Blogs Field Guide

Strong, but not too strong, opening.

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Untitled (Andromeda) spin-painting. Alfons Schilling.

*Levi Weinhagen is serving as Artist in Residence for Education and Community Programs from September 2014 through February 2015*

The Walker Art Center was built on an ancient burial ground. Alright, as far as I know, that’s not true. But I bet that opening sentence would make you want to keep reading that story.

First sentences to stories can be perilous. Whether it’s meant to be read or being written for a live performance, the first sentence has the job of being interesting enough to pull the audience in but not so exciting as to over-promise or set-up the rest of the story for disappointment. As a writer and performer of comedy I know that if the first thing I say on stage is the funniest thing said in the entire performance the audience will walk away disappointed or at the very least underwhelmed by the overall experience. And if you see a popular band you’ll notice they will never play their biggest hit to open the show.

The same challenge exists for curators when staging a museum exhibition.

On October 16th, the Walker’s new “Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections” opened. In celebration of the Walker’s 75 years of public institution-hood, the new exhibit covers the past 75 years of acquisitions and exhibitions. This exhibition is laid out over three galleries with multiple entry points. There’s very little control over where a visitor first engages with the exhibition or how they consume the work.

At one of the entry points to “Art at the Center,” visitors are confronted by Alfons Schilling’s Untitled (Andromeda) spin-painting. Schilling’s piece spins at a rate of 3 revolutions per second which not only impacts how a visitor connects with the work but also sets a tone for experiencing the exhibit overall. The work actually moves, which immediately disrupts expectations of art hanging on a wall in a gallery. But it’s neutral in black and white colors and it manages to be fairly non-aggressive for a large spinning piece of art. The piece works to pull a visitor into the exhibition without being so overwhelming or even so compelling as to as stop visitors from wanting to move on or draining their energy.

It’s fun to think of how curators pace out an exhibition the same way I would think about putting together a comedy show or how a choreographer would put together a dance. You have to consider how the audience will feel from moment to moment and how each of the various parts can impact one another. And when a curator gets it right, just like in comedy, no one really notices the intentionality behind the staging.

Joke Telling and Fill In The Blanks

Walker fill in the blanks

Walker fill in the blanks

*Levi Weinhagen is serving as Artist in Residence for Education and Community Programs from September 2014 through February 2015*

For the October First Free Saturday we put together a fun Fill-in-the-Blanks activity that lets folks create their own unique description of Art Expanded, 1958-1978. You can print your own Fill-in-the-Blank with this pdfWalker Fill In The Blanks – Art Expanded exhibition edition

Here’s how 8 year old Benjamin put together his description of the exhibit.

Walker fill in Benjamin

We also helped visitors write jokes and invited them to share some of their favorite jokes with us. Below is a video compiling some of those awesome jokes.

how to be more like Ben Patterson when I grow up

“I was not ready for Patterson.” The first time writer, vocalist, and sound artist LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs witnessed legendary Fluxus artist Benjamin Patterson’s work, she left with a puzzle: “How would I approach my own scores, and how might I play with instruction to express my curiosities/concerns by employing mundane objects?” In anticipation of  […]

“I was not ready for Patterson.” The first time writer, vocalist, and sound artist LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs witnessed legendary Fluxus artist Benjamin Patterson’s work, she left with a puzzle: “How would I approach my own scores, and how might I play with instruction to express my curiosities/concerns by employing mundane objects?” In anticipation of  Patterson’s arrival at the Walker this week, we invited Diggs to reflect upon these first instructive encounters with Patterson’s work and to compose a few original scores of her own. Diggs appeared at the Walker last March to present poems, songs, and myths from her acclaimed debut book TwERK  as part of the ongoing Free Verse literary series (copresented with Rain Taxi Review of Books). She’ll be making a return to the Twin Cities next month when her piece muscle memory (a work in progress) will be performed at Pillsbury House Theatre.

Benjamin Patterson, A Penny for Your Thoughts, 2012 Performance at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, January 5, 2013 Courtesy the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Photo: Max Fields.

Benjamin Patterson, A Penny for Your Thoughts, 2012 Performance at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, January 5, 2013
Courtesy the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Photo: Max Fields

“The explicitness of the black body, the explicit body’s blackness, is not only about the way a certain lived experience can be said to bear the traces of bareness; nor is it encompassed in what is it to bear the only black body on-site or onstage or in the room or in the frame.”

                                                                        —Liner Notes for Lick Piece, Fred Moten

To have your own style is to crystallize.”

                                                                       —Bruce Lee

 

Admission: I heard a brief mention of his name years ago but was slow on my homework. So on March 31, 2011, when Ben Patterson did an evening of chance operations, scores, and a talk at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the first embarrassed, muffled utter from my mouth was “He’s black?” Sitting there sandwiched between artists Mendi + Keith Obadike and composer/pianist Courtney Bryan, it was difficult to not hide my personal joy in his playing and toying with how art, poetry and performance are defined. And despite my personal exploits in innovative poetics and deconstructing “the reading,” I was not ready for Patterson.

I sit. Watch Patterson do Patterson. He orchestrates with our bodies. Our feet. We shift forward, backward, right and forward again. He scores our bodies. Then there is a fish bowl and a small fishing pole. He’s smiling. As he instructs and addresses, a whole new vocabulary is being gifted to me. The poet/performance artist Edwin Torres wrote that “poets are creatures of awareness; receptive beings that embody transition.” Before experiencing Patterson in action, a handful of artists I’ve encountered embodied Torres’s words. And now,  Mr. Patterson has sent me home with a puzzle of sorts. How would I approach my own scores, and how might I play with instruction to express my curiosities/concerns by employing mundane objects?

Water Score Front Back Cover

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Water Score #1

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Water Score #1, 2011

In 2013, at the Roulette in Brooklyn, I, along with the Obadikes, are now participants during his retrospective concert. I am one of several people wearing Victorian paper masks, offering him a rose to be blended and drank, shooting confetti into the air and playing a multicolored party horn as I would my first clarinet in grade school.  And thinking in the car ride back to Manhattan, how I composed before was now pleasantly warped. Patterson altered my appreciation of Br’er Rabbit, of Coyote, of Raven, of Èṣù, of shape-shifters. And then there is his linear timeline. His proficiency at shape-shifting within the creative realm (as well thrive as an arts administrator) was a template to move me forward in my ventures as a novice of the avant-garde, the experimental, the curatorial.

Back to 2011. A slide comes up. There is a photo of a performance where Patterson digs a hole. His audience: a handful of white onlookers.  I am perplexed by this footage and action. A black male body digging into the earth for hours. The action conjures up sharecropping. It even invokes death. For whom is not explicit. Enter the coyote god again. To play upon hard labor as something of ease. To present accessibility when historical action is far more complicated and unnerving.

Program leaflet from the Studio Museum Harlem, which includes an image of Patterson's Methods and Processes (detail), 1962.

Program leaflet from the Studio Museum Harlem, which includes an image of Patterson’s Methods and Processes (detail), 1962

I read:

and think garbarge man, boogy man, Eichmann, etc.”

                                                 Methods and Processes (details) 1962, Ben Patterson

I see:

James Earl Jones in Claudine, The Spook That Sat By the Door, COINTELPRO.

 

When someone rings a bell, we conjure and call upon spirits. When we light a candle, we keep our ashé strong.  These are actions I’ve come to understand as ritual. Should I see Patterson’s work as a bell? As a candle?

 

Paternity

(Performed to “America the Beautiful” as performed by Ray Charles.)

  • Paint ten Darth Vadar masks in various shades of brown from brownish black to beige.
  • Place in 10 manila envelopes one sheet of blank paper.
  • With 10 volunteers, have each place the mask on their face.
  • Give each of them an envelope.
  • Instruct the volunteers to stand in a semi circle behind a chair center stage.
  • Sit in the chair.
  • Have each volunteer walk toward you, reveal the paper and announce one of two statements:
  1. I am your father.
  2. I am not your father.
  • After they have announced the results, volunteers will hand over the sheet of paper to you.
  • Volunteers rejoin the semi-circle.
  • Tape the sheets of paper together and swaddle yourself.

 

82 Combo 28 Straight (in 2 parts)

Materials for action

  • 1 Box of TNT Bang Its
  • Roll of Brown Paper
  • Jar of Molasses
  • Brita/Pur water filter pitcher (32-64 oz.)
  • Sharpie Marker

Part 1

  • Make a doll in the shape of a boy out of brown paper.
  • Leave it faceless.
  • Place the paper doll on the pavement.
  • Smash and trample the doll.
  • Proceed with throwing meticulously 1 bag of bang-its at the doll.
  • Leave paper doll on pavement, near a gas station for 7 days.
  • On the 7th day, carry the doll to the ocean.
  • Pour molasses on the doll and place it in the ocean.
  • If it sinks bid it farewell.
  • Take a picture.
  • Press [enter] to continue.

Part 2

  • Fill up a water filter pitcher with water.
  • Allow the water to go through the filter.
  • Carry the pitcher with water to the ocean.
  • Once you arrived at the ocean, empty the pitcher into the ocean.
  • Refill the pitcher this time with the ocean.
  • Wait for the ocean water to go through the filter.
  • Pour the ocean water back into the ocean.
  • Repeat this process until you’ve cleansed the ocean of all impurities.

Artists Respond to Fluxus

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical […]

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, both containing a strong Fluxus presence.

We invited a range of artists to create projects or events for Open Field inspired by or in some cases in reaction to the works, philosophy, and cosmology of Fluxus.  FluxField artists included Beatrix Jar (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske), BodyCartography Project (Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad), Andy Ducett, Mike Haeg, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Chris Kallmyer, Maria Mortati, and Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. The indomitable Laurie Van Wieren also jumped into the flux fray with her Open Field piece, 4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside.  Key Fluxus figures Alison Knowles and Benjamin Patterson were invited to perform their work during the summer and fall.

We asked several of these FluxField artists to share their thoughts on working with Fluxus, and what follows is a compilation of their responses.


 Part One: What is Fluxus?

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Alison Knowles walks down Nicollet Mall with Jacob Aaron Roske, photo by Lacey Criswell

Fluxus is People

I think of Fluxus first and foremost as the loose network of artists in the late 1950s into ’60s who first carried the name – who understood art as inseparable from everyday life, and vice versa, and performed lots of public experiments accordingly. And who also constantly disagreed with each other about what “Fluxus” was about. I think of names like John Cage, George Maciunas, Alison Knowles, George Brecht, Nam June Paik. So in that sense, I think Fluxus is people.

Rachel Jendrzejewski

Fluxus began as a network of ad-hoc, often disputed, orchestrated acts that turned noticing into craft. These orchestrations were performed around the world, and have infected all fields of art.

Maria Mortati

Maria Mortati's FluxField Interpretive Trail

Maria Mortati’s FluxField Interpretive Trail

Fluxus is the Score

If you were to say one true thing about Fluxus, you could say that Fluxus is about the primary experience itself. The vehicle for exploring the now moment in Fluxus is through the Event Score or the Fluxkit. To create a score, we have to envision ourselves as someone uninitiated with our ideas. We put ourselves in the shoes of another person—an act of empathy—and we offer an experience to anybody who would invest time to decode the document and act it out in real time and space. A score is a set of rules for engagement. It is the same for a recipe, a manual, or a blueprint.

Chris Kallmyer

Event Scores involve simple actions, ideas, and objects from everyday life re-contextualized as performance. Event Scores are texts that can be seen as proposal pieces or instructions for actions. The idea of the score suggests musicality. Like a musical score, Event Scores can be realized by artists other than the original creator and are open to variation and interpretation.

Alison Knowles (via Chris Kallmyer)

Through the Fluxus score, I find a great closeness in the contract between the artist and participant.

Mike Haeg

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Rachel Jendrzejewski’s Walker Yam: 100 Scores for Open Field, photo by Steve Cohen

Fluxus is Contradiction

I think of Fluxus as a kind of fluid philosophy and practice, which is still very much alive today— a view that art is indeed inseparable from everyday life, and vice versa, and an embrace of constant contradiction. You can’t actually pin Fluxus down because it’s always moving:  Fluxus says that all of life is art, and yet it’s deliberate in its framing and rigor; Fluxus says that art is for everyone, but it’s not necessarily people-pleasing or meaningful;  Fluxus simultaneously disowns and embraces institutions, not to mention the very concept of “art.” And I believe all those contradictions are exactly what makes it true to everyday life- it’s a way of seeing that embraces the complexities of the world, that doesn’t pretend anyone or anything is static.

–Rachel Jendrzejewski

Fluxus is an insular form speaking to the art world’s nuanced concepts of the object, vision, and experience. Simultaneously, Fluxus is an open initiation to life and living, enabling the public to take the scores into their own everyday.

–Chris Kallmyer

In the words of founding Fluxus member Ben Vautier, “Fluxus was a pain in art’s ass.”

–Maria Mortati

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Chris Kallmyer’s Play Catch, All Together, photo by Gene Pittman

Fluxus is Experience and Togetherness

Fluxus is changing together.

—Mike Haeg

Wandering in a field is experiential, and fit the notion that I needed– for people to be, do, and have the opportunity to ‘participate’ as well as reflect; to take in and try it on for size, in a low stakes way.  The public wandered along, beer in hand, taking a picture or two. Near the “Play Ball” score, a giant poodle took off with all the balls. In the end, the question of “What Is Fluxus?” came down to experiences.

—Maria Mortati

[Fluxus Drawing Club] didn’t just point at the art history and try to teach someone something, but facilitated doing — and that doing was the Fluxus part. The doing — everyone doing — is the art part and the experience part; the understanding part, and the “it” of it.

Margaret Pezalla-Granlund

 Part 2: Why Fluxus?

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Chris Kallmyer leads catch with lemons, photo by Gene Pittman

I’ve always been drawn to Fluxus for the way it can both disrupt us from and draw us deeper into everyday life. Those sound like two different actions, but both are wake-up calls. I particularly love the early Fluxus event scores – the text as well as the actual doing of them. They feel simultaneously sacred and disposable, which I think signals a certain kind of wisdom – related to loving fully while not clinging too hard, or honoring all life while accepting nothing lasts forever, or keeping a healthy sense of humor about serious hard things – in short, getting comfortable with letting contradictions co-exist. I think our culture could use way more of all that, hence the ongoing appeal and relevance of Fluxus.

–Rachel Jendrzejewski

I’m inspired by the playfulness of Fluxus and the simplicity. But most of all, I’m moved by Fuxus’ spirit of kindness and revolution: change the world with a box full of smile– hell yes!

–Mike Haeg

I saw the original Walker Art Center Fluxus show years and years ago, and have remembered and thought about it often since. What has stuck with me is the sense of wide-ranging curiosity and creativity, the willingness to cede some seriousness to get at something engaging, and the feeling of wit and humor and shared experience. I also think it’s really smart: as much as Fluxus was about freedom and play, it was also about context and care and a kind of precision. Simple is not easy.

–Margaret Pezalla

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Mike Haeg’s Fluxus Running Club, photo by Gabby Coll

This is the thing that surprised me about the Event Scores: the works are a direct invitation to play, as well as an invitation to presence. Serious focus and purposeless play are both intensely human and increasingly rare. Goofing off is another form of presence, or rather a complete lack of presence when we abandon our veneer to embrace a purposeless sense of wonder. We goof off and are human. In this way, Fluxus and their Event Scores point to our human condition in a way that is wildly dynamic. The score is an invitation, a call to action, and first-hand study and performance of these scores would be healthy for any of us.

–Chris Kallmyer

Part Three: Making Something Out of Fluxus

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Mike Haeg’s Penny Event, photo by Gabby Coll

Fluxus is all about change right? So, why not shine a spotlight on change? That’s why I made the Penny Event change tray sculpture emblazoned with its inherent and unintentional score “LEAVE-A-PENNY / TAKE-A-PENNY”. I placed the pieces on the counters in gas stations and bodegas to spark an artful exchange in an unexpected moment of the day and to spark a thought of commerce at a point of give and take that has been obscured by the credit process.

–Mike Haeg

I’ll be the first to admit that “living the life of the idea” of Fluxus was not something that came easily. On projects I take the deep dive into the world of the place, space, or community until I can swim around with it. It was a harder start to get my brain around and into Fluxus. I am accustomed to museums wanting to pin things down, so working with the antithesis was both liberating and focusing. It sharpened my thinking around the historical trajectory of social practice art, and around opportunities to bring the public into art and vice versa.

–Maria Mortati

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Walker Yam: 100 Scores for Open Field, photo by Steve Cohen

My performance/writing practice is a kind of awareness practice, and Fluxus always has served as an influence in that sense, but I’ve never really written Fluxus-style scores. Talking with Sarah Schultz about why Fluxus matters in 2014, and how Fluxus might live in Minneapolis on the Open Field, made me want to write my own Fluxus-inspired scores to find out. I spent a lot of time reading through the Fluxus Performance Workbook, and I started writing my own scores in response to some of them, and then spinning off some of them, and then writing some completely removed from them. I wrote them quickly (and I don’t usually write quickly) because I really wanted to let them be disposable. I wrote them on the bus and in my apartment and in parks and on an airplane. I thought a lot about the field, and people coming and going from the field to other places. I edited them down to a batch of 100 that felt the most rooted in this time and city. I don’t know why the number 100 felt right — but it feels like just the beginning. Now I want to write 1000.

–Rachel Jendrzejewski


Benjamin Patterson, a key figure in the Fluxus network of artists, visits the Walker on October 9 as part of the exhibit Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art.  Art Expanded, 1958-1978, which explore the expanded arts of the 1960’s and 70’s, is on view through March of 2015, and includes the work of Alison Knowles and George Macunias, among other notable Fluxus figures.

4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical […]

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, both containing a strong Fluxus presence.

We invited a range of artists to create projects or events for Open Field inspired by or in some cases in reaction to the works, philosophy, and cosmology of Fluxus.  FluxField artists included Beatrix Jar (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske), BodyCartography Project (Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad), Andy Ducett, Mike Haeg, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Chris Kallmyer, Maria Mortati, and Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Key Fluxus figures Alison Knowles and Benjamin Patterson were invited to perform their work during the summer and fall.

Choreographer and curator Laurie Van Wieren also jumped into the flux fray with her Open Field piece, 4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside, a celebration of the Twin Cities’ thriving dance scene. She describes the process of putting together the piece below.


Laurie Van Wieren prepares the audience for the coming event

by Laurie Van Wieren

When Laura Holway, coordinator of Walker Open Field, asked me if I had anything that I might want to share this summer, I realized I knew something that most people aren’t aware of: there are more than 350 dance-making entities in the Twin Cities. I suspected that, if I designed a structure that lasted just 30-minutes and was very clear about the parameters, I just might be able to gather together 100 choreographers at Walker Open Field on a Saturday afternoon. This was a chance to demonstrate the diversity and quantity of choreographers in the Twin Cities, as well as to explore my own dual role as choreographer and curator.

Background

My connection with the Walker Art Center started early on in my life in the Twin Cities. I was a guard at the Walker, and as a dancer and visual artist, I was influenced by many of the choreographers and performance artists that came through, including the Fluxus artists. My first work of choreography was presented at a Walker Choreographers Evening in 1981– a dance made up of looped gestures, performed by my fellow guards (artists themselves) within a grid pattern.

Dance community members reunite, including Molly Van Avery, Chris Garza, Baraka de Soleil and J. Otis Powell

Dance community members reunite, including Molly Van Avery, Chris Garza, Baraka de Soleil and J. Otis Powell

I have been working as a choreographer and performance artist in the Twin Cities since then. Ten years ago we didn’t have many places to show works in progress or talk about dance work, so I started 9×22 Dance/Lab at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. Every month, I invite three dance-makers to show and discuss their work. With that experience, I stepped into the role of curator at the Southern Theater, and then the Ritz Theater. My hope was to help grow the presence of dance in those venues. Unfortunately both of these mid-sized theaters have folded as presenting institutions, and are now struggling to find their footing.

The numerous props are set for 4x4=100 Dancing Outside

The numerous props are set for 4×4=100 Dancing Outside

For artists and choreographers, it is a new, not-so-brave world. The low economy pushed performing art onto the back burner in the minds of the audience community. Yet, the artists are still out there creating work in ever more expansive ways, as well as blurring the lines between presenting, producing, curating and making art directly. To survive and thrive, dance artists are compelled to create new models all the time. I am hoping that we can find new ways to sustain ourselves. Until then, we work with what is in front of us.

Motivation and Logistics

The impulse to create 4×4=100 Choreographers Dancing Outside came from a handful of different ideas and influences: an interest in experimenting with Curation-as-Choreography and the artist as curator; my visual arts background; the Fluxus score; my interest in compositions of live action. I am especially proud of being a part of an extremely engaged and active dance community. I wanted to showcase this profusion of talent. For me, curation is about making space and time for artists to do their own specialized work. I created parameters within the piece that allowed all participants to simultaneously perform their own dance and be seen within a large community group.

The choreographers parade into the chalked grid, including Arwen Wilder, Sharon Picasso, Kristin Van loon, Morgan Thorson, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Stacy Sabin, Dylan Fresco, Chris Schlichting, Max Wirsing, Emily Gastineau, Chris Holman, Neel and Pramila Vasudevan, April Sellers, Judith Howard, Megan Mayer, Matt Regan, Paul Stucker, and Anat Shinar

The choreographers parade into the chalked grid, including Arwen Wilder, Sharon Picasso, Kristin Van loon, Morgan Thorson, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Stacy Sabin, Dylan Fresco, Chris Schlichting, Max Wirsing, Emily Gastineau, Chris Holman, Neel and Pramila Vasudevan, April Sellers, Judith Howard, Megan Mayer, Matt Regan, Paul Stucker, and Anat Shinar

This summer’s Open Field had ties to the Fluxus art movement, which felt like a happy coincidence. My interest in Fluxus started in art school, where I was drawn to the work of John Cage and Yoko Ono. In 1993, I was invited to work with Fluxus artist and archivist Larry Miller on the Walker exhibit In the Spirit of Fluxus. We performed the scores of Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Lamonte Young, Emmett Williams, Yoko Ono and more. I loved that the actions of the Fluxus scores were simple and restrained, but also exciting and fun; every Fluxus artist seemed to have their own style of putting a score together. Fluxus influenced 4×4=100 Dancing Outside in a number of ways, from the organization of the grid pattern, to the simple score (or set of instructions) described below.

Akiko Ostlund and the other 30 minute performers begin

Akiko Ostlund and the other 30 minute performers begin

The piece was an open call, with a notice put in the dancemn newsletter and on Facebook. The first week of the notices, 25 people signed up. By the middle of June there were 80, and one week before the show, 100—plus a waiting list. Some people had to drop out at the last minute, and all waitlisted folks got in. In the end we had exactly 100 choreographers.

Dustin Maxwell cuts a piece of grass

Dustin Maxwell cuts pieces of grass

Each choreographer was instructed to perform in an assigned 4’x4’ space, within a larger 40’x40’ square for one of three intervals: 10, 20 or 30 minutes. There were no restrictions or stipulations on what they performed (it could be an improvisation or finished work or anything else), other than that they stay exactly within their 4’x4’ space. There were no group rehearsals, although the performers were invited to practice on the field if they chose.

100 Outside

Judith Howard and April Sellers spray paint squares outside of the 40'x40' space

Judith Howard and April Sellers spray paint squares outside of the 40’x40′ space

The night before the performance, Laura Holway and I created the grid with a baseball field chalking machine, aided by the very helpful math and spatial skills of Jael O’Hare. Fortunately, it didn’t rain…yet.

Pramila Vasudevan and her son Neel in their 4'x4' space

Pramila Vasudevan and her son Neel in their 4’x4′ space

The next day all 100 choreographers showed up, raring to go. We talked through the score, made sure that everyone knew the location of their assigned square, and set props. It was a quite pleasant day; the weather folks predicted showers later in the afternoon, but we remained undaunted. The group prepared to parade towards the grid, dancers costumed in bright, beautiful and sometimes extravagant attire. It was a cacophony of riotous color. And then, 8 minutes before show time a very dark and ominous cloud parked itself immediately on top of us.  With this not-so-subtle prompt, I started us off early. As the large mass of choreographers and dancers moved up the hill, the dark cloud began to leak. Out went the 30-minute performers. The rain quickened, and I sent out the 20-minute performers early. Suddenly the steady sprinkle became a downpour and the audience, surrounding all sides of the 40’x40’ grid, grabbed their umbrellas and let out a collective shout… and NOT ONE PERSON LEFT!

Deborah Jinza Thayer pours water over her head

Deborah Jinza Thayer pours water over her head

Jennifer Arave performing as the rain begins

Jennifer Arave performing as the rain begins

Erika Hansen dances, surrounded by Courtney Baga, Leah Nelson, Galen Higgins, Dylan Fresco and HIJACK

Erika Hansen dances, surrounded by Courtney Baga, Leah Nelson, Galen Higgins, Dylan Fresco and HIJACK

It poured buckets! The wonderfully diverse (and drenched) mix of dancers stayed and continued to perform with even more focus: modern, post-modern, ballet, Cuban folk, belly dancing, character dancing, jazz, Flamenco, percussion, Butoh-like, comic…and more. From the audience, the group felt like an orchestra: you could pick out one dancer, or take in the whole group. Everyone became more themselves in the rain. With a frenzied concentration, it was wild, wonderful, glorious and transformative. The wind whipped up; the skies became even more ominous. The Walker Security bellowed over their loudspeakers, “You must clear the field now!!!” When I heard something about a tornado, I cut the piece short…not wanting to wipe out a large part of the dance community in one fell swoop. The performers bowed. After a speedy group photo, we all ran for the Walker lobby.

Members of the first and second groups dance together, including Jael O'Hare, Robert Borman, Meriam Colvin, Sherry Saterstrom, Jennifer Arave, Stacy Sabin, Morgan Thorson, Heather Klopchin, and Edna Stevens waiting to go on

Members of the first and second groups dance together, including Jael O’Hare, Robert Borman, Meriam Colvin, Sherry Saterstrom, Jennifer Arave, Stacy Sabin, Morgan Thorson, Heather Klopchin, and Edna Stevens waiting to go on

The audience huddles as the rain increases

The audience huddles as the rain increases

Pam Plagge performs a set of dances from the Orisha tradition, including a rain dance, while her teacher Rene Thompson looks on; Billy Mullaney reaches new heights on his ladder

Pam Plagge performs a set of dances from the Orisha tradition, including a rain dance, while her teacher Rene Thompson looks on

Dancers in the pouring rain, including Kenna Cottman, Kaleena Miller, Sherry Saterstrom, Mary Easter, Charles Campbell, Jennifer Ilse, Penny Freeh, Maggie Bergeron, Jeff Wells and Tom Kanthak

Dancers in the pouring rain, including Kenna Cottman, Kaleena Miller, Sherry Saterstrom, Mary Easter, Charles Campbell, Jennifer Ilse, Penny Freeh, Maggie Bergeron, Jeff Wells and Tom Kanthak

Reflecting

At the beginning of the project, Laura Holway asked me what audience members could expect the piece to look and sound like. I responded: A mass of chaos and beauty, framed. It will sound like Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, Britney Spears, birds calling and children yelling. It might remind people of a flash mob, but an anti flash mob- no one will be dancing the same way- they will be doing their own singular work at the same time as everyone else, in the same very 40×40 foot grid.

This was all very accurate, but with torrential rain and more joy!

The audience joins in for the annual dance community photo

The audience joins in for the annual dance community photo

To all the participants: Thank you so much for coming out and taking a chance on being involved in the piece. You were fantastic! It was a joy to watch you collectively and individually. It was obvious that we have a hunger to convene; let’s find more ways to do it.

To the Walker: Open Field is an outstanding project, and it was great to be involved. I cannot say enough about how encouraging and helpful you were! Thank you especially to Sarah Schultz, the Education and Community Programs staff, Walker interns, and Laura Holway.

4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside included the choreography of

Berit Ahlgren, Arlys Alford, Gabriel Anderson, Nika Antuanette, Jennifer Arave, Courtney Baga, Emma Barber, Maggie Bergeron, Bonnie Berquam, Olive Bieringa, Blake Bolan, Young-Tse Bolon, Robert Borman, Emma Buechs, Tim Cameron, Charles Campbell, Tom Carlson, Mike Cohn, Miriam Colvin, Beverly Cottman, Kenna Cottman, Angharad Davies, Ryan Dean, Baraka de Soleil, Mary Easter, Torre Edahl, Rachael Freeburg, Penney Freeh, Dylan Fresco, Emily Gastineau, Lazer Goese, Izzi Gorowsky, Susanne Grochett, Robert Haarman, Marilyn Habermas-Scher, Annika Hansen, Erika Hansen, Lara Hanson, Deborah Heltzer, Galen Higgins, Chris Holman, Judith Howard, Alison Hoyer, Colette Ilarde, Jennifer Ilse, Kalila Indiver, Margaret E. Johnson, Justin Jones, Tom Kanthak, Ellen Keane, Robert Keo, Missa Kes, Tara King, Heather Klopchin, Amy Lamphere, Nick LeMere, Jim Lieberthal, Erin Liebhard, Jennifer Mack, Theresa Madaus, Megan Mayer, Dustin Maxwell, Kaleena Miller, Julia Moser-Hardy, Kara Motta, Motion Arts, Billy Mullaney, Blake Nellis, Leah Nelson, Jael O’Hare, Akiko Ostlund, Jane Peck, Sharon Picasso, Pam Plagge, Otto Ramstad, Matthew Regan, Sally Rousse, Stacy Sabin, Sherry Saterstrom, Chris Schlichting, April Sellers, Anat Shiner, Sean Smuda, Darius Strong, Paul Stucker, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Jennifer Theodore, Monica Thomas, Morgan Thorson, Svitlana Shtilman, Michael Sommers, Edna Stevens, Kristin Van Loon, Pramila Vasudevan, Vanessa Voskuil, Jeff Wells, Arwen Wilder, Josie Winship, Christopher Yaeger, and Nan Zosel.


Benjamin Patterson, a key figure in the Fluxus network of artists, visits the Walker on October 9 as part of the exhibitRadical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art.  Art Expanded, 1958-1978, which explore the expanded arts of the 1960’s and 70’s, is on view through March of 2015, and includes the work of Alison Knowles and George Macunias, among other notable Fluxus figures.

More Conscious

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*Levi Weinhagen is serving as Artist in Residence for Education and Community Programs from September 2014 through February 2015*

“Before answering your question I want to be sure that all of us understand what I mean when I say artist. I am not only talking about painters or sculptors, I am talking also about the men who design furniture, automobiles, refrigerators, tableware, and the things we all have around us every day. For all of these artist the Center does a very great deal. Artists must have people who use and appreciate their work. It stands to reason that if we, as a people, are more conscious of what the artist does for us, the artist will have greater support and more economic security. The Center is building among people an interest and appreciation for art. Although the Center also provides 80 jobs for artists and technicians, in the long run, its work of bringing more people to the support of art is more lasting than the paycheck it gives the artist.”
—Daniel Defenbacher, first director of the Walker, radio interview, August 1941

I’ve been digging through the Walker archives recently and, with the help of the amazing Walker archivist Jill Vuchetich, I got my hands on transcripts from correspondences and radio interviews from 1940 and 1941 surrounding the early days of the Walker’s public institution-hood. (One quick side note about archivist Jill Vuchetich: she is lovely and super-knowledgeable. Seriously, I dare you to try and ask her something about the Walker’s history that she can’t answer. End of digression.)

There’s this fascinating thing I’ve noticed while going through random images, texts, and other museum detritus from the past. Half of the things I’m reading or seeing from 50-plus years ago feel very dated and specific to their era, and the other half feel entirely relevant and contemporary. I know things are often cyclical and art is specifically a place where something old is constantly being made new again. I’m not a genius, but I work hard to stay on the right side of total idiot.

But the above quote I pulled feels so close in so many ways to conversations that are surrounding my creative community all the time lately that I can’t quite process my reaction to it. I can’t decide if it’s thrilling to see that 70 years ago significant thinkers in the art world were working to remind the general public that art is so much more than what you typically see in a museum or if it’s disheartening to think that one of the biggest barriers artists have in connecting with their audience, being perceived as human and accessible, hasn’t actually progressed in any significant way.

Luckily, I’ve got a plan. I love working creatively with young people for many reasons; they’re not worried about looking stupid, they’re generally excited to try something new, and they think up awesome and unique ideas constantly. But the main reason is because young people have not yet been told that fart jokes aren’t “Art.”

I think the democratization of art and what people think of as art lives and dies with our children. Any programming I create for young people, any performances I stage for an all-ages audience, any work I make with this audience in mind is in service of highlighting to them that they are constantly making and consuming art in countless forms. It’s not just about making people “more conscious of what art does for us,” but also about making people more conscious of how much art they are doing all the time. The more people who self-identify as makers of art, the more support there will be for art in all its forms. The only way to change people’s relationship to art and artists on a grand scale is to connect with them when they’re young and keep connecting as they make their way through the world.

A vital part of that ongoing connection is pointing out how funny it is when someone slips and falls on a wet floor, and then pointing out how artistic that funny fall can be.

A FluxField Research Residency

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField. This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978 and Radical […]

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField. This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978 and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, both containing a strong Fluxus presence.

We invited a range of artists to create projects or events for Open Field inspired by or in some cases in reaction to the works, philosophy, and cosmology of Fluxus. FluxField artists included Beatrix JAR (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske), BodyCartography Project (Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad), Andy Ducett, Mike Haeg, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Chris Kallmyer, Maria Mortati, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, and Jenni Undis. The indomitable Laurie Van Wieren also jumped into the flux fray with her Open Field piece, 4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside. Key Fluxus figures Alison Knowles and Benjamin Patterson were invited to perform their work during the summer and fall.

In the post below, museum exhibit designer and Walker artist-in-residence Maria Mortati shares the process behind her summer FluxField projects.


 

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A score from FluxField Interpretive Trail

by Maria Mortati

This past summer Sarah Schultz and the Open Field team invited me to come to the Walker and consider the movement Fluxus. This research-based residency encompassed three projects: transforming the Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab into a visitor and residency space; creating a mobile cart for use in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; a series of Fluxus-based projects that I developed for Open Field, including an installation known as FluxField Interpretive Trail.

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Cart developed for staff and visiting artists, photo by Gene Pittman

Living the Life of the Idea

“Living the life of the idea” was an expression that Sarah put forth as a sort of central challenge as I approached Fluxus. I soon learned that it was not something that came easily; Fluxus led me down several rabbit holes.

I am a San Francisco-based museum exhibit designer with an affinity for social practice. When I work on projects, I take the deep dive into the world of the place, space, or community until I can comfortably swim around with it. Often my work with museums involves engaging arts movements through the lens of the originating historical moment. Fluxus, however, is about a series of moments amongst a distributed group of artists that don’t necessarily agree on what the movement is, so it got messy fast.

Since Fluxus artists never seem to agree on anything, Fluxus has become “a pain in art’s ass” in the words of Fluxus artist Ben Vautier.

Hannah Higgins, Fluxus Experience

 Considering an Art Movement is an Endeavor Best Shared

Before coming to Minneapolis, Chris Kallmyer (another San Francisco-based FluxField artist) and I met a few times a month to prepare for our residencies. He would explore ideas and approaches around working with (or through) Fluxus, and I wrestled with how to engage with an amorphous movement through my practice. We took a stab at writing a Manifesto for Field Lab Residencies, which seemed to fit with Fluxus philosophies. This manifesto reinforced the first rule of residency: a freedom from externally imposed constraints—especially the traditional constraints of museum exhibition development.

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Another FluxField Interpretive Trail score

In anticipation of the summer, Chris and I came to the Walker for a week in March.  A group of local artists were invited to learn more about the work we were doing, and to think about FluxField projects of their own. We had freeform conversations around Fluxus philosophies and possibilities for our work. It was evident that choosing these artists was an act of curation and subtle matching-making on Sarah Schultz’s behalf. Three of them, Mike HaegMargaret Pezalla-Granlund and Jenni Undis, became collaborators on my summer projects.

Access is a museum’s jewel, and our group was invited to intimately examine the Walker’s Fluxus collection while talking with Registrar Dave Bartley. Viewing this material oriented me towards the historic, intellectual and social craft of Fluxus. It’s ironic to think that a movement so ephemeral could inspire with its bits of paper and odd performances.

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Artifact viewing with Walker staff and visiting artists

I’m a Misfit and so are We

At the Walker Library I came across reviews and articles about the “Festival of Misfits.” It was billed as an event “…by people who sometimes… are artists, sometimes not… we make music… that may fit poetry, poetry that may fit paintings, paintings that may fit… something.” Much of that content was formative for my work. In their humor and rigor, I began to see a trajectory from Fluxus towards experimental museum projects and social practice. My prior work in the experimental realm has included the Giant Hand at the Hammer Museum, and the Big Table Gallery at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The Giant Hand pushed against the framework of the museum experience, and the Big Table pushed against ways to convey a concept in contemporary art (vs. a work of art) to the public.

This type of project is often difficult, working against traditional definitions of a museum and how it operates. But this is where the innovations and interesting questions lie. Like these previous projects, Fluxus was able to collectively play in the space of uncertainty.

Scores for People Who Don’t Know How to Write Scores

Sarah encouraged me to use event scores as a central part of my endeavors so I wanted to have a suite of experiences rather than a singular one. This seemed truer to Fluxus and left room for differences in subjectivity and different types of visitors.

As I researched, I kept coming back to this notion that Fluxus artists were making art out of noticing everyday moments and realized how ridiculous they would think things are today: we notice and share everything. Regardless, I’m old enough to know the world before cheap electronics and Ikea. Moments lasted beyond a tweet and were often reflective and quiet in nature, if not sound. Fluxus was where these artists began to share moments, through scores written, mailed, reinterpreted and performed around the globe.

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Score box for Fluxus Drawing Club (Mortati/Pezalla)

Finding a Path

The pieces of my projects for Open Field came together organically. Drawing Club, a collaborative and participatory drawing event, was already a weekly Open Field program, and I decided to create a Fluxus Drawing Club. I worked on this in collaboration with Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, one of the local FluxField artists, who seemed to share an affinity with Fluxus in both concept and craft. Together we wrote, shared, edited and designed scores, making and distributing a series of Flux Kits with light instructions printed inside. I also asked Margaret and her family to make a recording of Dick Higgins’ book A Child’s History of Fluxus, as background for the evening of projects. You can listen to it here.

While planning this Open Field programming, I realized that displaying artifacts or defining Fluxus for the public wasn’t possible or appropriate: Fluxus is a constellation of orchestrated moments and experiences, and a way of thinking. But wandering in a field, just like Fluxus Drawing Club, is experiential. It fit my intentions by allowing the public to participate in Fluxus in a low-stakes way.

For me, Open Field + Fluxus = FluxField Interpretive Trail.

I generated scores that were letter pressed by local printmaker Jenni Undis to capture the Fluxus philosophy of art that was “neither an exhibition of objects or a performance, but somewhere in between.” (George Brecht, Wikipedia).  My scores included commentary on Fluxus (“The most ambiguous club in the art world”), quotes from founding Fluxus artists, and field observations (“Need Sod”). Humorous #hashtags became an organizing principle of the trail, helping the public understand if the scores were foundational, descriptive, or invitational.

FluxField Interpretive Trail began with George Maciunas

FluxField Interpretive Trail began with George Maciunas

On the culminating evening of my residency, scores were installed on low stakes and throughout the field. Members of the public wandered along the giant trail of scores, beer in hand, taking a picture or two. A giant poodle took off with the balls stationed next to the Play Ball score. Artist Mike Haeg’s Penny Event was incorporated around the edges of the field adjacent to the trail, which caused delight and confusion. At Fluxus Drawing Club, participants sat and worked at length on their score drawings and children happily stamped “Official Fluxus Approved Score” all over their papers. In the end, the question “what is Fluxus?” was best answered by the experience of Fluxus.

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Fluxus Drawing Club

Go Where the Interesting Problems Are

Throughout my residency, my driving question changed from ‘what are participatory strategies for the public to engage with an art movement?’ to ‘what can ‘living the life of the idea’ look like as we create museum experiences?’ How can we answer questions together? Who is included in ‘together’? I hope that the museum field can make space to support posing and playing with these formative questions. Open Field was a powerful incubator. I want to expand on ways of thinking about interpretive experiences, creating new tools that are intelligent, nuanced and in synch with the artworks or movements, as well as the contemporary public.

Hannah Higgins, the daughter of founding Fluxus members Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, described Fluxus as having an “elasticity of its social formation.” It is precisely that elasticity which made it possible for us to interpret, create, and disseminate along the way. It became a perfect umbrella, full of holes and sunshine.

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Benjamin Patterson, a key figure in the Fluxus network of artists, visits the Walker on October 9 as part of the exhibit Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Art Expanded, 1958-1978, which explores the expanded arts of the 1960’s and 1970’s, is on view through March 2015, and includes the work of Alison Knowles and George Macunias, among other notable Fluxus figures.

The Inevitable Relationship Between Fluxus and Social Practice: Sarah Schultz Interviews Natilee Harren

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField. This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978 and Radical […]

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField. This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978 and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, both containing a strong Fluxus presence.

We invited a range of artists to create projects or events for Open Field inspired by or in some cases in reaction to the works, philosophy, and cosmology of Fluxus. FluxField artists included Beatrix JAR (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske), BodyCartography Project (Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad), Andy Ducett, Mike Haeg, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Chris Kallmyer, Maria Mortati, Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, and Jenni Undis. The indomitable Laurie Van Wieren also jumped into the flux fray with her Open Field piece, 4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside. Key Fluxus figures Alison Knowles and Benjamin Patterson were invited to perform their work during the summer and fall.

To set the stage for FluxField, we invited the Los Angeles–based art historian Natilee Harren to begin to draw connections between these practices with a talk in the Walker’s Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab. This interview between Harren and Sarah Schultz, the Walker’s former Curator of Public Practice, is drawn from an essay Harren is writing called Notes on the Inevitable Relationship Between Fluxus and Social Practice.

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Maria Mortati’s FluxField Interpretive Trail. Photo: Maria Mortati

Sarah Schultz: Natilee, what exactly is Fluxus? I find myself stumbling over this question and have never have seen or heard it described the same way twice!

Natilee Harren: The simplest and yet most difficult question to answer! Fluxus began as a neo-avant-garde artist collective founded in 1962 by George Maciunas and was active throughout the US, Europe, and Japan at least through the 1970s, although some would argue that Fluxus is still active today. It has acquired the reputation of being an unrepresentable or undefinable art movement, similar to how Dada and Surrealism were once perceived, but I think that’s simply because we haven’t yet arrived at a satisfying framework for understanding what Fluxus artists were up to. If we look at the main modes of Fluxus production—performances and multiples—it becomes clear that the common denominator of Fluxus practice was a reliance on scores and other forms of instruction. And that implies a production that was process-oriented, iterative, and often delegated. A Fluxus work almost always entails multiple realizations and therefore multiple authors, performers, and audiences. Fluxus artists’ utilization of scores was a crucial contribution to the post-modern expansion of artistic practices in the 1960s and a major thrust behind their efforts to look beyond the art world—to related fields like music, theater, literature, architecture and design—for models of art’s production and distribution.

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Mike Haeg’s Penny Event. Photo: Maria Mortati

Why is the score such an integral form and idea within Fluxus? What does the score enable?

It all goes back to the search for alternative models for art’s production and distribution. A score allows for risk, failure, and experimentation, especially in the wake of 1950s innovations in musical notation and the embrace of indeterminacy by New York School composers like Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and John Cage, with whom many Fluxus people studied. A score creates an opportunity for collective and collaborative production. A score allows the work to happen in different times and places with different performers and different audiences. And yet, despite all this risk, chance, and variability, a score allows the work to be continually understood as a particular work, and to maintain its identity in however loose a way despite the differences in its varied manifestations. A score can provide a very loose structure or form, but the form is still there. It persists.

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Rachel Jendrzejewski’s Walker Yam: 100 Scores for Open Field. Photo: Steve Cohen

The score feels like a connecting thread between Fluxus and Open Field. Why do they make good companions?

I think Fluxus and Open Field are natural complements because there is an integral relationship between the commons (the social-spatial model for Open Field) and scores. If you look at any theory of the commons, there is always the provision that commons require a set of agreed-upon and collectively upheld rules—just like Open Field’s own Field Etiquette. These rules could just as well be thought of as Open Field’s “score.” If commons rely on a score-like set of rules, then I think it’s equally fair, and rather interesting in fact, to imagine that a score in the expanded sense brought to us by Fluxus creates a commons, if only temporarily.

Some of the most explicit examples of Fluxus scores that can be thought to produce commons are those highly graphic in nature, like Benjamin Patterson’s Pond and Dick Higgins’s Graphis series. I am particularly interested in these because they remind us that Fluxus scores were not all text pieces but came out of an emergent culture of experimental notation that utilized not only text but really wild diagrams and drawings. Notation in the expanded field, you could say. The Patterson and Higgins scores involve grids and tangled webs of lines that are enlarged and transferred from the score to the floor of the performance space, providing a full-scale map to organize the bodies of performers and viewers.

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BodyCartography Project’s Feeling the City on Nicollet Mall. Photo: Sarah Schultz

But perhaps even more so than Fluxus artists, the architect Lawrence Halprin was one who understood the link between scores and commons, since he designed public space with choreography in mind. He was the partner of dancer Anna Halprin and author of The RSVP Cycles, an amazing book about the social uses of scores. And he was the designer behind the renovation of Nicollet Mall in 1966. The RSVP Cycles includes his own “motation” study, a score for how people might move through one block of the redesigned street. I loved that we performed Alison Knowles’s pieces there, mapping them onto Lawrence Halprin’s extant score for pedestrians in the form of his carefully designed cityscape.

This connection between scores and commons helps makes sense of why Fluxus artists would go from performing a touring concert program to establishing artists’ housing in Soho and, at least in the case of Maciunas, planning communes in Massachusetts, Japan, and the Caribbean. Or more simply why everyday, life-sustaining activities such as cooking would figure into their practice.

Speaking of Alison Knowles: one summer highlight was working with her at the Walker to perform several of her iconic Fluxus scores including Proposition #2: Make A Salad, Shoes of Your Choice and Piece for Any Number of Vocalists (Song of Your Choice). Can you talk about your experience of the salad, the shoes and the song?

of2014air_ak_salad Open Field; Artist-in-Residence; Education; Public Programs; Visual Arts; Exhibitions. Alison Knowles: Make a Salad, July 10, 2014, in The Grove. A leading member of the Fluxus artist group, Alison Knowles will be in-residence with her collaborator, Joshua Selman, to restage her iconic event score Make a Salad on Open Field. Event scores involve simple actions, ideas, and objects from everyday life recontexualized as performance. While each iteration of the piece is unique, the basic ingredients include Knowles preparing a massive salad by chopping the ingredients to live music, tossing it in the air, then serving it to the audience. Originally performed in London at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1962. Knowles?s work is included in the Walker?s new exhibition Art Expanded: 1958?1978, on view June 14, 2014 ? March 8, 2015 in Galleries 1, 2, 3, and the Perlman Gallery. Curated by Eric Crosby.

Alison Knowles’ Make a Salad. Photo: Gene Pittman

With those performances I was profoundly struck by Alison’s spirit of adventure, curiosity, and commitment to those pieces throughout all these years. Those works were written in 1962 and 1963! Her relationship to them is a perfect example of Fluxus performance culture. There is a commitment to the work, a comportment of earnestness and seriousness despite the work’s lightness and wit, and an attitude—an ethics, even—of generosity and denial of mastery and ego. The recent Walker events demonstrated that after all these years Fluxus scores still have something to give us, something to show us, due to their flexibility and durability and strength, cannily built in from the very start. They bring different things into relief in every environment and era in which they are performed.

ecp2014air-knowles-wkshp Education; Community Programs; Open Field; Artist-in-Residence; Visual Arts; Exhibitions. Alison Knowles Workshop July 11, 2014 Art Lab; Nicollet Mall; Hyatt Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis. Part of Alison Knowles Open Field residency, and by extension, the exhibition Art Expanded. Two of Knowles' scores were reinterpreted: #6 Shoes of Your Choice (orig. March 1963), and #7 Piece for Any Number of Vocalists (orig. December 1962).  The event/workshop was not advertised or open to the public. Sarah Schultz sent an invite to Staff and a small group was assembled. Collaborators include Laurie Van Wieren, Eric Crosby, Chris Kallmyer, Bianca & Jacob from Beatrix*JAR, Marcus, Rachel J., Laura, and Natilee.  Andy Underwood documented the scores on location; still photos by Lacey Criswell.

Alison Knowles’ Song of Your Choice. Photo: Lacey Criswell

And then there is always the danger involved in their performance, especially when we took them out into the streets of Minneapolis. With Shoes of Your Choice, which we performed on Nicollet Mall, there was the danger of enfolding passersby into the piece who had no idea what Fluxus is, and then with Piece for Any Number of Vocalists (Song of Your Choice), which we performed at the Hilton hotel’s indoor pool, there was the danger of having no audience at all except that one guy who was already swimming laps. But then several people, including some in ballroom dance costumes, came out onto their balconies to hear us and it was so lovely. The works are open to all possible outcomes. As George Brecht once said, “No catastrophes are possible.”

So finally, what kind of connections can we draw between Fluxus and contemporary, socially-engaged art practices? If it’s helpful, I am using the phrase socially-engaged art, a term I know can be frustratingly vague,  in the broadest sense, to encompass any number of art practices (activist, performative, community-based, pedagogical etc.) that are created by and grounded in social interactions and exchange between people.

of2014air_kallmyer-pcat_0717 Open Field Artist-in-Residency Chris Kallmyer, Play Catch, All Together, July 17, 2014, Open Field. Grab your baseball glove* and join Kallmyer and Twins organist Sue Nelson for a work focused on the sound of people playing catch alongside a baseball stadium organ. Participants are invited to oil their gloves, do some light stretching, and throw around a lemon as warm-up?an homage to Fluxus artist Ken Friedman. Afterwards, have freshly-squeezed lemonade, meet Nelson, and take home a copy of Kallmyer?s score for Play Catch, All Together.

Score for Chris Kallmyer’s Play Catch, All Together with Twins organist Sue Nelson. Photo: Gene Pittman

Speaking art historically, I think that artists working within the framework of social practice today owe much to the Fluxus milieu’s expanded understanding of a score, whether they are explicitly working with scores or not. To help make sense of these links I’ve begun to think of different types of social organization as scores that organize the movement of bodies through space—everything from music, recipes, and games to architecture, digital coding, ritual, and law. The best social practice work exposes how our lives are scored, orchestrated, or performatively designed for better or for worse, in both utopian and dystopian fashions.  At the Walker for example, you’ve invited artists like Lucky Dragons and Fritz Haeg to mount projects that capitalize on the innate community-building aspects of music and the preparation of food.  This summer Chris Kallmyer drew out some of the meditative, aesthetic aspects of the cultural ritual of baseball on Open Field with his work Play Catch, All Together.  In Los Angeles where I live, artists like Elana Mann and Juliana Snapper of the People’s Microphony Camerata explore the political and aesthetic potential of the People’s Mic, and Michael Parker carved a gigantic obelisk a parcel of land adjacent to the LA river, which became a platform for performances and critical discussions about art and the local ecology.

As artists move further and further away from the production of discrete, conventional art objects, I find the idea of the score—and all that it entails in terms of the work’s ontology, production, distribution, and reception—to be an increasingly helpful way of understanding what an artwork is now and how it moves through the world.


Benjamin Patterson, a key figure in the Fluxus network of artists, visits the Walker on October 9 as part of the exhibit Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art. Art Expanded, 1958-1978, which explores the expanded arts of the 1960’s and 1970’s, is on view through March 2015, and includes the work of Alison Knowles and George Macunias, among other notable Fluxus figures.

Let’s Make Comedy from Art and Art from Comedy

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Hi, my name’s Levi Weinhagen.

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From now through January 2015 I will be the Artist in Residence for the Walker Art Center’s Education and Community Programs department. This opportunity will give me the chance to combine my work as an all-ages comedy and theater writer, improvisational performer, and public engagement artist and find new and exciting ways to play with people young and old who are coming to the Walker to learn and grow.

There are two core driving forces influencing every move I make with my work. I want to deepen the understanding of and highlight the importance of intergenerational connection. And I’m on a mission to show the world how tremendously powerful comedy is as a tool for connection and understanding of everything from the very simple to the incredibly complex.

There may be nothing I find more frustrating than adults showing condescension towards young people. Children are full of amazing thoughts and ideas and are in constant search for adults who will show them respect and work with them. Sadly, the same kind of treatment is often shown towards the very old in our society. The work I’ve been a part of over the past 15 years has been more and more created for the very old, the very young and everyone in between with the idea that creating truly shared experiences for people of all-ages creates more opportunities for connection between them and fosters the sharing of ideas and builds relationships.

I believe deeply in the uniting power of comedy and am fascinated by what we can learn about cultures, regions and communities by examining the comedy culture of a place. Comedy as an art form and as a tool is often held in low regard, partly because it is so prevalent but partly because when it is used properly no one can see the hard work that has gone into creating something comedic. I want to help people understand how powerful and important various forms of comedy are to their lives.

My deep belief in the power of comedy to connect people and ideas and my drive to break down generational barriers can coalesce in remarkable ways. I want to create opportunities for children to feel like leaders amongst their peers as well as amongst adults. I want to create opportunities for aging people to feel they have a voice that is heard, respected, and valued. And I want to use the tools that are unique to comedy to make these challenges seem less daunting and more enjoyable to confront.

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A few big questions I’m always seeking answers to are: what’s funny about today, what’s funny about art, and what can we learn about ourselves by being honest and vulnerable without being self-serious?

A few specific questions I hope to answer in my time at the Walker include: where’s the best place to do a pratfall in the Walker? Is it easier to write puns or knock-knock jokes inside an art museum? What’s the best part of a guided museum tour led by a five year old? Which color is the funniest? Which color is the least funny?

 

Make a Salad, Making a Salad, Made a Salad

“. . . that’s what you’re doing. You’re only making a salad. And these are the best salads.“—Alison Knowles As summer days slip away, perhaps you’re thinking back to your “best salad” of the season. For me, it’s the one documented below, the salad Alison Knowles made for Walker Open Field on July 10. Knowles […]

. . . that’s what you’re doing. You’re only making a salad. And these are the best salads.“—Alison Knowles

As summer days slip away, perhaps you’re thinking back to your “best salad” of the season. For me, it’s the one documented below, the salad Alison Knowles made for Walker Open Field on July 10. Knowles is a founding member of the avant-garde art group Fluxus, and her work is currently on view in the exhibition Art Expanded, 1958–1978. Known for her sound works, installations, performances, and publications, Knowles came to the Walker to present one of her most iconic event scores, Make a Salad. What follows below is a sequence of images and thoughts that long to reinstate the moment itself—the moment when it was happening—when we were only doing what we were doing. Making a salad. The best salad.
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The artist introduces herself and her collaborator, Joshua Selman. A fresh tarp is on the ground. The late afternoon light is soft through overcast skies and it’s pleasant.
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Listen to subtle and sporadic sounds: a recorded voice set in static, silence, the voice again, then the  buzz of an amplified paper shredder. Notice a faint scent as sheets of nori become thin ribbons, slipping into the bowl or drifting to the ground.

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The choppers are ready. The artist signals. The choppers begin.
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Radishes thud as they strike the tarp. Greens, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, make softer smattering sounds. The artist cuts and reams 3 lemons. She pours the mouth-watering juice over the salad. The citrus scent wafts.
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Helpers toss the salad. The mass of vegetables provides resistance to the rakes. Shovel back and shovel forward.
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Serve a salad. Be served a salad.
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Share a salad. Notice what you’re doing. Remember this for later.

Of course, if I say, “remember a salad,” that’s vastly different from my saying “make a salad.” What remains once the action ends? And how did the artist’s instruction exist before being enacted? These questions point to abstractions: suppositions, ideas, memories, residues. The in-between, while arguably more ephemeral, is less complicated, as Alison Knowles eloquently expresses of her iconic score, Make a Salad:

“. . . that’s what you’re doing. You’re only making a salad. And these are the best salads.”

All photos by Gene Pittman

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