaard and of the deeper Nietzsche. This existentialism is related to Fluxus. Even though existentialism can seem to be antithetical to Fluxus -- especially the misinterpretation of existentialism reflected in the pompous, self-important rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism  -- Fluxus has had much to do with the ethical existentialism, certainly that range of existential issues that are also touched by Zen.

Put another way, not all existentialism emphasized the individual over against society. Rather, there is an existential understanding that stresses the value of the individual without opposing society unless opposition is necessary. The misinterpreted existentialism is rather like Brecht's monstrous, self-willed hero Baal, opposing for the sake of opposition. That Suggests that to be, one must be against, and this is not the point. To be is to be. If one can genuinely understand that, one can be in many ways. This is very much the existentialism seen in existential psychotherapy, in the work and writing of Viktor Frankl and Fritz Perls. This is where Zen and existentialism touch. You'll find, again and again, that Fluxus artists have much to do with this sort of existentialism.





One of the aspects of Fluxus that has often been seen as a central concern, especially between the years of 1962 and 1965, revolves around the question of the nature and function of art and culture to effect social and political change, or what I am calling activism. A number of the artists involved with Fluxus were interested not just in changing art, but also in changing the world. Fluxus was, or at least numerous associated artists thought that it should be, not a new style or form of art, music or poetry but a means of revolutionary change. It is this aspect of early Fluxus that has led many to describe it as a post-World War II extension of the early twentieth century politicized avant-garde and some to even single out this period as the "heroic" period of Fluxus. Although most Fluxus artists were concerned with change beyond the limitations of the cultural sphere, the nature of these changes and specifically the means to create them was by no means clear or even shared. In fact the differences of opinion on this matter were so strong that it led to the first major confrontation within Fluxus between Fluxus artists about what Fluxus was or should be.

A large majority of the letters that I have included in this section revolve around the discussions and arguments that resulted from Maciunas's proposed plans for cultural actions in New York City.  These proposed actions, which were distributed to various people associated with Fluxus in Fluxus News-Policy Letter #6 April 6, 1963, "PROPOSED PROPAGANDA ACTION FOR NOV. FLUXUS IN N.Y.C.," were intended by Maciunas to have potential social or political results. The proposals, developed by Maciunas probably in conjunction with Tomas Schmit and Nam June Paik, called for Fluxus propaganda through the sabotage and disruption of transportation systems, communication systems, museums, theaters, and galleries, as well as through street compositions. Fluxus News-Policy Letter #6 generated numerous responses, most of which were opposed to the proposals, but for a variety of differing reasons. These various response letters are significant not only as a reaction to the specific proposals but as one of the principal records of some of the Fluxus artists’ points of view related to Fluxus, politics, and activism in the early 1960s.



Letter from Dick Higgins to John Cage,
nd [Spring 1962], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Five years ago, when I first met you and spoke with you you said that in Europe more was happening musically and here more was happening visually. Lots of the time for a while I thought about this, and I began to wonder, if so much was happening where was it all? I mean, if music was happening in Europe, really happening, when we heard it why did it not seem to be happening. And what has become of it? Boulez and Cardew and Stockhausen and Busotti and Nono? and what happened here? Perle Fine and Sam Francis and Al Leslie? Perhaps the reason that nothing was achieved, and that the situation was perhaps the opposite of what you used to be saying at the time (I think that in Europe Yves Klein and the Swedes were doing something, and that here others of us were doing something) about disorder and social matters, was that those of us who had any motive, not just a noble one, were able to do something strong. . . .

I am going to Europe, I am going to lecture, and my lectures are going to be destructive of Stockhausen and Cardew because they have to be seen without their own false and glamorous light if ever we are going to achieve the social order implied by our work, yours and mine. I am going to do my damndest to establish a relationship between political and artistic radicalism, this has to be done somewhere along the line, and it may hurt all of us one way or another, but it is necessary and I want your blessing. May I have it?



Draft letter from George Maciunas,
addressee unknown [someone in Sweden], nd [ca. 1962], copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

We would like to request for your esteemed collaboration with Fluxus. Fluxus is an international militant action with intent to:

flux 1. PURGE the world of bourgeois sickness, "intellectuals" professional & commercial culture, purge the world of dead art, imitation, artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art, purge the world of Europeanism.

flux 2. FUSE the cadres of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front and action.

flux 3. promote imagination, change, movement, growth - FLUX in art. Promote living art or anti-art or non-art reality to be fully grasped by all peoples not critics, dilettantes and professionals.

Presently FLUXUS action manifests itself through world wide publications and demonstrations (festivals, concerts, anti-art demonstrations etc.)



Letter from Jackson Mac Low to Dick Higgins,
March 23, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . anyway, -I don't know why you ever thought your economics column wd fit into George + Bob's paper - It's just not what there're up to. (did Geo. say OK & Bob say no?)

Theirs is (so far) mostly fun & games & gossip & ads & more fun & games & ads for all us &c. Its OK but not what you want at all & won't reach the audience you'd want to reach. The only economics most of the readers of the Brecht-Watts paper are interested in is the economics of Pop art, 'avant-garde' art, & the like. Again -OK, I guess, but not enough to be useful for political ends such as you are interested in  (& I). I mean , probably no use for such ends. ...to do anything significant one has to reach and really influence the workers. The intellectuals feel they know it all already ( all except a small segment of them -). . . .



Letter From George Brecht to George Maciunas and Henry Flint.
April 18, [1963], Maciunas' personal microfilms #1/111, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . though there may be points of agreement between your work, Henry, and mine (George feels there is), there is a fundamental disagreement in attitude in respect to ( shall I call it ) "actionism". You both seem to feel it necessary to oppose very actively institutions you feel are obsolete or pernicious, or both ( Art, Serious Culture, etc.) whereas I see anti-art as an aspect of art, for example, and am indifferent to them both. I have publicly said (in a panel at Hunter) that my work is not art ( for me), though, of course, I have no control over what others think it is, or choose to consider it. In the future, I can begin to see, it will be less and less easy for people to (mistake)(take) my work for art. This is one of the qualities I very much admire in Bob Morris' and Walter DeMaria's work: not easily being able to put it into some existent category. So, regarding the actions outlined in the last newsletter, I can't see myself taking part in the tunnel Tie-ups. I am interested in neutral actions, or in watering the ground to see what sprouts. (This was the spirit of my original offer to support you, Henry, in giving your lecture.)



Letter from Alison Knowles to George Maciunas and Thomas Schmit,
April 16 [1963], Maciunas' personal microfilms #1/114, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I am rereading now Fluxus news policy letter n.6. We read and discussed same with Al Hansen and Henry Flynt last night. The propaganda activities are very exciting, and not to ambitious if those planning to come do get here. Yam is working out because we each have our own individual jobs and activities, and some of the people can be used for Fluxus festival too. . . .  Flynt talks about "Creep", the C.P., and how he really has little to do with any of us, but his conversation is much more coherent to me, and you may be able to use him for picketing. . . .  As for Hansen, he will help however possible.  . . .The June through Sept. Fluxus that you suggest using Yam organizers would be hard to put through. why not wait until you arrive? and before that, propaganda, organizing, etc. The two festivals, Yam and Fluxus are quite different as you will see when you get Yam calendar next week . . . and although many of the same people participating, Yam does not have the direct revolutionary flavor of Fluxus. Yam Performances go on at Siegel farm for audiences who got calendar mailing and Smolin Gallery mailing list. As far as I know George is planning no street disturbances, or publicity involving N. Yorkers in general.



Letter from Jackson Mac Low to Dick Higgins,
April 22, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . Henry came up Sunday, mainly to ascertain my reactions to George's "Fluxus news-Policy letter No. 6." I told him that the only part I wd be willing to participate in wd be, possibly, performances of La Monte's straight line piece, & the like. However, I wd also be interested in part I 1 (sale of fluxus publications) as well as parts 1, 2, &4 of section II (concerts & exhibits). I agree with Henry that the gratuitous disruptions, sabotage, &c wd be "unprincipled." Really, its hard enough for people to make a living & get around in this city. It goes very much against my grain to do things that wd make life more of a drag for the "ordinary person". The only excuse for picketing, even, is some clear & urgent social purpose.



Letter from Jackson Mac Low to George Maciunas [copy of this letter was also sent to D. Spoerri, E. Williams, R. Filliou and given to B. Vautier],
April 25, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Jackson Mac Low,
nd [Spring 1963]

. . . about NYC Fluxus, I thought you were mad at Paik too (he made most of the suggestions in the newsletter mostly (except the truck breakdown which sounds awfully Maciunasy)). . . .



Letter from Tomas Schmit to Dick Higgins,
nd [spring 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . I don't know why you all dislike fluxus letter 6 so much, surely, the things proposed there are a bit unprincipled, I don't like them to much, too, but things like this should be done, too. - Jackson Mac Low sent me what he wrote to george about letter 6, wrote him a loooong story, he seems to be what we call here "sentimental socialist", a kind of thinking which i don't agree with at all. . . .


Postcard from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [ca. April 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

George Brecht blew his top off, & thinking the Fluxus Fall plan much too aggressive wrote me he want's to dissociate himself from Fluxus - which was a big shock to me. I wrote a smooth letter to him trying to repair the breach, writing that newsletter 6 was NOT a "diktat" but a suggestion to start a discussion among recipients, to obtain constructive proposals from collaborators - from fluxus people & not impose a set program. It seems George feels that Fluxus is me & Flynt which is not true. Tomorrow Emmett of Paik or you may be chairman, especially if I decide or cannot show up in New York. I also wrote George that without him in Fluxus festival I would not participate either (or come to New York). I stressed his indispensability within Fluxus. etc. etc. - (now my request, Alison) You possess abilities towards diplomacy so I trust you could cool George down & bring him back into the "fold". Stress the fact that Fluxus is a  "collective" (and not anyone in particular like me, Flynt or Paik). So that the newsletter was intended  primarily to gauge the feeling of this collective. If the feeling is against the aggressive feeling of the proposal, then we can revise the program. Nobody is trying to impose anything on anyone. OK? In a few days I will mail out newsletter 7 which will contain suggestions for N.Y. Fluxus from Thomas & Paik. Again it will be presented as suggestions of stimulate for collective discussion. Except for Vanderbeck & Flynt I received no replies from N.Y. people, so I can not judge what the general desires are (up there). Paik's & Thomas suggestions are even more aggressive (so George must be "prepared" for it) . . . My arrival absolutely conditional to George Brechts participation. It is much too premature to start splitting-up. If George thinks Fluxus is getting to competitive with yam, we can eliminate Fluxus and concentrate on yam. Names don't matter at all. How does Ben think ?



Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
nd [Spring 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Flynt's been bothering everybody, he doesn't like Newsletter 6 any more than Jackson and me.  . . . Your quite mistaken about Flynt's being at all sympathetic to East Europe these days, he's ostensibly a Maoist but really an ultra. . . . As for his picketing, he says he does it to inflict severe financial loss on museums, never realizing that this only lends an aura of daring to a safe thing, which the burgesses just love. . . . keep a very hard eye on him, because it is just not consistent with his point of view not to want to sabotage your east European issue, since he so loves attacks, fusses, and big cracks at cultural activity. . . .  Now your newsletter. I just don't approve isolated acts of terrorism, cultural or otherwise. There's no point in antagonizing the very people and classes that we are most interested in converting. Our point of view is strong and insidious, and is best established by meetings, lectures, and shrewd publicity. The publicity of our activities so long as it is not completely a fabrication, cannot help but interest people, no matter how hostile.

. . .

I wouldn't worry about George Brecht, he'll cool off before long when he sees Flynt and Mac Low and me are unhappy too. As for Tomas, you say he has lots of violent suggestions, but why and what about them, that's the thing. Is he going literary? Again, if he personally wants to do lots of terroristic things, fine, let him get it out of himself, so long as he doesn't associate the movement with it. I think he is a good man and will become disturbed about his own terrorism after a while. As for Paik, he's for the New York Times. If he had come here, he would have learned a lot from the multitude of people who have been through his scene. But he's big in Germany by default I think, he concentrates on impressing, he is much more interesting then his work, I think. That's another world, his, free from racism and unemployment and war threats with nothing going on but the desire to epater-les-bourgeois and organize our personal lives on a more anarchic and sexually libertine basis (that I take to be the moral of his work). I find him profoundly escapist and negatively noble.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
May 5, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Yam {Festival] is becoming very watered down, because Watts, Brecht, and Smolins really anarchists and very very disorganized. . . . Fluxus needed especially Maciunas, for his organizational ability. None of us like Newsletter #6 suggestions. I think it alienates us from our best potential people, and that what is need is very ambitious propaganda and public performances. Others have different objections. Main lack here now is clearly defined responsibilities. Nobody accepts any responsibilities because all are afraid they will be swamped.

Also, the differences within old Fluxus people becoming much clearer, as more people appear. Whole younger group comes along. Actually, I support (of those here) only Hansen, Kaprow, and (subject to limitation) Brecht and Mac Low. Watts is egomaniac, Flynt is totally ineffectual, many who were with us are becoming rather suburban in out look.

. . . Brian O'Doherty of The New York Times gives naive support to us, criticizing as "superfluous" all political aspects of, for example Kaprow, which strips the whole thing of meaning but also reinforces right wing of Yam Festival (Watts, Brecht, Young, and Pop Artists).



Letter from Tomas Schmit to Dick Higgins,
Postmarked 19.5.63 [May 19, 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH NEW YORK???????????????????????????????????? when first hearing about yam-may plans, i would have liked to be in new york at may time -- but now i am glad, glad, glad that i wasn't there -- usually i get sad after most of the performances we did and do here, (not, for i don't like them, but for i see that with little efforts they could be done better) -but now reading your letter is enough to get sad - merde, is that a bad story ! . . . i can't understand why the people who were so angry about the "antisocial sabotage"- things of fluxus news letter (esp. Mac Low, Brecht) did the things you describe in your letter . . . this prospectus of brecht/watts i really don't like too - it's too much like what used to be on cornflakes pack back: "the best to you each morning - boys! girls! make your own funny faces!



Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [Spring 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . Flynt has written me a long letter on his "reactions" to newsletter 6. Some points did make sense others did not, if he wants to inflict severe financial loss to museums (without promoting them at the same time as pickets would) he should follow my advice of sabotage, such as by post: mail expensively weighty packages to one museum from another museum without postage, one of them will end up paying. If done in great quantity it can be very effective financial damage. . . .  Henry himself wrote that we must discuss all this very thoroughly before final fixed program is finalized. You know I do not believe in "cult of personality", especially in fluxus, therefore I would never let anyone (Flynt or Paik or anyone) to do [this].

3. About Flynt's Maoism - that also he made quite clear to me several times, but I do not see him as an ultra. He highly respects various aspects of Soviet Union, such as Mayakovsky's & Vertov's anti-art campaigns. There is nothing of that sort in China yet . . . East European Fluxus will end up to be a sort of anti-art manifesto, heavily leaning on Mayakowsky & Vertov. Art aspects related to a sort of "index".

4. Re: Newsletter 6 terrorism. I do not understand your statement (& Jackson's) that "There is no point in antagonizing the very people and classes that we are most interested in converting". Terrorism is very clearly directed against galleries, museums, concert halls, professional artists, etc. - are we desiring to convert them ??? I had no idea of this! (?) My idea of fluxus is it is to be intended for the masses (like Wiesbaden or Paris housemeisters who enjoyed every concert of ours) but not the pseudo-intellectuals, gallery & museum directors & other decadent dilettantes. Those people will not lead to conversion so easily and I think the easiest method to overcome them is to destroy them. If we can reduce the attendance of masses to these decadent institutions we will increase the chance that they will turn their interests to Fluxus.

. . .

I would suggest that you (with authorization from me) call a meeting of all Newsletter recipients. During this meeting you cold go over all the suggestions make new ones and send me the synthesis of this session. Also during this meeting subdivisions of organizational authority could be carried out. I suggest the following:

1. Henry Flynt - in charge of his own campaign plans. (independent).

2. Mekas - in charge of finding all enclosed spaces: theaters . . . & in charge of film programming.

3. Maxfield - in charge of electronic music programming

4. Robert Watts & Geo. Brecht in charge of all exhibits, environments, etc. if they cannot undertake this because of their being in New Jersey, I suggest that they find someone to assist them, like Bob Morris. . . .

5. Jackson Mac Low - in charge of peripheral "social action" etc.etc. but not integration of fluxus, with his group of anarchists. Instead - broadening the fluxus festivals into "alliances" (you understand what I mean).

6. Yourself - in charge of "formal concerts" & a sort of co-chairman, keeping meetings in order.

7. Ben Patterson - in charge of "street compositions" (He has done a few in Paris). & informal or "illegal concerts". he would have to work closely with Paik & Tomas, that's why I would not ask George or even yourself to collaborate with them. You seem to have quite a few reservations about Paik & Brecht seems to be violently opposed to any aggressive pieces or anything tending towards pornography of Paik's sort. Question: how on earth does brecht get along with Watts ???? Watts is both: pornographic & quite destructive (I mean his pieces).


Letter from Jackson Mac Low to Dick Higgins,
May 22, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . I wd like to do something against that odious "Civil War Parlor Game in which chance operations make it possible for the confederacy to win this time." (May 28 at 113 Greene st. by someone named Mike Kirby sponsored (god save the mark) as part of the Yam festival! by 'those Smolins.' At least to picket it as an insult to every afro-american, every person concerned with civil rights (in any sense) & every composer, poet, dramatist &c who has ever seriously used chance operations in his work. - I wrote to George Brecht about it but got no answer. Then I let it drop because I got depressed in general. But maybe you & Alison wd want to do something about it.


Letter from George Maciunas to Emmett Williams,
nd [Spring/Summer 1963], copy of original in the Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

We must postpone East Europe Fluxus for 1965 maybe. Chrushchov [sic] is not hot on Fluxus at this very moment, although he agrees with us in being against abstract art !!! So he is closer to Fluxus then say New York "Abstract expressionists" or the French "Tachistes". Yes? So I believe Fluxus has best breeding ground in Soviet Union which was not spoiled yet by abstractionists (or at least Stalin corrected that !) So we must all work towards eventual Fluxus in S.U. OK? Through officials and nonofficials (but not Evtushchenko's kind - he is degenerate and already under the evil spell of Western art. Best to work through political agitators and present Fluxus as what they have been looking all along to have against the art revolt brewing there. We can help them to impose a political supremacy over all art-activities. You agree?? I know Flynt agrees for sure (Higgins, Ben Patterson, Thomas & few others on way of agreeing).

. . . this explosion in N.Y. and disagreements in N.Y. Total disagreement to do any political agitation, join Flynt, or do any art-terroristic activities, meant we have to arrive at an entirely different platform that we can all agree-to. . . .  Then after . . . New York we can have a thorough discussion & see how political fluxus can be, then we can make Fluxus penetration or is it entry ? or return eastwards. OK?

Emmitt ! I must know how you feel about involving Fluxus politically with the party ( you know which one). Our activities loose all significance if divorced from socio-political struggle going-on now. we must coordinate our activities or we shall become another "new wave" another dada club, coming & going. There is resistance from Brecht [Brecht's name has been crossed out], Watts, La Monte & Mac Low, who are either a-political or naive anarchists, or becoming sort of indistinct pseudo socialists - all this is just crap, now Flynt is politically oriented. Dick, Thomas, I think Vautier, also Joe Byrd, Mekas, Ben Patterson, also Metzger & Bussotti seem to be becoming politically oriented. I never discussed this with you and was sort of in the dark about you orientation or rather under an assumption that it was oriented "correctly". Now, Robert I hear, tends to be politically oriented (is it correct?) while Daniel is not. The whole "editorial board" structure has been sort of "constructed" with decoys like La Monte & Mac Low, Ichiyanagi & Nam June Paik - all non-political - that's good to draw support from non-political sources, but there just can't be too many decoys, then whole fluxus becomes decoy & looses significance. Therefore it becomes more and more important to determine the political pattern or orientation of the "committee" before we start activities on a grander, expanded scale. . . .  Keep this away from Daniel - I think he is strongly non-political. OK ?



Letter from Dick Higgins to Emmett Williams,
nd [Spring/Summer 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . As for Maciunas's #6 and #7, I am not interested in alienating our best men. I think it was very poor judgment to send out both - we may have lost Brecht to Fluxus, for example, not just Mac Low. It's one thing to slug a Zen novice to knock the concepts out of his noggin, it's another to isolate our selves from our potential audience by alienating them in the subways and on the sidewalks. I wrote a fairly involved scheme to George suggesting other possibilities. Not one of the people here, except for Flynt, who's got dementia precox, approves of the letter, and none of us intend to participate if this stuff if carried out. That in spite of our own split, between the people who are interested in the special aspects of what we do (me, Kaprow, Hansen, perhaps Young), those who care mostly about the technical aspects (Byrd, Maxfield?, Jones, Mac Low (in spite of his political activism), Maciunas?), those who deny the whole thing but think they can use it as a rostrum (Flynt, Smith, etc.),  and those who like mostly the philosophical implications of things (Watts, Knowles, Lezak, Patterson?).  Brecht and Patterson are half in our team, half in the other. Before too much longer, the whole thing will split four ways. You always say you're so pro-red, what tendency do you prefer?



Letter from George Maciunas to Emmitt Williams,
nd [Summer of 1963], copy of original in Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.


Fluxus crisis is over & resolved. Brecht is available & reachable again, just got his letter. JML has been calmed down by newsletter 7 and so were you three. . . .  Anyway, newsletter 6 stirred up some dust and made some adventurous readings. Street activities will be in the hands of, and carried out primarily by Paik, Thomas, John Cale (& to some degree myself, maybe Ben Patterson, Mekas brothers, Kaprow). JML will concentrate on activities he himself suggested & Flynt on his own.

. . .

Small item (to return to "fluxus crisis") I notice in your letter your reluctance to alienate the "snob circuit". But thats the very thing we should do with Fluxus festivals! One point of disagreement I have with Mac Low is that our street events WOULD NOT ALIENATE "the masses" since they don't go to concerts, museum, gallery premieres etc. & would not therefore be affected in the least by sand piles at gallery entrances, blocked traffic, etc.etc.etc. I think we should try to reach totally unsophisticated people (like that superintendent in Paris student center - I for get his name but he was the one who enjoyed our events most thoroughly).

Also my motive for street disturbances would largely "commercial" - the more disturbances - the more press notice, the more audience, etc.etc. If for two months we keep associating Fluxus with all kinds of disturbances or "street compositions" like Paik's "Zen for street" or "dragging suite" then people will begin to get curious as to what will Fluxus do in a theater, etc. I had very bad experiences as regards audiences in N.Y.C. Just can't get any. Halls always half filled or less. To La Monte's concert only 5 came. Imagine 8 performers & 5 audience !!! We will run into the same difficulty if we don't promote Fluxus. And we must promote without expenditures - that's the trick, since I wont have a job in N.Y. & will have no $$$. So my scheme was to promote at no cost to us through various methods described in newsletter 6,7 - maybe others will come with constructive & realistic proposals on promotional activities rather then criticisms. If we can't promote we can't give Fluxus in N.Y. It will draw fewer people then Paris did. that's a problem that must be resolved really before I go to N.Y. because I would still be able to cancel the trip & save some $$.


Post card from George Maciunas to George Brecht,
Postmarked October 17, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

FLUXUS newspaper is entirely your creation! You should not try to achieve any revolutionary nor any other aspect that would make your point diffuse. Fluxus is no "proletarian dictatorship", with inflexible "party program". It is a collective in the true sense of the word. So when I wrote ad I naturally tended to infuse my point of view (even if unconsciously). When you edit newspaper you should infuse your point. . . . The fact that majority of people within Fluxus are [strongly - which has been crossed out] politically oriented does not in the least prevent others to be a-political. (Nam June Paik, Bob Watts, & yourself, for instance). So please ignore this political flavor if it does not suit you or would adversely affect your own point of view. Even though your views may be a-political I think that they are more politically than or rather applicable potent than Henry Flints for instance. (parallel with Zen in this respect I think).



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
November 30, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . Thomas, that is what my work is about. [referring to social injustice and some to some black activists he saw attacked by the police in a New York City demonstration That is it. It is. Nothing else matters. You can complain to George that he is more interested in books than people, but more people see books than our performances. He is not, after all, a professional anti-artist like Henning. Henning should just show his balls and have his cock sucked by some lady and call it quits. Sex is not anti-art, and calling a thing dialectic does not mean that it is scientific materialism. I like Eric's things, but Henning's things are very opportunistic as I see it. They may think they are the same, but unless they try to be, they aren't.

Don't you think the best art appears spontaneously in a social setting? Like the songs on Broadway [referring to "we shall overcome" which was sung by the black activists marchers], when the police beat the black man? I will never hear that song without feeling something very sad, and will always sing that song as if it were I who had been slugged. Thomas, I have seen it happen, and that, not the gesture of bourgeois futility is, I feel certain, what art is about. . . .

Fluxus is that. And I am sad to hear Vostell tell me that you say you do not know what fluxus stands for, because if you say that I think you are telling a very diplomatic story, which is not up to your level, there are enough Kennedys but not enough Maciunases or Schmits (or mes, maybe). Reminding workers that art exists is not your job, improving working conditions . . . is.  Sure Fluxus is a collective. But it is primarily a united front. There are few Maciunases. After all the work, for example, Maciunas finally decided not to issue at American "Fluxus Yearbox" because it tended too much to nationalism. . . .



Letter from Dick Higgins to Raoul Hausmann,
November 11, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . Listen Hausmann, you identified me with the very nihilistic happening movement. It's true, I did help found it. But look, let me reiterate once and for all, I am not a happeningist or a neo-anything. I am a popular artist, as far as I am concerned. My interest in your best-known phase of activity is that I regard you and Heartfield as the more sincere activists of a group (the last in history till myself) that managed to combine political fervence with experiment in the means of expression. . . .

If you understood the situation in my country, you would understand why we are constantly attacked on the very stupid basis that there is no basis for an avant-garde art of any kind which is avant-garde in both subject matter and form- this criticism comes to us from partisans of both subject matter and form. I say, there are precedents in Berlin dada in the work of certain people there, and in the work of El Lissitski and his associates at Moscow in the period 1921-24.



Letter from George Brecht to Dick Higgins,
February 17, 1967, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

One of the big gaps in my knowledge is in politics. I have never been able to see why anyone would take an interest in politics, why men devote their lives to such a field; and this is annoying me, for politics is obviously a huge chunk of what humans spend their lives doing. One way for me to start would be to read a concise , humanistic, knowledgeable discussion of politics . . . to try to sense what need politics fulfills for humans. . . .  Is there a field of "comparative politics" . . . ?

Second point - if possible, I would like to "take sides". I've spent many years, as you know, widening my view by investigating science, philosophy, and various intangibles. It is time to do something else . . . I have never been in a position where I could decide to be a communist, or capitalist, or socialist . . . [i]f I wont join a church, organized religion, why should I join an organized political party?



Letter from Dick Higgins to Robert Filliou,
July 7, 1967, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

John Cage is really upset these days about social things, and he's becoming intensely political!  After all these years and at this age! . . . his thoughts along these lines are just as brilliant and incisive as you'd expect them to be. Guess he's following a similar evolution to George's [George Brecht].





The nature of Fluxus as a collective, or at least as a group that had certain collective concerns, is another one of the issues that has continued to hold a significance in numerous debates about Fluxus. The issue of Fluxus and collectivism really contains three separate questions. First, if Fluxus was not a movement that had a specific form and ideological platform, what is the basis for the collective works and performances that were presented under the name of Fluxus? Second, as Fluxus sought to counter traditional notions of art as the product of an individual with special talents, was collectivism a means that Fluxus offered as an alternative? Third, and this is really the primary issue of continuing debate about Fluxus and collectivism, how and in what ways did Maciunas's notion of Fluxus as a culturally based socio-political collective align with the ideas and concerns of the other artists associated with Fluxus? To begin to address these and other related questions about Fluxus and collectivism, one must move beyond the sense of Fluxus as a "united front" that Maciunas worked so hard to propagate. It is more relevant to look at Fluxus as a rhizomatic association of individuals who sometimes had markedly differing opinions and as an assemblage/group that was shaped by personal conflicts and the dynamics that resulted from these conflicts.

The letters that I have selected for this section speak both for and against the general nature of Fluxus as a collective in the sense that Maciunas used the term. More specifically, these letters evidence the conflicting dynamics of Fluxus as a group. In this form, it was often shaped and directed by individual concerns and constantly shifting disagreements and arguments as to the nature and function of Fluxus. What is in some ways indicated by these letters is that, contrary to the assumption of a collective Fluxus, Fluxus was as fragmented and de-centered in practice as its attitudinal view was in theory, thus the idea of it as a assemblage is useful as a means of recognizing the shifting associative relationships that were central to the nature of Fluxus.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Alan Kaprow,
nd [ca. late 1962 early 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

At Wiesbaden a popular German beat poet by the mane of Bazon Brock, who is a friend of Emmett Williams, performed in Emmett's "Four Directional Song of Doubt," a permutation piece rather like his "In the Cellar" which is in the Anthology & which was done at the Living Theater. He was there for the one performance, & since he was shrewd enough to realize that Fluxus is a marriage of convenience on the part of a large number of artists who do not agree with each other, but who find it an effective rostrum for setting their ideas before a rather large audience that is expecting something a little out of the ordinary at least, he wrote an article for the second largest newspaper in Germany, condemning the whole series of 17 concerts as having essentially no position except a common derivation from dada. As if a concert series was supposed to "have a position" or represent a "group."



Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
Postmarked February 26, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Wolf Vostell would be a waste of money, since his piece is expensive (buying again that confounded plastic and cake) and he is against FLUXUS not for - he wrote so to me himself. - So I see no reason to include him in a group against which he is set. Besides he is a saboteur & I think Dusseldorf 1st. evening demonstrated that again. He uses Fluxus festivals to promote his anti-fluxus. - Let him then organize Decollage evenings if he wants to fight fluxus, So if Vostell comes to Stockholm I will boycott & refuse cooperation (I think Tomas & Emmett feels the same way).



Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [early 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Why Dick you get so angry in your last letter - I could read between the line your anger. I think our suggestion (or instructions) was very obvious one - A whole list of reasons: To perform complete fluxus festival you would need to give total program, otherwise it would not be "the best foot forward" causing people to think that fluxus has expended itself. Therefore fluxus must be complete or not be complete fluxus but pre-fluxus or some such thing. Secondly if you do 1/2 or 3/4 of fluxus now we may just as well not do the other 1/2 or 1/4 later - people won't know its the "other" half - they will think the 1/4 or make one concert "festival" or 1/2 concert? Or repeat some pieces over ???

. . .fluxus is a "collective" & should not be associated with any particular fluxus individual. In other words flux tends to de-individualize individuals and a single performer tends to individualize individuals rather then emphasize the "collective". Therefore I think more composers must participate in such festivals. Your interview & newspaper articles plainly speaks for what I am trying to say. It differs considerably from newspaper releases we got when fluxus was presented collectively. In New York you can easily do without us, because there are so many fluxus people there. . . .  Same is true in Montreal - where Pierre Mercure, said he would organize [a festival]. . . .



Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
nd [early 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

[This letter is a response to the above letter from Maciunas.]

The last thing I want to do is damage. Fluxus is useful to me - it is a good rostrum for my ideas, and I am sympathetic to most of the people in it.  . . .  Since you said nothing about stopping the plan if you did not come, I assumed you wanted me to put the show together on my own, which I began to do. I ordered fluxus type posters, basing my program on a tentative 3-day plan you made for Dusseldorf in December.  . . .  Then Wednesday I received your letter with its injunction not to have a fluxus without you... If not, I was to alter the basis of the performances to an informal preview.  . . .using pre-fluxus for the Stockholm affair, dropped "festival" completely. . . .  I received a new telegram, saying "deviation from letter prohibited cancel second letter program." The second letter program was canceled already. But I cant do all the first program since the HAUSMEISTER prohibits the Paik piece. . . .  Since I cannot do your program exactly, I am going to announce to the audience that the first program is in some respects a preview of the festum fluxorum to take place in the autumn, but that it is by no means a literal preview, that the other programs are not at all a pre-fluxus but are a pair of purely independent programs put together on my own... "


Letter from Wolf Vostell to Dick Higgins,
July 5, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

It was very nice to see your and Alison's name on a poster that came from Amsterdam Fluxus Festival! Also very much new names I never heard (?)Also. Thomas send I small lousy publikation [sic] (copy of kalenderrolle) out with photos and small compositions of many Fluxus people on it. So that is there problem ! Since I'm here I didn't see T. Schmidt, I think he is very influenced by Maciunas - so that they didn't invite me anymore - so I'm out of this boat called "Fluxus." It was for me a strange experiment (psychological) to hear Spoerri say "I have nothing to do with Fluxus- It's bad - and now he appears in all posters and publications. this is prostitution!



Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
September 19, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Patterson, as with everything, did not want to come, just to do his own pieces. Personally I am very close to Ben. I see him often. But he does not have any concept at all of collectivity. This is understandable in situations like your own: most of your pieces are philosophical manifestations that require only yourself. But why should I perform Patterson who won't perform me? Hansen and Brecht seem to feel the same way. It is a sad truth, but there are not enough experienced performers of these simple things we do. At the moment, we cannot afford to do everything ourselves, so we must work with people with whom we do not entirely agree. This is the difference between today and thirty years ago, when Artaud or Gillestie could work alone, but, on the other hand, our break with the past is more radical.

However, as I pointed out, I have taken measures to insure that collectivity does not lead to weakness, the way it did with the Yam Festival.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
November 18, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

This Paris thing was most definitely not organized by Spoerri. In fact, his jealousy nearly destroyed it.  . . .  Spoerri drove Emmett in from Ravanel, and suddenly on the outskirts of Paris he became very agitated and said he thought this concert would be another Fluxus amateur night, and he set Emmett out of the car and drove away. If good old Filliou hadn't come to the rescue, I do not know what would have happened.  . . .  When Maciunas, who knows more about it, heard, he was so angry that he has ordered all copies of the Spoerri-Dufrene book destroyed. He may regret that, but who knows?


Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
December 7, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Emmett is in trouble with everybody over a concert he did in paris- have you heard?  . . .  A program was printed which included an extract from Wilhelm's speech at A'dam, only such passages as mentioned people in the Paris performance. This was done without Wilhelm's authorization, which was very poor judgment on Emmett's part. Naturally Vostell- who accuses Fluxus of being too nationalistic (? national what, Turkish? Japanese? Korean?),-mostly because of his own sensitivity- Vostell set up a huge cry the length of Europe. In the mean time George became very angry because Emmett just did what he liked and included a lot of fluxers without ever mentioning fluxus. Daniel became bitter, left Emmett on the out skirts of Paris. . . .  So now Maciunas, Wilhelm, Vostell, Spoerri and his circle, everybody except goo Filliou is angry at him, and now he is living in a shed eating only sugar beets and spaghetti through the French winter.



Letter from Willem de Ridder to George Maciunas,
April 3, 1964, The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

Vostell and Thomas came too and were like angry schoolboys because they found there was too short fluxus, Vostell and Thomas in the television program [this was a program that de Ridder had done about "all the things in art and anti-art" the footage was taken partially from a performance he organized in Amsterdam with Emmett and Thomas]. They wouldn't listen to my arguments. They went to R. Perenboom on Amstel 47 and organized a kind of beatnik-happening in a cinema in Amsterdam. Like real Europeans they take themselves as serious as possible. I hope that they will become well known in a short time because I think that's their greatest wish. I am so angry (forgive me) because I read the last decollage with the article of Thomas.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
August 16, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Maciunas told Charlotte Moorman that Brecht, Ay-o, and I could not be in an interesting festival she was making, because she was [not] part of fluxus. This was outrageous. I had already told george that I was not interested in fluxus, that I would live up to my commitments and after that, nothing. So he doesn't yet know it, but I am going to have to get him out of the way. I am less diplomatic then you, and much less political. But now I have to be either a bastard or be cut off from my friends. George has been trying to cut me off from Alan Kaprow- which is impossible, since I am a fighter for Alan and vice versa, since years. But since he is trying to blackmail me into sticking with him, I will use the same procedure. I am going to join Alan Kaprow in Originale, which Brecht and Jones and Ay-o were prevented from working-in by Maciunas's blackmail (naturally the result was that Brecht, Jones, and Ay-o are now completely against Fluxus). Maciunas is picketing the performance (with Flynt). He expects me to join him. I am 1. not going to join him, thus depriving him of expected support, 2. I will perform my vocal sonata and expel him from Fluxus, 3. I have already sent Flynt's work to my friend Mme. Joudina, who is asst. director of the Ministry of Culture in Moscow, and is my main contact there . . . explaining that Maciunas published it, and that he (she knows that already, and has known him for years) wants to emigrate there: since Flynt is an out-and-out Trotskyite, though he doesn't admit it, Maciunas will not be allowed into Russia again, 4. I am sending Flynt's papers to Japan to the key people there- Ay-o has already written them- to discourage the people there from doing the fluxus festival they plan for march, and 5. I am sending around a mimeo pamphlet comparing Flynt cum Maciunas with Goebbels cum Streicher to the political groups through whom both work. This goes against the grain, but there are things which must be done. Maciunas has progressively antagonized all the best people, who started out to work with him, from you, Hansen, Spoerri, Kaprow, etc. through (very recent) Paik, Brecht, and myself. His presence is not just embarrassing, it is damaging and intolerable.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
December 19, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Poor Paik: his situation is really not good. I think he should return to Germany at once. A great deal of what he does depends on his being unique and idolized. In both Tokyo and New York, he is neither. In Tokyo, almost nobody attended his concert. . . .  I understand that they were embarrassed by his violence and expressionism. And in New York, he seems so out of context, so naively romantic. Where the artists one likes best are the popular rock and roll singer (Walter de Maria), the cotton technician (Brecht), the teacher (Kaprow), and so on, this kind of wild romanticism of the artist seems very peculiar and student like. It is easy for him to work here, and he likes the city very much, but in performance he becomes completely confused and hysterical. Really hysterical. I had to ask him to leave my Ones, the piece I described, because he became so wild. The thing is, he knew he was going out of control, but he was completely powerless to stop himself. This city is so close to his way of thinking, that it is an excess, he is like an automobile without brakes, and he knows it. Of course, Paik and I had no argument. I asked him very quietly to leave, and he went well. I have seen him several times since then. But it is too much for [him]. The city will simply devour him unless we find a smaller city for him or a quiet place in the country for him to develop his secrets in peace.



Letter from Mieko (Chieko) Shiomi to George Maciunas,
nd [after September 8, 1964/65], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I felt sorry about your situation around Kosugi. But to be honest with you, I remember I knew the plan of charolette's concert series and that Kosugi was included in it. I think I herd it from Shigeko around spring. I can not understand why you feel Paik and Charlotte are trying to destroy FLUXUS. Can't they have a freedom to do what they want to do? It doesn't mean to destroy other things. Even if they performed all Kosugi's piece, is it impossible to do it with a different realization? It must be interesting too, I think our pieces contain almost endless possibilities of performance.  . . .  I think most important thing is what is actually performed, contents of the concert, not who belongs to what organization nor who is the first.

I am afraid in a way it might be your side to build a conception of competition I don't think they have such consciousness. They just liked Kosugi's pieces and wanted to include.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Chalupecky,
September 9, 1965, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .and Maciunas, who, as you know, is Fluxus, since the rest of us quit.  . . .  Fluxus wasn't always what it has become, you know. It started out to be a collective, because there were so few ways open to us to present our work. The various festival which I commended in Postface were really pretty good, especially at first, at Wiesbaden. The pissing contest was an early sign of the decline of Fluxus, there's no question, and the newspapers were really moronic.  . . .Schmit you will like, I suspect. He was the first to leave Fluxus, in the Fall of 1963. You know him as the man who held the pissing contest: he has grown up, now. . . .

I think I'm a little more sympathetic than you to the kinds of violence per se that Paik stands for: I think Jackson is correct in attacking the tendency, but perhaps wrong to attack it so strongly in Paik. Because Paik's specific strength is the way that he seems uncannily to reflect the general tendencies which he finds around himself. In a more passive nation Paik would be harmful. I think your country doesn't need a Paik. But this country is, frankly, engaged in criminal acts, which people will not recognize because they don't see it in front of themselves. The outrage, which Paik at his best produces, seems to force people to accept the fact of violence as a part of their lives.  . . .  Naturally I do not mean really to defend him: his complete negativism and superficiality would make him at best undeserving. . . .  Patterson and Hansen are marvelous. We're doing a book that includes some very serious games by Patterson. To play them forces the player to become conscious of ways of thinking that imply a whole new set of psychological principles. That one is certainly full of the "great moral force" you mention which prevents our being "buried by our facile traps."



Letter from Dick Higgins to Daniel Spoerri,
April 22, 1966, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . . You wouldn't hardly recognize Wolf Vostell, he's become so gentile and modest, no longer defensive. He and Maciunas are friends again.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Jeff Berner,
August 22, 1966, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I received a letter from Maciunas forbidding me on my tour (with my wife, Alison Knowles) to perform certain of her own works, or those of my dear friends (whose work I have been performing since 1958 or 1959) George Brecht, Bob Watts, even some of Alison's and Emmett's own, without calling the concert "Fluxus."  Of course he has no legal basis (publication right does not imply performance right), but it is frustrating to have to deal with a person on this basis. And Maciunas does this every Fall: he has since 1963.



Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
August 17, 1966, copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Yesterday I sent you a very capable and interesting guy, Ken Friedman, because I wanted him to know about what you do and perhaps help get Fluxus better known in San Diego area of California. You gave him a copy of the enclosed mis-information sheet, and, frankly, I object. Your remark in [paragraph] 4-C, that I left Fluxus because of a competitive attitude, to form a "rival organization" just isn't fair. If I were your rival, I wouldn't try to promote Fluxus, Would I?  . . .

The purpose of my Press is, after all, quite different, completely different from the purpose of Fluxus. We are essentially trying to diffuse and disseminate information about a body of work. Our publications are designed to be sold in book stores because book stores are there.  . . .  It is cheep and efficient to stick with in the confines of the book form. On the other hand, Fluxus is an information center more then a disseminator. The Fluxus objects are works of art or non-art. They are not intended to be sold in all bookstores. They are typically at least partly hand made. You do not make 2000 copies of everything the way we do, because for your purposes there would be no point in it. So where is the rivalry of our organizations ?  . . .  Even if the Press were a rival organization, it as founded by me. Why blame Alison Knowles ?



Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [Fall 1966], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

[This is a response to the above letter from Higgins.]

The red "mis-information" sheet was based on your supplement to your Postface for the Rowohlt book the date of Summer 1964 was set by yourself not me when you said (in that supplement)(not me), that you quit Fluxus, not only you, but in your own words "everybody". So, all I did was take your word for a fact and assumed everybody quit, except that is people who later denied this assumption. That is how Phil Corner, Alison, Ben Patterson & Paik got themselves in company with yourself (& for a while Bob Watts), because as you said you were all shocked by henry's & mine action, (which incidentally had nothing to do with Fluxus.) A stronger reason, of my breaking all relation with Paik, was his threat to blackmail me (to obstruct my getting US passport) if we did not stop the Stockhausen picket. Kosugi did a classic double cross a year ago. Tomas quit himself. Henry Flynt quit himself, Jackson quit himself, before the Film Culture job. . . .  By anticollectivism & individualism I mean - absence of any effort or desire to promote Fluxus as a group. This applies to Emmett when he did his Paris fest. I just assumed that he was no interested in promoting Fluxus as a collective why should Fluxus promote him? Fluxus is not an individual impresario & if each does not help another collectively by promoting each other, the collective would lose its identity as a collective and become individuals again, each needing to be promoted individually. . . .  Ben Vautier and Jeff Berner I think illustrate very well what I mean by a collective attitude. Whenever they organize events or publish material (and Ben does a lot of it) he does it as part of a Fluxus activity. In other words he promotes Fluxus group (meaning some dozen other people) at the expense of his own name. He has done this at his own free will, just because he feels he is just as much a part of this as I am. In fact he spends as much money on fluxus as I do. I think - that is indication of Collectivism. But when people expect me to be the spender and themselves the beneficiaries only, then I assume they consider me to be Fluxus & not a Collective - thus anticollectivism. My consideration of your "Something Else" activities as being rival is based on facts: Sponsoring concerts, events ("AvantGarde" fest, your own happening, that of Vostell), Opening up a gallery or shop, publishing small scale periodicals (Great Bear series) which I consider to be rival to V TRE (in contents if not in format), Postcards in boxes, offering to do Barbara's cook book knowing that Fluxus was doing it. Planning to do a Magazine? Why, the next thing will be producing games, objects and furniture, these are the only things we have left that have not been rivaled yet (up till now).

I have nothing against people dissociating themselves with Fluxus, nor does that get me mad. In fact I think that by changing its composition the collective is more in flux. I like Alison and the things she does. . . .  By rival operation (in regards to Alison) I meant her cafe Au Go Go series. Her quitting Fluxus was based on your "everybody" statement in Rowohlt. . . .  Regarding my delay in publishing your book, you should know better about my delays, shortages, shortages of money & time to accuse me of disinterest. . . .

You say Fluxus is not disseminator - very incorrect, 1000 VTRE copies x 8 numbers were mailed free as a form of dissemination & promotion. You say fluxus is typically hand made -I would eliminate a third only & of the printed matter, only fluxus I was hand made. You say that you did not drain people away - from Fluxus. I agree, that you did not drain people away  - but only their works, which is the same thing (Ben Patterson, Ayo, Watts - Manifesto, Brecht essay, Dieter Rot who had promised collaboration 2 years ago, but has changed his mind since, etc,etc. -). . . .  Incidentally, the red "mis-information" sheet was done about 8 months ago for a Checkoslovak [sic] magazine & had very limited dissemination elsewhere. It should be revised however, since many people should be added and some subtracted, like Tony Cox & Yoko Ono - who fall under the category of having no interest to promote Fluxus (but great interest in being promoted by Fluxus) - what I call anti-collectivism & primadonna complex etc.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Alan Kaprow,
August 23, [1966], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .after you left, I found the enclosed madness from Maciunas, so I decided to twit this twot-twatcher and wrote to Berner and him. of course, he doesn't know I did NOT write to the complete eastern block press and to all past and present fluxists. I'm curious to see what kind of rise this gets. . . .


Letter from Dick Higgins to Jeff Berner,
September 13, 1966, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Lets us say no more of Fluxus than you have said: you are right. Doing the thing counts. I regard myself as a Fluxus person, and Fluxus as a movement which serves as a good handle for a lot of things to be dealt with. Anything that helps the movement helps anyone in it. Anything that only helps the organization or that hurts any of the people involved, that's what we have to be aware of.  . . .  As I said in my letter to GM, I would continue to send him the best people I could find because the movement and, ultimately, the general collective spirit transcend the importance anything that an individual might do, for or against the objective interests of the movement. The more the organization becomes egocentric, the harder it is to separate the movement from the organization, and the less likely the more critical or independent (I do not mean competitive or prima donna) of us became able to use the concept (or, ultimately, the word). . . . Dada's a spirit, sure, but not a subject for critical rhetoric: why jabber about it when you can do it?



Letter from George Maciunas to Milan Knizak,
September 21, 1966, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Chalupecky wrote to me recently that he was going to organize Dick Higgins solo-concert and a Fluxus concert. . . .  I immediately replied that YOU are a Fluxus member and representative and that YOU were organizing and coordinating all Fluxus plans in Prague. . . .  I wrote him that we, fluxus members never "double cross" each other.  . . .  I dont know how Chalupecky found out about fluxus plans, but I suspect Dick Higgins has something to do with it, since upon hearing about Fluxus plans, dick Higgins has used obstructionist tactics, either by arranging his own concert just a few days before Fluxus (as in Prague) or calling his own concert Fluxus before actual FLUXUS (as in Berlin). Since Dick Higgins has started his own rival press, he has shown strong hostility to Fluxus. I am not surprised therefore to see him trying to sabotage efforts of Fluxus members in various cities. I doubt however that his silly tactics can affect Fluxus collective. . . .



Letter from George Maciunas to Ben Vautier,
nd [ca. October 1966], The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

. . .Here is a list of Fluxpeople - in USA. all active, most of them organize Fluxfests, some even print like you on own expense. Very loyal crowd: [I have listed only the names, but in original addresses were also listed]

Paul Sharits

David E Thompson

Bob Grimes

Greg Sharits

Lee Heflin

Lawrence Baldwin

Michael Agnello

Jeff Berner

Sparky Brown


Albert M. Fine

Ely Raman

Branko Vucicevic [Yugoslavia]

Ken Friedman

VERY IMPORTANT !!! Don't - do not show this list to Dick Higgins on any account, I don't want him to screw up more then he already did.

. . .

Dick Higgins is getting more obstructionist by the day. He nearly sabotaged the Prague Fluxfest by taking the hall from Knizak (through an official - Chalupecky). Knizak may not have a hall left, though he still has a permit for street. Now I read in your press release, Dick is in Nice too, trying to confuse everyone by doing another Fluxfest in same month. I can't figure out Dick's intentions at all. In the Rohwolt- Vostell book he wrote that FLUXUS WAS DEAD and that he and "others" have quit it or lost interest in it on account of Flynt-Maciunas picket I suppose. Well, I took that statement for a fact, and in an essay I wrote for a Czech magazine I wrote that Dick & his friends quit or left fluxus - motivated by a desire to start a rival operation (Something Else Press)- & Prima dona complex - this I deduced - reasoned out, (not invented) from same critical month - Fall 64. Dick was first very enthusiastic about Anti-Stockhausen demonstration planned by Flynt & myself. (he seems to have a flair for sabotaging concerts). (Flynt, however was not interested in any sabotage.). Dick was going to participate in the picketing also. Then, Charlotte Moorman very shrewdly offered a major role in her festival, and Dick joined in, turning against Flynt's anti-Stockhausen picket.

I did not get angry at all. But this switch of his (and his exit from Fluxus) was not motivated by Charlottes offer of greater glory for him, then I don't know what else could have motivated. Seeking greater personal glory is a prima dona complex. So, you see my terminology was not arbitrary but well reasoned out. Incidentally the same happened with Nam June Paik and T. Koshugi. Charlotte is an "Intrigant" as Spoerri would say. You can show this part of the letter to George Brecht if he is interested in following the petty & senseless arguments between Dick & myself. The next development of course was Dick's explosion about being left out from fluxus in my essay. But after all, how could I know he wanted to be in, when he writes that he was out. I know only what people write. I am not a mind reader. the second explosion came when Dick objected to call Fluxus any piece from fluxus group. Now, this is diametrically opposed to his 1st explosion, since if he felt he was still part of Fluxus, why should he object to publicize Fluxus ???? his explosions don't make any sense at all. That's enough about Dick.

. . .

Few comments on your "position paper", which I enjoyed reading and felt to be very complementary. Your definition of fluxus is excellent. I agree with your position fully. I do not agree however that Dick is not competing with fluxus. There are too many incidents where he offered to publish some piece that was intended for fluxus (like Barbara's cook book, Bob Watts book of Photos, etc. etc). Furthermore Fluxus still published newspaper, supplements to the works of Brecht, Watts Shiomi & yourself eventually, Started compl. works of A Fine, Knizak, did Hi Red Center, also Flynt-Maciunas essay, doing series of Shiomi Spatial poems, series of playing cards - Brecht, Berner , Watts, printed paper events- Sharits etc. - Still a lot of printing, and I don't know how dick could take over all Fluxus printed matter without ruining its format and graphics. Dick only publishes works in a very conventional format with absence of any graphic design. (I do not speak of mine opinion but of people who are allied to Dick - like Vostell - so that such an opinion should not have been adversely affected by personal conflicts). Ask Brecht for instance. (or yourself). That would be the end of V TRE and CARDS.



Letter from Ben Vautier to George Maciunas,
nd [April 1967], The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

Something else disturbed me Eric And and Koepke were in the hall and they were jealous or either really impolite but they left for a beer - and said I was a good entertainer but that entertaining was not important. . . .



Letter from Robert Filliou to George Maciunas,
nd [1970], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Today it's [a letter of his from 1963] interest lies in my early reading of fluxus. On the whole, I stick to it. As you know, I have never joined any group. I dislike -isms. In art, in life, I reject theories. Manifestoes bore me. the spirit in which things are done is what interests me. So, in so far as what I read in fluxus did exist in fluxus, fluxus is the sort of non-group I've felt the closest to, while keeping my own council and independence.



Letter from George Maciunas to David Mayor,
nd [ca. 1972], copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

The one person whom you should invite is Ben Vautier, he is 100% fluxman.  . . .[regarding] your list of people who have indicated that they would participate in some way 90% of the names have no connection with fluxus whatsoever, in fact many like Carollee Schneemann is doing very neo-baroque style happenings which are the exact opposite of flux-haiku style events. Of the people I would think the following were connected with flux-activities: Alocco, anderson [sic], Brecht, Friedman, Higgins, Hompson, Hutchins, Kirkeby, Knizak, Yoko Ono, Carla Liss, Mathews, Moineau, Reynolds, Sharits, Shiomi, Spoerri. You should try to include: Ayo, Joe Jones, Nanni (?), Daniela Palazzoli, Ben Patterson, Takako Saito, Ben Vautier, Bob Watts, Wada.



Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
November 19, 1974, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

And there again we come to Fluxus. In the early sixties, when the first generation of Fluxus artists were doing and giving away their experiences, it mattered little which of us had done which piece. The spirit was: you've seen it, now- very well, it's yours. Now you are free to make your own variation on it if you like, and the piece and the world will be a little richer for all that.

In the late sixties I was not, I think, the only one who lost sight of this aspect, which was the most profound and unique one in fluxus . . . to make an art through and of the experience of ordinary men and women, without reference to marketplaces, self-aggrandizing histories and, above all, media hype.

. . .

We are now in the second generation of Fluxus. Some of us are still aboard, from the first generation: Vautier, Brecht, names such as these come to mind, and there are many more- Shiomi, Kosugi, Ayo. Others came along when Fluxus seemed to have become hidden for a time, because of the illusion of having been absorbed in other ways: Hendricks, Forbes, Wada, Friedman, etc. But now with all this new interest in Fluxus, we have a second chance to make a pure Fluxus, amateur and whole.


Letter from George Maciunas to Henry Ruhe,
nd [before January 11, 1975], copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Please note that the inclusion of Moorman will automatically exclude myself - in fact I would not permit any of my objects to be shown on my name mentioned.

[on the back of this letter is a list of names of which George Maciunas has indicated that the following are "flux-people":]

Ben, Brecht, Friedman, G. Hendricks, Higgins, Jones, Knowles, Liss, Maciunas, Paik, Saito, Shiomi, Watts, Wada, Larry Miller; [Maciunas also indicated the following names as "not doing anything anymore, dead or?" ] Flynt - economics + bluegrass, Hi Red Center - disappeared, riddle - religion [and a last group of names are marked as "had nothing to do with fluxus - ever"] Beuys, B. Hendricks, Hansen, Ichiyanagi, Kaprow, Mac Low, Page, Riley, Schmit, Vostell. [with Moorman's name Maciunas put the following note] "Moorman is on a Flux-blacklist which means that I boycott and do not co-operate with any exhibit, gallery, concert hall or individual that ever included her in any program of show, past or future.



Letter from Ken Friedman to Owen Smith,
June 23, 1991, collection of the author.

The term collectivism must be used carefully so as not to be misleading. Collectivism in the sense of group activity, yes. Collectivism in the sense of a collegial enterprise, yes, an open forum, absolutely. But some aspects of the idea of a collective or of collectivism were very much George's. It was only in George's publications and multiples that the imaginary "Fluxus Collective" ever took shape. It never happened in the lives and the works of the artists. Community and collaborative enterprise are terms far more suited to Fluxus than collectivism. Even where some of the artists also used the terms collective or collectivism, that's what they meant, with a strong emphasis on democracy in the group rather than a collective body subject to the directives of a central authority, which is what George meant by the term.



Letter from Ken Friedman to Owen Smith,
July 20, 1991, collection of the author.

There is a core that you can see moving through the history of Fluxus. Some people stayed in that core the whole time, even though there were also changes in the core. There is also the fact that there were artists whom everyone else, everyone other than George, considers to have been part of the core during the entire history of Fluxus. Even though they were out of favor with George for a brief time, Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, for example, they were always active in Fluxus from pre-Fluxus to after George's' death. They always represented themselves as part of Fluxus, Even when George said that they weren't, and by every objective definition, they'd have to be considered part of the core.

The fact that multiple issues appear in the work of some core members, that is, doing Fluxus and non-Fluxus work at the same time, this doesn't make them less Fluxus or less part of the core. Even George produced things that were said to be non-Fluxus work, such as some of the Implosion things. And everyone, George, too, did different things in life that were either non-Fluxus or even perhaps contrary in some ways to Fluxus of the Fluxus spirit.   





The role and function of George Maciunas in the Fluxus group is still a hotly debated issue, particularly as his relationship to the group as a whole has been utilized in a variety of attempts to define what Fluxus was (or is). For the most part, everyone will agree, including Maciunas himself, that he was not Fluxus and Fluxus was not him. The recognition of this, however, still does not address a more general question: Even if Maciunas was not Fluxus, what was Maciunas's relation to the group as a whole? It is a "historical fact" that most of the work, particularly object-based work, produced between 1962 and 1978 by the group under the rubric Fluxus was primarily organized, designed, or directed by Maciunas. Although this congruence is significant, I feel that to use this to imply that Maciunas was the central factor in all of Fluxus is fallacious. A partial answer to the reason that such an equation is false is that ultimately Fluxus is more than the sum of its products and activities. Fluxus was, and still is, a worldview that Maciunas certainly participated in, but one that is not tied specifically to Maciunas. All of this having been said about Maciunas and Fluxus, it is also important to point out the somewhat conflicting factor that Fluxus and its named manifestations were indebted to Maciunas and, as some have suggested, would not have been what it was, or have been at all, without his participation and organization. So, which is the more correct recognition of the significance of Maciunas to the Fluxus group? Neither and both, for as with all of Fluxus there is no static, constant relationship that creates a general sense of "a" Fluxus.

I selected the following letters because they indicate some of the roles and functions of Maciunas in the activities of the Fluxus group as well as the conflicts that he in part caused and perpetuated (although certainly not by himself). These letters in no way offer a specific answer to the questions as to the relationship of the Fluxus group and Maciunas, but they do contain some interesting observations about the interactions between Maciunas, other Fluxus artists, and the group as a whole as impacted on or by Maciunas's ideas, activities, and concerns. Because of Maciunas’s role in the Fluxus group, many of the issues and concerns mentioned in this section also dovetail with previous section on Fluxus, collectivism, and group dynamics.



Letter from George Maciunas to Nam June Paik,
nd [January 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

About "Gigantism" of mine. What I am planning with Fluxus may seem gigantic only in relation to time. To do it all in one month would be as you say demanding to much. To do it in one, two & more years is quite possible. I do not wish to do something half way, sloppy, or in complete. It must be either comprehensive, carefully collected & prepared series or none at all. One thing I would like to learn from Zen is not "Not to demand too much" but" to demand-aim much" and then concentrate all life on that one demand or aim until it is achieved.  . . .just about everything is possible if one concentrates one self enough on it. I would therefore do Fluxus right and more prefect then do it fast. If I did Fluxus fast like Decollage I would harm the authors more then myself. (for instance Flynt & Higgins always demand copy-rights to protect their works & compositions from abuse).

I plan to do the same with fluxus festivals. Except where in Fluxus I can select material by myself before printing it. in festivals --- selection of materials and especially performers must be achieved during festivals. Since pieces must be performed & performers tested before judgment can be made on audience impact etc. etc. So in Wiesbaden we started with 14 concerts which I was able to cut to 7 & 6 in Copenhagen & Paris & which we are cutting to 2 or 3 for Dusseldorf and future cities (Poland, Yugoslavia, Italy, NY. etc.) But these 2 or 3 will be very concentrated and comprehensive. We will have the best events, action music, etc, etc. from USA Japan, Skandinavia [sic], Germany etc.etc. I do same thing with Fluxus. By collecting more then necessary and then selecting I can hope to put together a meaningful anthology not a hastily thrown together magazine.


Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
September 16, [1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Maciunas's temperament and style is changing. He is restless, more given to work that is more social and more declamatory. He is coming to like only Brecht's anti-art aspects, and more to like the social involvements of things. This means he is more open to the kind of universal politics that is in Hansen, Higgins, and Decollage. I think he has never been so open.

This first thing that happened was that he began to divide the New York Fluxus in two parts, a performance-in-a-theater and a street fluxus. Secondly, he put Al Hansen in charge of a street fluxus. Now this is something one would not expect from knowing Maciunas's activities in Ehlhalten. That, 1. he would actually trust anybody at all with anything, and 2., he would devote his attention and his energies to what anybody did. This is what happened: it was Saturday morning. He asked me (Monday) to phone Mac Low, Hansen, Brecht, Watts, Patterson, and Hansen. He had never met Watts or Hansen. He met Watts. He talked with him a whole evening and crossed him off his favorite list. He met Hansen, wrote him in big, and now here we go! After talking with Hansen he knew who he was. That takes great insight.


Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
December 7, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

George is very sick. He takes so much medicine it ruins his nerves, but he refuses to stop- maybe he can't. You have to tell him every thing three times, and even then he forgets. But worst of all, he doesn't believe he is half-incapacitated. He thinks he has done things he hasn't, he forgets he has already done things. He is always angry- or seems angry, when he is not.  DON'T TAKE HIS SCOLDING SERIOUSLY, not now. Until he recovers his health, he is not able to do much effectively, and there will be no NYC Fluxus.


Letter from Dick Higgins to J.P. Wilhelm,
December 15th, 1963, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Maciunas has also made a big mistake in this senseless fighting with Wolf, who should be his ally, not his enemy. Maciunas is a wonderful man and one of my best friends, but it is necessary for all of us to work with him to stop being such a purist. Since his return to this country, he has very nearly alienated every one of the artists whose work he did in Europe- and, except for the publications I mentioned, he has really produced very little. He should be kept away from dogmatists of the Flynt variety.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
January 30, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

My relations with Maciunas are a little strained. He is alienating people whom I like very much- you, Thomas, and now Emmett. Patterson is seriously considering withdrawing from all future Fluxus publications and events after the New York Festival (March through May) for which he is committed, because Maciunas keeps postponing his (Patterson's) book. Similarly, I am committed to do my book with George, but afterwards I prefer to withdraw. . . .  This is, of course, very confidential.



Letter from George Maciunas to Emmitt Williams,
Postmarked February 4, 1964, copy of original, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I have to work 8 hours, then 8 hours FLUXUS (newspaper, other publications, festival preparations, fixing loft for FLUXSHOP & FLUX HALL). and all ENTIRELY ALONE. Even Dick & Alison does not help anymore. They are all very involved with their own individual compositions & have no time  ( or desire) for "THE COLLECTIVE", Made big fuss just to put 1 hours work during Saturday for FLUXUS. I think FLUXUS is doomed. First you doomed it in France by not promoting it at all. (Sold any Brecht boxes? or newspapers?) (mailed any newspapers? or at least given them away?). (also referring to that Paris concert - old arguments).

Thomas Schmit sold himself to Vostell.

Willem de Ridder is promoting only himself.

Ben Vautier ---- "     "       "     "    

All New York "Fluxus crowd"     " themselves.

Japan is still holding out, but there is this European tradition of egocentrism & promoting of one's ego never took deep roots. So I have been very disappointed with Fluxus people and am contemplating of "Fazing-out" by this summer & maybe going to Japan. . . . At this time we have sold in N.Y. 4 Brecht complete works, (Water Yams) 996 still on our hands, or $600 loss, so there is a limit to my expenditures, especially when there is no workable distribution of these works. Newspaper is costing me $120 each month without one single sale. I must be out of my mind to flush my money down the drain this way, especially not succeeding, even of holding fluxus people together. Everyone has the mistaken idea that Fluxus is Maciunas the way Decollage = Vostell, instead of Fluxus = collective.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
September 7, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I am very busy . . . with Alan's version (more Kaprow than Stockhausen) of Originale, in which I am performing. This is my way of telling the world that I was very wrong in supporting Maciunas.

Naturally I feel a little sad, with Maciunas going to Russia so soon after the publication of (three weeks from now) of my "Open Letter to Maria Joudina," in which I attack Maciunas and Flynt as the fascists they are, and point out the terrible damage they are doing both to the political left and to art by pretending to set them in opposition.  . . .  It is sad to do this to one's old friend, but this is my job to do this, more than anyone else, since I was once so closely associated with him.



Letter from Jackson Mac Low to Dick Higgins,
October 20, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Thank you for the book & the pictures on transparent paper. Our old friend GM does take good pictures at times, doesn't he? Too bad he's gotten into that nutty anti-art groove! (I miss talking to him once in a while but don't really have time for the trip, besides which he'd probably be unpleasant. O well.)



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
September 13, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

We have expelled Maciunas from Fluxus. It made him very sad and he almost died as a result. He was in the hospital. Please understand, I always talked of expelling George, but I never did. We all did. Paik said he would work in Originale. Maciunas immediately expelled him. Ayo said he would be in Originale. Maciunas said he would have Ayo expelled from the country. Ayo became afraid and left: Paik became angry. Alan Kaprow is an old and very loyal friend, because there is a lot of water under our bridge, we began the whole happening thing at the same time, though I had reservations about him at the time. But Kaprow is like me, moral an against pure elegance. I love and trust him unlike the others, he does not try to take advantage of me.

. . .  That makes it very basic, and it would take lots more than brainy George to come between us. But there came a time when it was either Maciunas or my conscience. So to Hell with Maciunas. He will die soon, I think. The attack was so bitter that I told Maria Joudina about it. She will [block] his entry into the USSR and that will make George very sad. I'm afraid the poor man is finished. We all hate him, even Brecht and Watts who are almost beyond hating.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
October 10, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Maciunas is gone. Joe Jones, George Brecht, and Ay-o kicked him out of Fluxus. I was already out, so I couldn't help. Paik too. Maciunas and Flynt made the stupidest picket of Kaprow's "Stockhausen Originale"- very good Kaprow and more Kaprow then Stockhausen.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
December 19, 1964, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I saw Maciunas on the street today, and he walked past me without saying any answer to my hello. Which is alright, but a childish way of acting. But what else can we expect from a 36-year-old child?

I understand he is going to do another newspaper, which will attack you, me, Vostell, Kaprow, and Williams. But so What? Who is going to see it?

He walked out of my concert for which he had committed me at the Washington Square Gallery. It was a sort of aesthetic quaker meeting. We sat, and passed the bottle. There were thirty of us, in a circle, in a very large room. The bottle went around. I had made a big pile of beautiful objects in the middle of the circle. From time to time, people stood up and did simple things. The atmosphere was too serious to be foolish. We blew whistles and we rang bells, and everything was transformed and set away. Some people said serious things, while they were standing up, too. That was marvelous. Maciunas did not like it because there was no separation between the fragments, it was too personal and informal, and the wine seemed to him (I hear from Ayo) an antisocial aspect.



Letter from George Maciunas to Ben Vautier,
nd [Summer 1965], The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, New York, NY.

The story about Dick Higgins, is that he is trying to fight me not I - him. Since he started his publishing venture he has tried as hard as he could to duplicate my efforts by asking Fluxus people whom Fluxus publishes to publish with him not me. Now that is not very ethical. He has so pirated Ben Patterson, Filliou, tried unsuccessfully to pirate Barbara More, who is collecting a Flux-cook-book. I don't mind at all when he publishes people like Tomas Schmit, Al Hansen, Ray Johnson, Mac Low, who are not planned for Fluxus publications. there are enough unpublished people around he could use. There is no need for piracy. It is the technique of Wolf Vostell all over again. Now, your sending the 50 different ways to read a page disturbs me just as much as if George Brecht had sent him something. After all I do not ask on the sly people like Ray Johnson or Al Hansen to send me things, because I know how dick Higgins would feel and I have no reason to fight him, or aggravate of sabotage him.



Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
August 23, 1966, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

These letters include the definition of Fluxus as a movement rather than a company. you must therefore not assume that it is possible for you t elect yourself exclusive dictator with the exclusive right to the term.

. . .

But while you invented the term "Fluxus" (and nobody will deny you that) you have consistently destroyed its utility, antagonized your real friends, and mis-used the whole situation for your personal cultism and aggrandizement, if not as a artist, then as critic.  . . .  But Fluxus means too much (and I insist on that) to allow any individual person to reduce it to a means of confinement of peoples' work on the basis of your own personal taste, the Breton has done with Surrealism for example. I made a grievous error in 1963 not to perform the Stockholm Fluxus without you, and in so doing, for the first time, I established a precedent on the basis of which you have been able systematically to reduce the most important artistic tendency of the last half century (with Dada, of the last century) to a personal fief.



Letter from Mieko (Chieko) Shiomi to George Maciunas,
nd [ca. 1965], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Thanks for sending me the program and FLUXUS history. But some part of it frightened me - desire for personal glory, prima donna complex, opportunism, etc..... to Paik, Kosugi, Dick Alison. Isn't this classification to emotional and slanderous?

. . . You seem to think and plan in your closed castle of ideal and seem not to look at your attitude from people's side, since you seldom talk and discuss about FLUXUS activities with other FLUXUS people. You are always one-sided. I think this is fatal to continue the activities of one groupe. As I have much anxiety about you and the future of FLUXUS. . . .  I know you want to spread and emphasize the name of FLUXUS. But your way seems to me too rough and autocratic. The most dangerous result of pushing the name of FLUXUS is that everybody's (people in general and artists around FLUXUS) reaction ending up to disgust and hate the name of FLUXUS. Don't you think this means committing social suicide for FLUXUS?

If you want FLUXUS to become famous, the only way is to do a lot of good and influential activities continuously, instead of pushing it only by your pamphlet. And to be able to do this, many artists have to be spontaneously co-operative having the same aim and desire.

But now what is the reality of FLUXUS?

I think it is rather the groupe organized or classified from outside than the groupe composed by the will of the artists. Artists are independent and free. Have you ever thought about the reason some of them walked out the FLUXUS? I think it because they were not the type of FLUXUS and they were too energish to stay in the scale of FLUXUS. I, personally, can't blame them. Their attitude were natural. But the only thing I feel sad, was you might have abandoned the possibilities to have them being co-operative to FLUXUS activities by renewing the character of FLUXUS instead of being desperate to holding them (or even pieces) down. I can understand how difficult it is to continue these kind of activities. But here is Tristan Zala's [Tzara] words to Breton "The mistake of Breton was that he didn't recognize the time to put period of the activities of Surrealism and as a result Breton made it soiled and decadent. Nobody can revive the once dead activity by artificial means." (summarized). . . .

I don't want to see you making more enemies and being more and more isolated.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Tjeena Deelstra,
March 13, 1967, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I was a co-founder of fluxus, and still consider myself a Fluxist, although I have been (partially) repudiated by one of the other founders, George Maciunas (who says I'm a prima donna- I hope not!). And frankly you could do a lot worse than contact Maciunas direct.  . . .  He is brilliant and articulate, and I do wish he weren't so darn cantankerous.  . . .  The reason that my press has been founded is that I originally wanted to do what Fluxus had been founded to do, namely to propagandize and provide a rostrum for a certain body of material that was 1., experimenting with form (which has been unfashionable for the most part since the 1920's) and 2., exploring the boundaries between arts and other fields, such as politics, psychology, philosophy, etc. In the early 1960's there were few performance possibilities and even fewer publications open to this very world wide interest. . . .  For me the arts depend upon, for their liveliness, the interaction between the digestion of the past and the digestion of the present. Terrible, the connotations of the gastric word, but I mean it metaphysically. You cannot abstract or separate formal and semantic meanings or experiments. Fluxus began as a rostrum to be used for the new arts. Maciunas, Mac Low, Corner and I began by publishing even work which we did not like (or trying to publish them), so long as they seemed to related to this interaction. The "flux" of the name "fluxus" refers to this interaction. But when the publication began to not appear, when we waited three years for even the first magazine called "fluxus" many of us became discouraged (there has been no second). Fluxus became a performance series, alternating with street events, but completely unlike the A'dam Provos. Some of the founder became cross and dropped out (Corner was one). Maciunas moved from Europe to America. Shortly after his arrival, we held a meeting at Alison Knowles' studio, to decide what was to be done first. Who was there? Alison Knowles, Alan Kaprow, myself, Claes Oldenburg, Al Hansen, Jackson Mac Low, Ray Johnson- in short, many of the names of the real avant-garde. And what happened? Nothing. One day I dropped by, downstairs in the studio I had found for Maciunas. I asked him when he actually planned to print some of the books he had said he meant to. He said "Maybe next year." I became quite cross, and went out and had quite a bit to drink. I came back. I picked up some of the manuscripts I had gotten for him and took them upstairs to my studio. Then I went home to Alison Knowles... I told her that we had founded a press. She asked what its name was. I said it was "original Fluxus." She said that was too aggressive, and why didn't I call it "something else." So I did.

. . . Since I left Fluxus there have been very few fluxus performances and manifestations. Those usually happened through my efforts. But Maciunas, who is a great designer, has produced a large number of objects, and these are very fine. He has occasionally been involved in the usual anti-art demonstrations, but his work is exhibitable and gallery-oriented, rather then mass-based. No work has been manufactured by Fluxus which is not also a Maciunas work. But he is an honorable man.



Letter from Dick Higgins to Wolf Vostell,
April 6, 1967, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .Maciunas never tells me anything. He is polite if I telephone, but very cold. He has lately been very savage about me, and feels that I am undercutting Fluxus by competing with him. Bob Watts has a new project, to compete with Mass Art and make thing such as Multiples, Inc. sells. Bob wanted to invite Allison and myself to make things, but Maciunas, who is also involved in the project, said that if bob did that, he, George, would quit. He was also furious with Filliou for allowing us to do the Filliou/Brecht CEDILLE book. Generally speaking, he is caring on like an ass, and building a lot of resentment against him which is sure to hurt him someday. So please do not send me the FLUXFILM information.



Letter from Ken Friedman to Owen Smith,
June 23, 1991, collection of the author.

It is true that without Maciunas that Fluxus would never have coalesced in the way it did. Nevertheless, Fluxus -- under another name -- would have coalesced. The different groups like New York Audio-Visual and the series like Chambers Street came before, and existed without George. Dick Higgins's work with the Something Else Press showed an energy, a program, a vitality that outlined a form of Fluxus (of Fluxism) that took place without George, and, in some ways, spread Fluxus and Fluxism far more successfully than George himself was able to do. The shape of Fluxus, George's vision and vitality gave rise to a certain kind of Fluxus. His influence and enthusiasm spurred many people to do what they did. But George's own inability to work with others also limited Fluxus, and his specific insistence on this or that made a Fluxus that was potentially unworkable. The combination of many central figures, each with an individual energy and way of working made Fluxus.

Without George, it would have been a different Fluxus. But: The time was ripe. The people knew each other. Many of the people were forceful personalities with a will to this form of international gathering and experimentation. In short, there was a forum ready to emerge with or without George.




With the exponential growth of an interest in and a consideration of Fluxus by museums, collectors, and galleries, the products of Fluxus’s activities are in some ways becoming that which they sought to combat: precious objects owned and controlled by wealthy collectors and museums. The institutionalization of Fluxus is not a new concern, however, for as early as 1963 several artists began to become concerned with what they felt was a rigidification of Fluxus into specific identifiable patterns or forms. There are at least two interrelated concerns that I feel are part of this issue. First, Fluxus is primarily a recognition of change, or flux, as a formative aspect of all human activity. Second, any static delimitation of the nature of Fluxus (by museums, galleries, historians, or the artists themselves) is problematic in that it is counter to an aspect of the Fluxus attitude that seeks a continuance not stasis. As I mentioned in the introduction, this section is intended as a substitution for a conclusion. These excerpts from letters should not, however, be seen as a conclusion in the sense of a summation or of an indication of key concerns/issues, but as a reference to, and reinforcement of, the problems that endeavors such as this pose to understanding Fluxus. What is of particular note in these letters is their opposition to the potential delimitation of what "THE" nature of Fluxus might be. The issues addressed in these letters are to be stressed in the ways in which they offer a critique of this chapter. These concerns are also significant in general, as they relate to all explicit or implicit assumptions whether they be mine, as the editor and compiler, yours, as the reader and interpreter, or the artists themselves as the authors of the correspondence.

The letters that I selected for inclusion under this heading are only those that relate more specifically to the institutionalization/historicization of Fluxus. Many of the letters that have been included under other themes in this essay, particularly those that speak to the nature of Fluxus as indeterminate and fluid, could have also been included here in whole or in part.


Letter from George Maciunas to Dick Higgins,
nd [1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

I do not understand your statement (& Jackson's) that "There is no point in antagonizing the very people and classes that we are most interested in converting". Terrorism is very clearly directed against galleries, museums, concert halls, professional artists, etc. - are we desiring to convert them ??? I had no idea of this! (?) My idea of fluxus is it is to be intended for the masses (like Wiesbaden or Paris housemeisters who enjoyed every concert of ours) but not the pseudo-intellectuals, gallery & museum directors & other decadent dilettantes. Those people will not lead to conversion so easily and I think the easiest method to overcome them is to destroy them. If we can reduce the attendance of masses to these decadent institutions we will increase the chance that they will turn their interests to Fluxus.


Letter from Dick Higgins to Tomas Schmit,
nd [June 1963], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .there are too many people who see Fluxus  as an institution now part of history, whereas for me I am mostly interested in what is going to happen, and I do not like this institutional aspect of Fluxus. Perhaps the next Festum Fluxorum in Europe ought to feature only the key board music of baroque composers who's names begin with F (which stands for fucking)  . . . That in itself would not be of any interest, but it would indicate our intention to be Free no matter what. It is always the next fluxus that must be the best. And that will always require new material, which takes time. . . .


Letter from Dick Higgins to Nam June Paik,
nd [1963/64], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .I am not a living organism, I am nothing at all. Therefore I do not want to be institutionalized. You do not have to be a mental patient to be in an institution. I want to be free. Therefore it does not interest me to publicize fluxus or yam as an institution. It does interest me to criticize and extend either of them, but to say what fluxus was is not so interesting as to say what it may become next.


Letter from Daniel Spoerri to Dick Higgins,
nd [ca February 1966], Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

About Illena [Sonnabend] You are right she is dangerous. I told her to that she is mixing everything with her Happening exhibition and that I will not participate. My point of view was that we here in Europe did similar things but in a complete different perspective. We called it manifestations. I am thinking about Tinguely, Ives Klein, myself, Arman, Niki de St. Phalle, etc. But instead of showing the differences she will bring everything in a big soup.


Letter from Dick Higgins to Walter Hartmann,
March 31, 1969, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

They want our artifacts, which they treat as those of a bygone race of beings. But not the evidence of our existence or even of those activities which produced the artifacts.  . . . What is so spooky is the veneration in which the accidental commodities we have produced are held. It is surely the ultimate reduction of a commodity-oriented society well past the point of absurdity. ...the ideas are ignored, and the hammers [used in the Wiesbaden Fluxus Festival] are on exhibit. If only somebody . . . would smash a piano, steal my hammers, and replace them with their own! There we would enter the real content, the real subject and imagery structure, of Fluxus. . . .  It is this tendency to ignore the real subject matter, of the enactment and carrying through things, which has subverted our contribution so far.  But when this subversion is no longer possible, when the artifacts are really perceived as having no more value then, simply, autographs, when there market value disappears, that is when the irreversibility of our contribution will become more obvious. . . .


Letter from Dick Higgins to George Maciunas,
November 19, 1974, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

. . .this constant questioning "what is blazes really was Fluxus." There have been many false answers, mostly in Museums - deadly documentations of what went on in Wiesbaden of Nice or New York. Photographs by professional photographers of simple acts, - very good photographs yes, and interesting as examples of the photographers art. But such documentary shows simply cannot catch the feel of the simple act. It was not important that, for instance, it was Bob Watts who proposed the now classic Fluxus piece "Two Inches," where one stretches a two inch ribbon, perhaps of paper, across an area (a stage? a street ?) and then cuts or breaks it. You have to do it to experience it. And so such shows as the gargantuan Cologne Kunstverein retrospective of 1971 were deadening and besides the point.

. . . the ever-so-many museum and gallery shows that are being organized today seem to entirely miss the point. It seems so irrelevant, somehow, that "this" broken bit of wood is, in fact, one of the very pieces of wood which was a result of the 1962 demolition of a grand piano in the course of a performance of a Philip Corner piece at the first big Festum Fluxorum at Wiesbaden. Good Heavens, we might as well be praying on the piece of the true cross, the way we celebrate such holy relics and souvenirs!


Letter from Jed Curtis to Thomas Kellein,
August 13, 1983, Collection Archiv Sohm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.

Now that so many superficial aspects of The Movement have permeated general society (usually unbeknownst to general society), the core (Nam June Paik used to call it 'the secret') of The Movement is essentially forgotten. The point of doing all these absurd things on a stage (the world's a stage) was to present the observer with an enigma. The method is very is very similar to that of a Zen koan. the message which the performer wishes to convey cannot be expressed in words or actions. The 'observer' in the audience will never understand the message if he remains passive, waiting to be told what the message is. It is only when the observer, who has been placed in an absurd or enigmatic environment, becomes active that he can discover what the message is.

In the context of this clearly mystical attitude of the originators of The Movement, publishing or committing anything to the permanency of paper, was irrelevant and at most incidental. As has been the case in may other artistic, scientific, or religious movements, the really creative originators are forgotten, while some of the second string people come to be thought of as the originators of The Movement, even though these second stringers really only repeated or imitated the activities of the true originators. The 'fame' these second stringers gain is really only due to their chronicling or commercially exploiting the ideas of others


Letter from Ken Friedman to Owen Smith,
June 23, 1991, collection of the author.

I've had a lot of the same trouble with the consortium of museums. Many Fluxfolk simply seem to believe that if anyone does anything, if it isn't done their way, on their terms, it means that someone has to be taking advantage of them or Fluxus.

The behavior of Fluxus artists has been responsible for many of the difficulties of Fluxus and for its continual disappearance. Only the strength of their work and their genuine importance as artists have prevented them from disappearing totally, nurtured and abetted by the continued work on their behalf of the handful of us who have struggled to keep the ideas of Fluxism and the reputation of Fluxus alive during some very unpromising decades. In this, Maciunas, Higgins, Knizak, Vautier, Mayor and a few others have been real heroes. Even some of the artists that Fluxus people complain about, like Christo and Joseph Beuys, have exerted real, if subtle influence on Fluxus behalf. In this, too, some Fluxfriends like Sohm, Brown, Block, Harry Ruhe, Emily Harvey and a few more have played a great part.

What I have in part attempted to do in this collection of materials is to not only curate an assemblage, but to also offer access to a body of primary source materials, the artists’ own words, that a reader can engage with in this form but can also continue to make use of and access these documents for other future projects, works, and writings. As an assemblage, the materials presented above offer a variety of complex configurations, emphasizing fluidity, multiplicity, interconnectedness, simultaneity, and even convolution and contradiction. The materials presented here should be seen as elements to be recog­nized as part of Fluxus’s, and life’s, very nature. By approaching the materials gathered here as an assemblage and not an essay, I have attempted to recognize the nature of this material as fluid, suggestive, and even elusive. I feel that we can best give consideration to these ideas, authors, and their moment in time by seeing them not as bound in place or time but as contingent parts that are part of the color and complexity of what Fluxus was and continues to be.

Dr. Owen F. Smith is a professor of the Intermedia MFA Program at the University of Maine. He received his BA in Art History and Russian Studies, his MA in Anthropology, and his PhD in Art History from the University of Washington in Seattle. He is a specialist in modern and contemporary art, particularly what he calls Alternative Art Forms. He has lectured widely in the US and Europe on art in the 20th century. His seminal book, Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, was published by San Diego State University Press. Owen Smith is also a practicing artist who works in digital art and new media forms and has exhibited his work in over eighty national and international exhibitions over the last ten years. Some of his net artworks can be seen online at:



Go back

Issue 51


by Martin Patrick and Dorothee Richter

Fluxus Perspectives

by Natilee Harren

The Fluxus Virtual, Actually

by Ann Noël

Journals (excerpts)

by Ken Friedman

Fluxus Legacy

by Peter van der Meijden

Banking with Fluxus, Then and Now