by Art Chantry:
i’m no expert on FLUXUS or the main man behind it (“Mr. FLUXUS”), george maciunas. in fact, FLUXUS is even difficult to describe. maciunas called it ‘aganst art’ or something to that affect. the bottom line is that FLUXUS (a lithuanian/polish language pun that intentionally sounds like “fucks us’) was an art movement/art group that existed inside the head of george maciunas – and the rest of the ‘members’ lived there too.
FLUXUS was a truly impressive group of ‘practioners’ – nam june paik, jonas mekas, joseph bueys, george brecht, john cage, christo, yoko ono, henry fynt, al hansen, joe jones, alison knowles, olga adorno, takehisa kosugi, larry miller, ellsworth snyder, wolf vostell, emmett williams, ray johnson, claes oldenburg, john giorno, robert watts, la monte young and on and on and on. the psuedo memebership of FLUXUS reads like a who’s who of post war avant guard art. and it was george maciunas who was the axle (and the grease) the wheel spun around. in his way, he is as major a figure in 20th century art as marcel duchamp and andy warhol. but, you can’t pin the guy down. nobody could. he was george and he lived in a world of FLUXUS.
“john lennon often said he had never met anyone so bohemian and so eccentric as george maciunas.” (quoted fom the oral history about george maciunas called “MR. FLUXUS”.) and that’s THE john lennon sayng that. try to imagine the eccentrics and bohemians that john lennon must have encountered in his career. it boggles the mind.
even trying to describe WHAT george did (and inspired others to do) is difficult. for instance, he once wrote a symphony that involved a group of people taking a grand piano apart with hand tools like saws and hammers. the sound it made was the symphony. another installation was a collection of the discarded containers of the food he ate that year (sound familiar? it was george’s idea first). the funny part is that his diet was so restricted that it was about a million of the three different containers – that’s it.
FLUXUS and it’s visual/music/posters/performances/books/graphics/conceptual work was so intellectually vast and at the same time so “outside intelligence” that it still befuddles the mainstream fine art world. they acknowledge it, but do their best to ignore it. you see, most of FLUXUS’s humor and snarky commentary was aimed AGAINST the mainstream art world. in fact, it was against the mainstream WORLD. and it was brilliant.
but, right now, i want to refer to george maciunas as a graphic designer. he supported himself economically (such as it was) through his graphic design work. for instance, he designed that magazine, “Film Culture’ that i wrote about a couple of days ago. his style is so distinct and uniquely his own that everything done since then that looks remotely like it owes a kiss on the cheek to george maciunas. his work literally BECAME the ‘brand design style” of the fine art world and the avant guard art world of the mid century. you can’t escape it. his eccentric stylings and especially his brilliantly boneheaded typography is THE brand of mid-century avant guard modernism. it can be best described by w.b. yeats’ line “the centre cannot hold”. it’s the look of culture falling apart.
this thing i show you is one of his little funzy-wunzy projects he did. these are simply “name cards” that he made for each member in FLUXUS (at that moment in time. he was forever kicking ‘members’ in and out and in again). check them out. this is the style that is the mind of george maciunas at work, the style that changed the avant guard art world brand for the next 50 years. in so doing, he re-directed the course of american graphic design as well – the visual language we all speak, but we don’t know we speak it. and that is NO mean feat.
since these are presented in a grid, i wrote letters across the top and numbers down the side to help pinpoint the names. for instance, look at “1A”. it says “ERIC ANDERSON”. brilliant, eh? so so
ple and direct and easy and so delightfully witty. as you work your way through the various cards, you may not be familiar with the actual person named, but you’ll delight in figuring out the puzzle. how many graphic design solutions have you seen over the years that echo this thinking? are they this GOOD? and george whipped this out as a little joke.
how many of these names can you figure out?