Performance Art

3.1 The Concept of Flux

The artists who have been associated with Fluxus—including, but not limited to, Dick Higgins, Yoko Ono, George Maciunas, Jackson MacLow, La Monte Young, Alison Knowles, Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys, Emmett Williams, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Ben Vautier, Wolf Vostell, and Walter de Maria—form a loose coalition, not a movement like that of the futurists. To understand this characterization we should consider the concept that serves as their umbrella, flux. Here the relationship between music and art is also in flux; boundaries are fluid and shifting.

The concept flux is to be understood not just as a noun but also as a verb and an adjective, meaning, as the standard dictionary definition has it, a continuing succession of changes.[4] The group’s work raises fundamental issues about the nature of the art object and the boundaries of academic study, ranging broadly from temporal to spatial arts. However, as Kristine Stiles has argued, the ontology of Fluxus is essentially performative.[5] Through the inheritance of the work and ideas of John Cage and the Fluxus aesthetic, the performance, or concert occasion, is to be viewed as a complex field of activities—visual, textual, and sonorous—one that, among other things, understands the concept of music as a discourse. That is, the performance exists as a conceptual constellation, orbiting sound but including the scaffolding that is necessary for the sound to exist (instruments, institutions, traditions, conventions, and so on). This view, which stands diametrically opposed to modernist references to music as a paradigm of autonomy, introduces the concept of music to evaluation on a number of levels, both performatively and textually, not the least of which is the visual. Music is to be understood as an umbrella under which Fluxus presented many of its ideas.