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Fluxus Club Retrospective

Over a four-month span of the darkest days of Minnesota winter, I worked with members of the Walker’s education department and the Walker’s librarian to develop a series of monthly workshops that drew inspiration from the work of Fluxus artists featured in the exhibition, Art Expanded, 1958–1978 and were a continuation of Fluxus-infused activities that […]

Fluxus Club in the Art Lab

Fluxus Club in the Art Lab

Over a four-month span of the darkest days of Minnesota winter, I worked with members of the Walker’s education department and the Walker’s librarian to develop a series of monthly workshops that drew inspiration from the work of Fluxus artists featured in the exhibition, Art Expanded, 1958–1978 and were a continuation of Fluxus-infused activities that took place in Open Field over the summer of 2014. The charge of the workshops was to offer a hands-on activity for visitors of all ages that made a connection with the Fluxus artworks on view in the galleries. My hope was to develop workshops that:

  • offered a contemporary take on Fluxus, inhabited the spirit of the original Fluxus, while also accommodating and reflecting the present.
  • connected the art lab with the resources of the institution—in particular, the collection, the galleries, and the library.
  • turned the art lab into an energetic, comfortable space with a sense of context, communal activity, and history.

 Fundamentally, we all wanted the workshops to be both fun and thoughtful. And, maybe most importantly, we really didn’t want to find ourselves trying to answer the question, “What is Fluxus?”

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Thinking in Series

The suggestion to offer a series of workshops—rather than a single, one-off event—sealed the deal for me. Designing multiple sessions meant we could work with the Fluxus collection in greater depth and develop multiple activities that responded to some of the diversity of Fluxus production. The structure naturally supported an iterative design process (develop, test, reflect, revise) and after each Fluxus Club, we met to talk about the previous event and finalize plans for the next one. All the workshops responded to a single, broad theme (and we sometimes even repeated successful activities) but each was differentiated:

  • November: Fluxus Poster Production Shop
  • December: Flux Newspaper
  • January: Art Into Life (New Art/New Year/New Life)
  • February: Flux Valentines

 Most importantly, however, a series meant we could adapt the workshops as we learned what worked well, and what fell flat. After the December workshop, for example, we realized we struggled to explain Fluxus when visitors asked for a definition: the workshops were about an invitation to actively participate, but when we switched to the role of “expert explainer” we shifted the dynamic of the space (and didn’t really clarify much about Fluxus.) We suggested visitors seek out Fluxus works in the gallery, but didn’t have a great way to get them there.

ecp2015flux-club-objects Fluxus Club items Objects created by museum visitors in Fluxus Club, a public program (ECP-Art Lab) that ran from November 2014-February 2015, part of the exhibition: Art Expanded.   The teaching artist for the Flux Production Shop in the Art Lab  was Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, although she did not create any of these works.  The works were photographed as documentation of the event, and for future blog use.  The works themselves are currently stored with the Education Department.

New Year’s art resolutions

In response, we rethought our strategy for the January event. We expanded our use of scores, writing them not just for individual activities , but for the event as a whole. On the giant chalkboard in the Walker’s lobby, we posted a score that invited visitors to take off their winter coats and directed them to the lab, library, and galleries. We worked with the gallery guides (who were great at talking with visitors about Fluxus), and provided them with envelopes of scores to give visitors, who could try them out in the gallery, then explore further in the art lab. Through the scores, the workshop expanded beyond the art lab, to the galleries, to the library, and to the lobby.

Fluxus Club chalkboard sign in the Walker lobby

Fluxus Club chalkboard sign in the Walker lobby

Detail of the poetry-generator activity in the Walker library

Detail of the poetry-generator activity in the Walker library

Connecting Spaces

One of our goals for the series was to make best use of the resources of the institution and to facilitate connections between the art lab, the library, and the galleries. The collaboration with Margit Wilson, the Walker’s librarian, was especially productive. The Walker library, beloved but relatively inaccessible (open to the public only by appointment), initially appealed because it made available a trove of Fluxus resources just a few steps from the art lab (the galleries are more distant from the lab space). During the first month’s program, Margit hosted an open house in the library, with an assortment of Fluxus publications and exhibition catalogues for browsing. As we reflected on that first event, however, it was clear that the library could be more than a space for browsing—it could be a making space as well. We developed activities and Flux-like scores to inspire visitors, that required only book-safe, dry media, and made use of library resources (books, photocopier, typewriters.) The making activities in the library and the lab complemented each other: visitors could make  chance poetry in the library, then add their poem to the Flux Newspaper (December) or Flux Valentine (February) in the art lab. The keys to the art lab/library collaboration: staffing (like the art lab, the library had to be staffed and visitors supervised during the event); a few rules (clean hands required in the library); and good signage (we posted scores that sent visitors to the library from the art lab.).

 

Detail of table with materials

Detail of table with materials

Fluxus-inspired installation in the art lab

Fluxus-inspired installation in the Art Lab

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Threaded Making

I hoped we could thread the ideas and spirit of Fluxus through all aspects of the workshop: the activities, the setup of the space, how we collaborated with the library and how we connected with the rest of the Walker. We began by thinking about the workshop space: the art lab is a great space for art activities, but is quite sterile: white floors and walls, bright lights, big tables covered with paper. To bring a bit more spirit to the space, we turned down the lights and decorated: we covered tables with mismatched, thrifted tablecloths, projected images of Fluxus artworks from the collection; wrote scores on the chalkboard and posted them on the walls; and, most importantly, filled the space with stuff we (and the visitors) made. We invited visitors to contribute to the space: they could add their posters to the wall, contribute a collage or poem to the Flux Newspaper, or add their New Year’s art resolution to our recreation of Ben’s Window (by Ben Vautier) as seen in the exhibition Art Expanded. And we saved all the material from month to month, so the space had a sense of history: by February, the space was filled with posters, signs, collage, and collaborative poems made during the previous sessions. Each month, the space got visually richer and less lab-like. (All this was possible because of the efforts of the program’s intern, Sheila Novak, who deinstalled and collected all of the materials at the end of each evening, then reinstalled them the following month.)

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Event score for the January Fluxus Club

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Score posted at the entrance to the Art Lab.

 

Perhaps our best tool for infusing the events with the spirit of Fluxus was the use of scores. We used scores to introduce visitors to the evening’s activities, to get people from space to space, and to pick up a brush or pen and make something. Because they were both concrete and open-ended, scores gave participants enough direction to feel comfortable diving into activities without being worried about getting it “right.” By January, even the informational sign in the lobby was part of the thread: we created a Flux-like meta score for the event, so the act of coming down to see what was going on in the art lab was a sort of performance. We weren’t explaining Fluxus; we were making opportunities for visitors to do their own Fluxus.

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What We Learned

As the artist leading the workshop, I appreciated the opportunity to work on this series: the chance to reflect and make revisions from month to month meant we had multiple chances to get things right and could explore the Fluxus collections in greater depth. It also gave us time to develop meaningful collaborations, especially between the art lab and the library. Because we “threaded” the Fluxus spirit through all aspects of the events (from wayfinding to the physical setup of the art lab), the series was time-intensive: scores had to be written, designed, printed and distributed; the space had to be recreated (with increasing amounts of stuff) then cleaned up each month; materials had to be saved and stored from month to month. But because this was a series, that staff time was well-spent: we were able to bring back successful activities and use what we learned to develop new, better strategies.

A Fluxus poetry project in the library

A Fluxus poetry project in the library

We could have done some things better: because we had trouble defining Fluxus in general and these workshops in particular, outreach and publicity were more difficult than it would have been if we’d been advertising just a single, concrete activity. Fluxus Club drew fairly small audiences (winter weather and competition with other museum events certainly contributed to the numbers.) On the other hand, smaller audiences made it practical for the library to host activities. Our best and most engaged audiences came the evening we partnered with the gallery guides who were posted in the galleries: they talked with visitors about Fluxus, handed out scores, and invited them to the activities in the art lab and library, where the staff there could engage them in the making activities. That one-on-one, personal interaction was key—and practical on a relatively quiet evening.

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Fluxus Club in the Art Lab

 

We may never have come up with a great response to “what is Fluxus,” but by inviting visitors to get involved—and by creating spaces that made it easy and inviting to dive in—we certainly inspired a kind of active and playful participation that celebrated the spirit of the Fluxus artists.

ecp2015flux-club-objects Fluxus Club items Objects created by museum visitors in Fluxus Club, a public program (ECP-Art Lab) that ran from November 2014-February 2015, part of the exhibition: Art Expanded.   The teaching artist for the Flux Production Shop in the Art Lab  was Margaret Pezalla-Granlund, although she did not create any of these works.  The works were photographed as documentation of the event, and for future blog use.  The works themselves are currently stored with the Education Department.

Flux valentines

 

I Love That Photo! Or, An Ode to Solitude

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the coordinator of Coffee House Press’s In The Stacks program, which places writers and artists into residencies in libraries and archives around the country, it’s that you always start your visit to an archive by looking for the familiar. So, when asked to contribute to the Walker People’s Archive‘s series on the photos we love, […]

<i>Rothko and me</i>.  Submitted by Eric Mueller.

Rothko and Me. Submitted by Eric Mueller

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the coordinator of Coffee House Press’s In The Stacks program, which places writers and artists into residencies in libraries and archives around the country, it’s that you always start your visit to an archive by looking for the familiar.

So, when asked to contribute to the Walker People’s Archive‘s series on the photos we love, I immediately went looking for museum-goers who, like me, prefer to visit the galleries alone. I found several photos of visitors (including many feral children) who appear to be alone, but who clearly had an unseen companion (the person behind the lens).

<i>Bluuue</i>.  Submitted by Amy Thompson

Bluuue. Submitted by Amy Thompson

Cora<i>Cora in Amazement</i> (2014).  Submitted by Robbie LaFleur

Cora in Amazement (2014). Submitted by Robbie LaFleur

Then I found Alycia Anderson’s submission, Blue BOOM! It’s impossible to tell for sure, but it appears that the young lady found herself a little alone time with the exhibition Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers. And, I have to say, I’m a bit jealous that she (a fellow Scandinavian, perhaps?) was able to enjoy Klein’s signature “fluid” and “consistent” blue unhindered by the visual clutter of other museum-goers, with their jackets and their hair and their purses and their brightly colored Walker pins.

<i>“Blue” BOOM!</i> (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson

“Blue” BOOM! (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson

In 2009, I was living three blocks from the Walker when light/space artist Robert Irwin recreated the scrim piece Slant/Light/Volume (1971) that was first installed at the opening of the Barnes Building in 1971. I tried several times to not only visit the museum alone, but to get the entire Irwin room to myself, as this lucky visitor did. But it never worked out. What would I have done there all alone? Dunno. But I was convinced the experience would be transformative. I had just read Lawrence Weschler’s engrossing biography of Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (University of California Press, 2009), and I was completely taken with his work.

Those of us who visit galleries alone, are we truly looking for solitude? A bustling gallery on a Saturday afternoon rarely provides peace and quiet. But a Thursday morning at, say, 11am? Now you’re talking.

Or are we maybe just looking for love? My friend “T” was visiting the Walker alone recently and found the man of her dreams just waltzing through the galleries.

I think, rather, that we’re just not all equipped, in the moment at least, to fully process what’s before us and form an opinion of it. Especially with artists such as Yves Klein and Robert Irwin.

Against personal protocol, I recently visited both the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with others. Technically, I arrived at Chris Schlichting’s dance performance Stripe Tease alonebut shortly before the program began, a friend arrived (also solo) and plopped down next to me. As the piece wrapped up and we walked toward the cafe for a cup of coffee, she turned to me and said: “You know, someday I hope to have the vocabulary to discuss dance. But right now, I’ve got absolutely nothing to say about that. Nothing!”

A short while later, I visited the MIA with a newish acquaintance to see the MAEP show of a mutual friend. As we passed through the various regional and period rooms en route to the exhibit, she paused, turned to me, and said: “Just so you know, I’m not ready to talk about art with you just yet.”

In both instances, I was happy to comply, happy to talk of simpler things. I was happy to have a companion, but happier yet to be alone with my thoughts, like Alycia in Klein’s sea of blue.

We’re asking folks to pick a favorite photo from the Walker People’s Archive and tell us what they love about it. Want to tell us about your favorite?  Contact WPA Project Manager Jennifer Stampe.

Walker People’s Archive: WPA Revue in Review

In October of last year, the Walker invited me to produce a stage companion to the Walker People’s Archive, the crowd-sourced photographic and anecdotal history launched on the museum’s website earlier that month. After looking over the archive, I met with Jennifer Stampe, project manager for the WPA, and Ashley Duffalo, coordinator of Public and […]

WPA3In October of last year, the Walker invited me to produce a stage companion to the Walker People’s Archive, the crowd-sourced photographic and anecdotal history launched on the museum’s website earlier that month. After looking over the archive, I met with Jennifer Stampe, project manager for the WPA, and Ashley Duffalo, coordinator of Public and Community Programs for the Walker, and we discussed our incipient ideas and settled on a performance date in mid-January. The commission was appealingly open-ended. Ideally, the show would represent, recontextualize, and have fun with the archive, but the means by which it did so was unfixed.

Imagining a variety show that would blend the authentic WPA material with a modest fictional element, I started working on scenes and songs and reached to out to a group of collaborators: actors and codirectors Lara Blackwood Avery, Jenny Adams Salmela, and Bill Schoppert; singer Jayanthi Kyle; and bassist Jeffrey Sugerman. In the end, “The WPA Revue” was composed of three interlaced parts: an emceed slide show of WPA photos and their accompanying text; a lounge act of sorts in which Jayanthi, Jeffrey, and I performed original songs and thematically apt covers while photos flashed by without commentary; and a playlet centered on a fictional Twin Cities family, the Heitkes, Walker patrons and barons of the typewriter industry who fell into embarrassed circumstances with the rise of the personal computer.

The archive itself is a mix of tones: some of the submissions are goofy, others poignant; some are snapshots, others carefully composed. My hope was that the show would echo this tonal mix, that it would be funny but sometimes openly sentimental, loose but considered, and that it would casually treat some of the ideas suggested by the photos.

For instance, the Walker owns or has displayed many pieces made up in part or entirely of reflective surfaces, sometimes both reflective and distorting ones. Not surprisingly, WPA submissions often take advantage of these surfaces toward a kind of funhouse metaphotography. The archive includes selfies taken in one of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s mirror paintings, Three Girls on a Balcony, in sculptor Dan Graham’s Two-Way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth, in a Morris Graves set piece for Merce Cunningham’s Inlets. These submissions in particular spurred thoughts about memory, photography, distortion, and point of view.

<i>Walker Reflections</i> (2014). Submitted by Marti Gudmundson.

Walker Reflections (2014). Submitted by Marti Gudmundson

<i>DiNino Father and Son Portrait in a Jim Hodges Piece </i>(2014). Submitted by Ben DiNino.

DiNino Father and Son Portrait in a Jim Hodges Piece (2014). Submitted by Ben DiNino

In the show, Lara played Jessica Heitke, an aspiring artist who’s working with a group of photographs found in an alley by her friend Emily. The project has led Jessica to research what psychologists have to say about memory perspective. “In field perspective,” she summarizes to Emily, “you picture the memory more or less as you actually experienced it: through your eyes, watching your hand shake someone else’s hand—you’re the subject. In observer perspective, you see your whole body in the scene, right? As if you’re in a movie or a photo.” (Maybe the vantage of every era and place resembles its signature entertainments: Don Quixote is the hero of novel who believes he’s the hero of a novel; we create online personas and sometimes feel as if we’re the stars of our own biopics.) Emily answers that all of her childhood memories are like photos. “But sometimes that’s because they are photos,” she says. “I don’t know whether I’m remembering the moment or the photo.”

Probably most of us have memories like this; they’re conflations of lived experience, photographic documentation, and the stories that attend the photos. The raw and the cooked blur: the photo might seem to provide evidence for a memory, which we understand to be fallible; or the photo might seem to have altered or created the memory. Now that many of us can easily photograph everything—our parking spaces, our children, our lunches, our outfits, our kegger antics—regular and photographed life are presumably blurring still further. It’s currently conventional to worry that our lives are so mediated that only documented and publicized personal events feel real. The ironies aren’t subtle. On holidays we take a break from our families to post on social media about the importance of spending time with one’s family. We use our phones to post a TV clip of Louis C.K. talking about how estranging current technology is, how it’s a defense against underlying sadness, and how he found an antidote when he stopped to weep over a Bruce Springsteen recording playing on his car radio. In other words, we see new technology as phony, impoverishing, defensive; old technology as authentic, enriching, cathartic. (I mean, I’m with the comedian to a point: I love the Boss and have resisted getting a cell phone, which is how I know how easy it is to get sentimental over this stuff.)

The last time I went to the Getty Museum, another visitor stepped in front of me to get an obstructed photo of—I don’t know, some painting. I kept an eye on this ludicrous man for a while and found that he was swiftly moving though the galleries, apparently photographing every piece of art the Getty then had on view. (If only I’d had a camera, I could have photographed him photographing art, à la Thomas Struth.) As I’ve already let on, I felt superior to this man shooting rather than seeing art, art that had already been professionally photographed and could in most cases be viewed on the Getty’s fine website. Then again, it wasn’t as if my viewing that day was terribly deep or concentrated: I can’t remember the painting the man stepped in front of, after all, and for several minutes he interested me far more than the art did. Who knows, maybe he’s not a compulsive collector of photographic souvenirs, but rather a postmodern aesthete who can only enjoy art at one remove. I count as favorites many paintings that I’ve only seen in reproduction, or that first caught my eye through a photo. Case in point: I had stood in front of Günther Uecker’s White Field before seeing Alycia Anderson’s WPA photo of it, but only her close-up made me a fan.

<i>Wondering at White Field</i> (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson.

Wondering at White Field (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson

When my mother-in-law was in hospice a few years ago, my wife posted a few old family photographs to Facebook. The moment I saw these photos (alone at my computer), I started to cry, more than I did, it turned out, at the funeral a week or so later. Partly I was responding to the outpouring of support for my wife and her sisters in the comments section, but also there was something about how the images looked on the screen. I thought immediately of the photos that turn up with the closing credits for based-on-a-true-story movies, those yellowing snapshots of the actual person whose life has just been dramatized. Those photos tend to prod tears as well, and I found myself in an ambivalent spot: I was having a profound, genuine emotional experience that was triggered in part by its association with kitschy, manipulative TV movies. To get to the real, I had to summon the fake.

Our show ended with Jessica and Emily sitting and talking in James Turrell’s Sky Pesher, a piece Jessica was originally wary of because she suspected, at second hand, “a certain coercive spirituality.” Her view has changed by the last scene, though, and she and Emily have a tender, perhaps transcendent, moment inside the piece, a moment of tenderness and transcendence that they self-consciously decide to preserve with simultaneous cell-phone snapshots. Then—I suppose I was thinking again of those TV movies—the selfies were projected on the Walker Cinema’s screen and (a recorded) Robert Smith, of the Cure, started singing, “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you / that I almost believe that they’re real.”

Films for Families Matter

When most people see films about diving giraffes, walking houses and misfit toys they think silly and funny, these films also tell deep and profound stories. Each year in March, Free First Saturday hosts a Kids’ Film Festival featuring films from around the world. This is a once a year chance to expose families to […]

When most people see films about diving giraffes, walking houses and misfit toys they think silly and funny, these films also tell deep and profound stories. Each year in March, Free First Saturday hosts a Kids’ Film Festival featuring films from around the world. This is a once a year chance to expose families to different cultures and artists through short and feature films that are not widely accessible on a big screen.

Preparing for this event always begins with a visit to the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Last fall as I watched all types of children’s films in a screening room, I thought about connecting films to themes in art and exhibitions while also considering what kids and adults will enjoy. It is interesting how filmmakers are able to address identity, relationships, politics and the human condition in a way that is accessible to all. After watching over a hundred films I had the daunting task of selecting just a few to screen for families at the Walker.

I am really looking forward to sharing the films chosen and listening to the audience reactions. I hope you enjoy this year’s Kids’ Film Festival as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Short Films

5 Mètres, 80

A herd of giraffes launches into a sequence of acrobatic dives in a deserted swimming pool.

Directed by Nicolas Deveaux, France, 2012, 5 minutes.

 

Bear Story

An old bear goes out every day to a busy street corner, where he sets up and presents a special puppet show.

Directed by Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 2014, 10 minutes.

 

Copacao

In a fantastical story about the town of Copacao, an imaginary tree grows and grows to the point of taking over the whole planet.

Directed by Carciova Adrian, Romania, 2013, 3 minutes.

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Home Sweet Home

Tired of its neighborhood, a house in Detroit breaks free from its foundation and sets out on an adventure.

Directed by Alejandro Diaz, Pierre Clenet, Romain Mazevet, and Stéphane Paccolat, France, 2013, 10 minutes.

 

Lambs

Sheep parents are bewildered by their little lamb whose style sets it apart from the herd.

Directed by Gottfried Mentor, Germany, 2013, 5 minutes.

Lambs_Still_02

 

Little Matryoshka

A matryoshka family, wary of strangers, takes shelter in solitude but the curiosity of its youngest member soon leads them on a life-changing adventure.

Directed by Serin Inan and Tolga Yildiz, Turkey, 2014, 9 minutes.

 

Macropolis

Two defective toys discarded from a factory go on a hunt to find a new home that appreciates them for their uniqueness.

Directed by Joel Simon, Northern Ireland, 2012, 7 minutes.

 

Mia

In her quest to help her mother, a little girl unlocks the hidden secrets that make the world turn.

Directed by Wouter Bongaerts, Belgium, 2013, 9 minutes.

 

The Dam Keeper

A small town’s survival is solely due to a large windmill that acts as a fan to keep out poisonous clouds. Its operator, Pig, works tirelessly to keep the sails spinning, despite bullying from classmates. When a new student joins his class, everything begins to change.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Directed by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutusmi, USA, 2013, 18 minutes.

The Numberlys

In a world where there is no alphabet and only numbers, a group of friends sets out to devise a new way to communicate.

Directed by William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg, USA, 2013, 12 minutes.

 

Feature Film

Song of the Sea

From the creators of the Academy Award-nominated The Secret of Kells comes a hand-drawn masterpiece. Based on the Irish legend of the Selkies, Song of the Sea tells the story of a seal-child and her brother who go on an epic journey to save the world of magic.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film.

Directed by Tomm Moore, Ireland/Luxembourg/Belgium/France/Denmark, 2014, 93 minutes.

 

Join us for an exciting day of kids’ films from around the world! Enjoy free gallery admission and family fun on March 7 from 10 am-3 pm. Activities designed for kids ages 6 to 12.

You Must Get Back Up

banana fall

banana fall

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

Every second and fourth Tuesday of the month the Walker presents “Arty Pants,” activities and programs aimed at people aged 3 to 5 and their adults. On Tuesday, November 25th, I had the great privilege of working with a group of tiny artists, sharing an art form I love, falling down. I worked with an excited and hilarious group of children to help them make their own banana peels and then we went over how to do a proper physical comedy fall. And then all these 3, 4, and 5 years olds fell down and clapped for each other. It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in a museum.

There was a moment early into the falling down part of my art activity with these youngsters when one of them fell down on my blue padded mat and everyone clapped and then he just laid there. He wasn’t hurt or anything, I think he was just enjoying laying down after having just gotten a round of applause. I’m a little embarrassed how well I can relate to that desire to bask in the applause. So, I helped him to his feet and then said to all the participants that I had left out one key part of doing physical comedy. I had forgotten to tell them what is needed in every comedy fall or physical comedy injury, you have to get back up.

It’s is a very grounding, human thing to laugh when someone trips and falls. One of my favorite things about physical comedy is that it doesn’t require everyone speak the same language or even share the same cultural touchstones. But, the laugh at a fall is quickly cut short if the “audience” thinks the person who fell is actually badly hurt. The biggest laughs, when it comes to physical comedy, require the at least assumed knowledge that no one is tragically hurt. Trust me, it’s not funny unless you get back up.

You want to know an amazing secret, though? This same principle applies to every fall or failure in life. If you get back up, you can always make something great out of what appears to be a fall.

History is littered with entrepreneurs who have had businesses collapse, scientists who have had experiments blow up in their faces, and artists who had work rejected time and again only to have them regain their footing and do things that change the way people think, create or do business. The successes and breakthroughs of a company like Apple with Steve Jobs at the helm after he had been forced out of the company makes everyone look back on his past work and reassess what appeared to be failures and view them as setups to an amazing punchline. I think you can see the same reassessment of one’s artistic past in the ups and downs of Robert Downey Jr’s acting career or the way Georgia O’Keefe’s early work as a commercial artist, although it was work she hated doing, is now viewed as informing what would become her unique views and approach to painting.

Almost any fall can be made a comedic success if you you aren’t so damaged from the landing that you aren’t able to get back up. And almost any metaphorical fall can be turned into a success if you can figure how to get back up and keep on moving. The only way we can turn our personal tragedies into triumphs is by letting everyone know the falls didn’t kills us. Heck, sometimes they’ll even applaud.

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.

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