An open letter to the remaining 1st and 2nd generation Fluxus
Many are called, but none are now chosen.
6 January 2005
I was very fond of Emily Harvey. I miss her a lot. I am sorry I will not be there to help you honor and remember Emily Harvey tonight.
Emily Harvey's passing marks a passing for me, too. I am walking away from Fluxus. It is, unfortunately, unnecessary to announce my departure: most of you don't even know me. You probably didn't even realize that I am a part of Fluxus and that I operate and host a number of websites that have promoted Fluxus for the last nine years. And none of you have ever acknowledged that I am, in fact, an active Fluxus artist who has pioneered new directions and forged new sensibilities in Fluxus for more than 20 years now. That is why I am leaving.
Twenty years ago I fell in love with Fluxus and the monumental creative revolutions you all initiated more than 40 years ago. You changed and expanded what creativity and knowing means. You changed Western culture. You changed the world. You ripped a new hole in the universe. And you did it with simple little ideas, games, objects, performances, and concepts. I will always admire your astonishing accomplishments. What you did was so big that no historian, writer, collector, or curator has ever gotten their arms around it satisfactorily.
But an equally astonishing thing has been going on in Fluxus for the last twenty years. You have been letting Fluxus die.
At one time you welcomed people to Fluxus. You recruited people to Fluxus. I know you have always been a contentious lot, but there was a time when the Fluxus door was open, you invited people in, and you made it grow. You embraced a "second wave" of Fluxus artists-e.g., Ken Friedman, Larry Miller. You encouraged new Fluxus work and new Fluxus projects. But as far as I can tell, this pretty much stopped 20 or more years ago (Friedman's Young Fluxus show in 1982 is the last time any of you sponsored a show of "new" Fluxus artists). What happened to you?
Letting Fluxus die is a terrific and unnecessary shame and I place most of the blame on you (the people to whom this letter is addressed). I blame you individually and I blame you collectively. You have served Fluxus poorly during these last 20 years and you are letting Fluxus die. It didn't have to be this way. For the last 20 years, an increasing number of mostly young, bright, and talented people have been showing up and knocking on the Fluxus club house door … and almost all of you have either been too deaf or self-centered to hear them, or worse, you have continued to wring your hands over whether anyone should or could open the door (the issue of who has the "authority" to welcome and declare new Fluxus artists has been a convenient excuse). All you really had to do was open the door and show a little kindness. Why has that been so hard for all of you to do?
During the last 20 years many different people have been "called" to Fluxus. I am one of those people. We learned about Fluxus in one way or another and were struck by lightning, had an epiphany…and generally felt we had found a place where we really belonged. We had hoped to find a home in Fluxus. And many of just started doing and being Fluxus in our own way…much like all of the original Fluxus folks had their own individual understanding and gifts for Fluxus activities. And one way or another as we have gotten stronger in our own Fluxus work, we have stepped forward and tried to share this work with you. Needing to find some acknowledgement and encouragement from the people who launched this Fluxus ship. We approached you with respect. We approached you as Fluxus authorities. We knocked on the door and you did not answer. The most that some of you have been able to do for a whole new generation of Fluxus artists is hand us some tedious book on Fluxus so we could "study up," or you smiled patronizingly and encouraged us to attend your next exhibition. You didn't even seem to consider that any of these new folks could take you and Fluxus some place new and exciting where it hadn't been before. And frankly, some of these new Fluxus folks have been doing more interesting work and more truly Fluxus work than many of you have been doing during the last 20 years.
Many bright and talented people have not stayed long to knock, however. They heard the authoritative pronouncements that Fluxus was "dead" or "over." This was very confusing and discouraging-many of us could feel the spirit of Fluxus alive in ourselves and in our own work, so we couldn't understand how Fluxus could be dead. But you didn't answer the door and many eventually walked away. I have knocked longer than most-for more than 20 years now since I founded Fluxus Midwest in 1982. Dick Higgins and Emily Harvey (and Carolee Schneemann) were the only ones to acknowledge and encourage my own Fluxus work and experiments, but now Dick and now Emily are gone, I'm out in the cold, and I'm tired of knocking. So I am packing up my Fluxus bags, and taking my creativity and energies elsewhere.
I am closing down the many internet websites I have constructed and hosted to promote and honor Fluxus: The Fluxus Portal, the Fluxus Homepage, the Emily Harvey Gallery, the Museum of the Sub-Conscious, the Dick Higgins memorial website, and numerous other webpages promoting the work of many original Fluxus artists. I doubt that many of you will notice. I have also walked away from FLUXLIST-the pioneering Fluxus email discussion group that I co-founded with Dick and Ken Friedman. FLUXLIST is another example of what I am talking about. Most of you could never even bother to subscribe. By not participating you have missed a great audience and a wonderful chance to discover and encourage many new Fluxus artists and to learn about their work. It would have given you back more energy than it would have taken.
Almost all of you have failed to recognize three obvious things about Fluxus--about the Fluxus you helped create!
You all have spent so much time during the last 20 years trying to shape your legacy and the legacy of Fluxus, and few if any of you are satisfied with the results--the exhibitions, the collections, the books. Instead of trying to manage Old Fluxus you could have been leading a new group of Fluxus artists to explore new Fluxus directions and new Fluxus territory. Wouldn't it have been a lot more energizing and a lot more fun to fan new Fluxus flames than struggle with collectors who have catalogued your work but failed to capture your spirit or the scope of your actual accomplishments?
I can only imagine that if George Maciunas were alive today he might have excommunicated you all by now and found a new and younger gang of Fluxus rabble rousers to continue his mischievousness. I imagine him cooking up guerrilla art activities and staging "terrorist" art attacks against some of the collectors and historians who demean him and you by saying Fluxus was no bigger than him and no bigger than you.
Fluxus has the potential to be a bigger, more vibrant and creative force in the world today than even the project George Maciunas imagined. Certainly the world's need for the expanded creativity and the knowing that Fluxus provides is greater than ever. Because of the availability of more publications and catalogs documenting Fluxus work and because of the internet, more people know more about Fluxus than ever before. Fluxus is attracting more people than ever before--as much outside the art world as in. More people than ever before want to participate in and make their own contribution to Fluxus. But you--the founders, the brave pioneers--have turned your backs on them. And you have turned your backs on a marvelous opportunity to expand your legacy and help Fluxus continue.
Allen Bukoff, PhD