Fluxus. Hermitage vs Hamburger Bahnhof

Fluxus as you know is an art phenomen of 50-60-70s created by lithuanian-american artist George Maciunas. Actually this art movement is about our daily life that becomes an art-project and art-action. There were about 30 artists in the different time in Fluxus among – Josef Beuys, Yoko Ono, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Nam June Paik, John Cage, Jonas Mekas and others. And all they denied authorship, professionalism and commerce. They were ironic and simple. That was protest against traditional forms of art, which had become commercial. Performances, happenings, mails – are Fluxus. Consequently, Fluxus is an ironic synthesis of a quantity of art-activities from our real life. So life became an art and art became a life. Fluxus included all forms and genres of art of XXth century. And Fluxus was really radical but quiet and peaceful art movement.

The title of the Hermitage exhibition was borrowed from on the Maciunas’s works – Atlas of Russian History. So the main peculiarity of this exhibition is connection between Fluxus artists and Russian culture and Russia as a whole. Maciunas wished to visit Russia, inhabit and even change it. Actually Fluxus consciously harked back to the European and Russian avant-garde by using analogous methods. The Maciunas’s Atlas of Russian History is not only a conceptual art piece of the 1950s but also an artistic and documentary research of Russia and its imperial history and culture. This project was created on the scopes of the history, geography, anthropology and entertainment. Partly maps are true but partly – Maciunas exaggerated facts. Atlases were made on translucent paper and could lie on each other so spectators see how one historical epoch influences on the other.


On the whole the exhibition allows us to look into the lives and actions of Fluxus artists. It includes mostly documents, evidences, illustrations of Fluxus existence. Also there are a quantity of texts and films of Jonas Mekas and 37 short films made by Dick Higgins, Joe Jones, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik. In addition to documents and films there are a few objects made according to one of the most important Fluxus principle – interacting with audience. For example Fingerbox in which everyone can put the finger to feel what is inside. But unfortunately now we cannot touch it because it was placed under the glass.


A few years ago I visited another Fluxus exhibition in Berlin. It was totally different. If at the Hermitage we see documentation of Fluxus movement at the Hamburger Bahnhof I saw objects and real pieces of Fluxus art. Exhibition was called Die Kunst ist Super! which means Art is super! It was a new representation of museum collections. It included Fluxus works and documentations of Fluxus happenings from early 1960s. The artists involved, including Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Allan Kaprow and Wolf Vostell, explored the use of new materials such as objects of everyday life or food products and media such as television or video. All their actions were against traditional concepts of art and traditional materials. The artists involved in Happenings aimed to provoke new ideas and change audience behaviour with their complex theatrical actions. Spectator became a participant in artistic activity. Fluxus is poetry of everyday experience and objects.


The most memorizing for me work was Josef Beuys The End of the Twentieth Century. As I read after visiting the exhibition it was the first original presentation of Beuys’s work made from fat and felt as usual. Also there were his films recording of his performances and political actions. That was his work showed his traditional utopian concept of each human as an artist. Beuys was convinced that, if we are ever to achieve freedom, humanity must intervene and shape evolution by means of artistic action. He saw art as providing the only chance to positively counteract the destructive aspects of human coexistence.






Mona Matveeva

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