INTERNATIONAL FLUXHIBITION #3: Thinking Inside Of The Box

Fluxus Boxes, Cases, Kits and Containers by Contemporary Fluxus Artists from the Permanent Collection – July 2009
by Cecil Touchon

Since most of the contributing artists won’t be able to make it to the show, I have tried to make a very detailed tour around the exhibit so that all can see the show from the comfort of their own homes where ever in the world that they are! The first call for Fluxhibition #3 went out in early May and in only a few weeks time this astounding show has come together. I am hoping to interest other venues in hosting this exhibit. It is an interesting show for any venue in my opinion.

If you have comments about the show or specific works in the show please send to cecil_touchon@fluxmuseum.org
We would love to hear from you and will post your comments to the web page if appropriate.

Gary Bibb, a very fine and seasoned artist and one of the contributors, wrote of it…

This exhibit is amazing! The variety, vision and execution is at the highest level. With most exhibits you will have a few exceptional pieces and some good with most being okay, but this gathering is all very good to exceptional.

I’m so impressed with the artists choosing to send good work – and Yoko deciding she wanted to be involved, well, she had nothing to gain other than returning to her original artistic intentions: To be a part of an art exhibit that is not pretentious and contrived. Speaks volumes about her heart. I am so honored to be small voice in this collective.

This may well be one of the most significant art exhibits of its kind – certainly of the early 21st century.

There are a small handful of established exhibitions designed to showcase the current state of the arts, such as the Venice Biennale; however, what’s amazing about this exhibit is that it’s not organized by a major institution (along with the inherent politics), but rather by a group of artists who truly are in life’s trenches – where the “real world” interfaces with artistic expression.

Although it revolves around Fluxus concepts, it’s more of a summation and clarification of all the previous artistic ideologies regarding tangible objects as pertinent to subjective content: Duchamp, Cornell, Rauschenberg and beyond. This is a global art statement by the “cultural canaries.” From personal idiosyncrasies to social commentaries, Fluxhibition #3: Thinking Inside Of The Box is a treasury full of artifacts collected while on the grand adventure of artistic exploration.

More photos of the exhibition here.


Including: Andrew Riley Clark (ARC), Roberto Munguia, Christine Tarantino, Keith Buchholz (Fluxus Saint Louis), Willian Picasso Gaglioni, Torma Cauli Laszlo, Christine Blackwell, Nazimova Boheme, Scott Ray Randall, Allan Bukoff (Fluxus Midwest), Gregory Steel, Ken Friedman, Stewart Home, Bernd Reichert, Janet Jones, Ellen Filreis, Costis, Ed Blackburn, Kate Robinson, Stephanie Forsyth, Cecil Touchon (Fluxus Laboratories), Lisa Caroll, Kelly Gorman, Josh Ronson, Jorge Artajo, Gary Bibb, Nico Vassilakis, Allan Revich, Elizabeth K. Bogard, Bibiana Maltos Padilla, Dilar Pereira, John M. Bennett, Rebecca Cunningham, Peter Swann, Marianne Lettieri, Reid Wood, Jamie Newton, Lis Gundlach Sell, Sam Tan, Matthew Rose, Evelyn Eller, Luc Fierens, Neil Horsky, Judith Stadler, Larry Miller, Norman Sherfield, Liz Yates, Caroline Waite, Michelle N. Ary, Erica James, Clint Chadsey, Nancy Keeling, Robert Tucker, Benoit Piret (Ben Tripe), Cordula Kagemann, Rick D. Adkins, Litsa Spathi, Nicholas Wood, Don E. Boyd, Antonio Sassu & Gruppo Sinestetico, Angelo Ricciardi, Antonio Picardi, Rachel Lawrence(Fluxmass), Angela Mcquire(Fluxmass), Pronoblem(Fluxmass), Alexandra Holownia, Tulio Restrepo, Linda Renz, Wade Towers, Natascha Mattmuller, David Dellafiora, Reed Altemus, Guido Vermeulen, Snappy, Denis Chamot, Buz Blurr, Angela Behrendt, Matthew Lee Knowles, Roland Halbritter, Valentina Calendrina, Yoko Ono, Dewi, Boog, Kelly Courtney, Tim Devin, Lancilloto Bellini, Carla Cryptic, Alan Bowman, Ex Post Facto, David Baptiste Chirot, Carol Starr, Maurizio Fillin, Bruno Chiarlone, Lex Loeb, Madawg, Mikeal And, Clark Whittington, Peter Dowker, Pierpaolo Limongelli, Mailarra, Ed Schenk, Christine Chaponniere, Ann Klefstad, Ann Seltzer, William R. Howe, Melissa Gray, Robert Kirkbride, Caule Violeta, Chris Mudhead Reynolds, Angelo Ricciardi and Antonio Picardi. D.S.H. Watson, Ultraviolet.


National Public Radio Interview Preparatory Notes

Thinking about an interview for the local Public Radio station for Morning Edition and/or All Things Considered, I thought I might jot down a few notes of things I might like to discuss in the few minutes that I will have for air time…

This exhibition, Fluxhibition #3: Thinking Inside of the Box, is the culmination till the present of my ideas related to the Art Museum as a kind of new artistic genre. This show is a combination of two different shows that share a common link which is the box as an expressive medium. Collage and assemblage artists were asked to contribute a box for the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction: collagemuseum.com and later, for the Fluxmuseum at fluxmuseum.org, through the networks of Fluxus artists I am involved with who were asked to create and contribute a box, or case or fluxkit when an opportunity came up via Zack Greer of the Student Art Association to use the University gallery at UTA for the summer.

In a matter of just a few weeks enough buzz was created through the internet to put this show together with artists participating from all over the world. It is extraordinary really, what we can do via the internet. This recognition of the power of the internet, in fact has been at the root of my endeavors since 1994 when I first started comprehending how radically it would change the world.

What we see in this show are examples of works from the collage/assemblage artists community, the Fluxus community and the mail-art community – what is known as the Eternal Network pioneered early on by people like Ray Johnson.

All three of these communities have intertwining histories and shared interests that go back to , the Dadaists, Futurists, Surrealists and key artists such as Kurt Schwitters, Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell. Fluxus arose as a loose community of artists through the efforts of George Maciunas who, in 1961, invented the word and then worked diligently to develop an international artists community with Fluxus being its name. This included people like George Brecht who just died earlier this year, Yoko Ono (who has donated a work for this show), John Lennon, Claus Oldenberg, Christo, etc. It is not really a particular style of art but there are certain important innovations that Fluxus is credited with such as the wide spread use of the event score, instructions, performance, inter-media, concept based art, collaborative and communal art, etc. as well as a strong interest in global community and the inter-cultural exchange of ideas.

This interest in global community and collaboration is at the core of why this extraordinary show was able to be conceived, coordinated and executed in less than two months time. Why have we done it? Just to show that we can, that Fluxus is alive and well and for the simple joy of sharing with each other. Most participating artists will never see this show. For this reason I have gone to great lengths to document the show and make sure that everyone can admire each other from afar via the Museum’s website fluxmuseum.org.

Coming back to the exhibition, we see in this show, really, as Gary Bibb has noted, a “summation and clarification of all the previous artistic ideologies regarding tangible objects” or you might say certainly, an accumulation of many artistic trends and ideas that have been developing in the art world for the last 100 years.

While the objects in this exhibition are not organized in any certain way, the over all theme of the box brings a unifying quality to the exhibition. Yet within this unity a great deal of diversity in terms of intention or purpose is apparent. Among these boxes are political messages, personal stories, jokes, social commentary, inventions, commemorative works, obsessive passions, homages to other artists, games, gadgets, dead bugs, a rotten egg from Macedonia, family heirlooms from Demark, handmade objects, scientific paraphernalia from the EPA, training kits, the hair of virgins, magic boxes, hidden compartment boxes, A pot of lightning from Greece, air from Colorado and even a bottle chock full of God.

There are those artists whose central interest is the world of objects and ways to organize them, sometimes with a narrative in mind such as the work by Mobius Artists Group artist/composer/performer Jane Wang from Boston called “Box of Failures” that documents personal events. Sometimes artists are interested in the romance of unknown private histories such as the little box by Peter Swann from the UK entitled “For Life-Like Snaps” related to English summer cottages in the 20th century. Some artists are driven by the aesthetic appeal of the objects gathered such as the highly sensitive San Francisco artist and print-maker Janet Jones in her work ‘Q & A Box’.

We see some examples, of a more Fluxus nature where the box object is intended as a performance such as in Reid Wood’s ‘Fluxbox’ with hidden objects that the viewer is instructed to shake and perhaps figure out what is inside with their ears instead of their eyes. Other boxes are the artifacts of Fluxus performances such as the set of boxes of organ parts from a 2006 performance “Organ F – Ride an Organ, Burn an Organ” by Rebecca Cunningham and Fluxus crew in Australia who stirred up quite a controversy when, with a $3,000.00 government grant, held a Fluxus performance in which she cut up a piano with a chain saw and burned up an organ. This is dangerous stuff!

Many Fluxus art works have a performance element involved with their making or imply performance in one way or another. This tradition has a lot to do with a number of seminal Fluxus artists having studied with John Cage in New York City. This connection led to a lot of experimentation in inter-media – or in other words, breaking down the barriers between one genre and another. This idea goes all the way back to early modernist experiments in multi-sensory artistic events combining sound, theatre, music, visual art, performance, dance, etc. which culminated into Fluxus Happenings in the 1960’s.

In fact, among the contributions to the show are a number of videos and recordings to be seen either through the ‘box’ of a television screen or heard through speaker boxes. I am hoping that I may be able to show these extra works during the exhibition or possibly have an evening – to be arranged – when folks can gather to see and hear them.

This is really quite a special opportunity to peak inside the secret life of an art community that for the most part has remained intentionally hidden from view for its nearly fifty year history. I would venture to say that if you asked one thousand people here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area if they had ever even heard of the word Fluxus nine-hundred and ninety-nine of them would say “no”. Yet Fluxus artists and ideas have had a major impact on the wider artistic community. While some art historians will say Fluxus is a phantom from the past, the Fluxus burgeoning community, in fact, is more dynamic than ever with literally thousands of artists involved to one degree or another. I believe this exhibition is evidence of its ongoing vitality and creative fervor.

In conclusion, I would just like to say thank you to all of the wonderful artists who have contributed works to the museum for this show. I am hoping to interest other institutions in mounting exhibitions of these works. It certainly deserves to be seen far and wide and, I believe, will be inspiring to many who get the opportunity to take the whole thing in.

Cecil Touchon.

Note from Billie Maciunas (widow of Fluxus founder George Maciunas)

“Hi Cecil, I wanted to let you know that I think the current exhibition is very cool. The publisher and the designer of my forthcoming book both sent in boxes. They told me how much fun they had making the boxes and how liberating it was to do art without being judged. I think this is exactly what fluxus is about. Have fun, don’t judge, be inclusive. thank you for doing this–I hope you are having fun too!”

INTERNATIONAL FLUXHIBITION #3: Thinking Inside Of The Box

The Gallery, E.H. Hereford University Center at The University of Texas at Arlington, 300 W 1st StArlingtonTX‎ [map]

1 – 31 July 2009
Gallery open: 8:00am  to 5:00pm – Monday through Friday.
NOT OPEN ON THE WEEKENDS!
To be sure the gallery is open when you want to go, call P.K. at 817-272-6059.

waw-680

Yoko Ono: We’re All Water (2005)

Three scores, in Japanese and English, in round plastic box
Edition size: 400
Produced by: Gallery 360º, Tokyo
Dimensions: 6.82” x 4.1” x 1.77”

ENGLISH SCORES:

WATER PIECE

Water.

1964 Spring

—-

WE’RE ALL WATER
by Yoko Ono

There may not be much
difference
Between Chairman Mao and
Richard Nixon
If we strip them naked.

There may not be much
difference
Between Mariyln Monroe and
Lenny Bruce
If we check their coffins.

There may not be much
difference
Between White House and
Hall of People
If we count their windows.

There may not be much
difference
Between Raquel Welch and
Jerry Rubin
If we hear their heartbeat.

Chorus:
We’re all water from
different rivers,
That’s why it’s so easy to meet.
We’re all water in this vast,
vast ocean,
Some day well evaporate
together.

There may not be much
difference
Between Eldridge Cleaver and
Queen of England
If we bottle their tears.

There may not be much
difference
Between Manson and the Pope
If we press their smile.

There may not be much
difference
Between Rockefeller and you
If we hear you sing.

There may not be much
difference
Between you and me
If we show our dreams.

Chorus:
We’re all water from
different rivers,
That’s why it’s so easy to meet.
We’re all water in this vast,
vast ocean,
Some day well evaporate
together.

“We’re All Water” from the album
“Some Time in New York City”
Copyright 1972 Yoko Ono / Ono Music

—-

water talk

you are water
I’m water
we’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together

but even after the water’s gone
we’ll probably point out to the containers
and say, “that’s me there, that one.”
we’re container minders

For Half-A-Wind Show, Lisson Gallery, London 1967.

Fluxus in Texas

By Jerome Weeks, Art&Seek,  July 17, 2009

fluxexhibit3-allison-McElroy-411-number-2-with-frame--2009-web

Allison McElroy411 #2, rolled-up phonebook pages, wire, black frame, 2009

KERA radio story:

Anarchic and whimsical, Fluxus was a little-known art movement in the ’60s — little-known, even though Yoko Ono was an occasional and influential Fluxite. But the movement arguably died out in the ’70s — although a Fort Worth artist, author and home-grown museum curator disagrees. As proof, he has assembled the current show,Fluxhibition #3, in the student gallery at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Most art museum directors would have us believe that running an art museum is an all-consuming job. Yet Cecil Touchon runs two, three, maybe four — out of his own home. Actually, out of his living room.

TOUCHON: “We’re standing in the living room of a three-bedroom, ranch-style house in Fort Worth, and the entire living room is wall-to-wall metal shelving housing boxes, plastic containers full of collages and arts supplies.”

These are not just any overflowing shelves. Touchon is a successful artist with his boldly-colored collage works selling in New York and Santa Fe galleries. They’ve been featured in Interior Design magazine.

flux museum exterior

Official Fluxmuseum exterior

flux museum

Official Fluxmuseum interior

But what’s taking over his house are other people’s artworks. For a decade, Touchon has been exchanging pieces through the mail with fellow artists. The resulting collections he’s boxed up and crowded into his living room.

TOUCHON: “It’s all part of the Ontological Museum of the International Post-Dogmatist Group. There’s the FluxMuseum, the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction, and then Fluxus Laboratories is here. Oh, and FluxShop. Yeah – you know you’ve got a real Fluxus product when you have a FluxShop gold stamp on it like these. [laughs]”

In 1961, Fluxus was christened (and loosely organzed) by George Maciunas, a Lithuanian-American who eventually sought to establish “Fluxfestivals” in Europe. Paradoxically — meaning, in this case, fittingly — the word “flux” refers to both “flowing” (as in water or energy) and “fusing together” (as in soldering metals). Maciunas and his fellow Fluxites were inspired by Dada, the mocking, anti-traditionalist art movement that came out of World War I, pioneered by artists Tristan Tzara, Marcel Duchamp, Hugo Ball and Jean Arp.

fluxexhibit3-Lis-Gundlach-Sell-A Heirloom-from-My-Aunt-Augusta2009-web

The apparent nonsense and irrationality, the deadpan jokes at the expense of the political and art establishments, the love of paradox and inversion and mass- manufactured products, the use of pointless mechanisms to satirize technology and science: All of these Dada traits re-appeared in Fluxus (which was originally termed “Neo-Dada”). Fluxus deliberately set out, Maciunas wrote, to purge the world of “dead art” and “bourgeois sickness” through a “fusion of Spike Jones, gags, games, vaudeville, Cage and Duchamp.”

Lis Gundlach-SellAn Heirloom from My Aunt Augusta, brass caster wheel from grand piano, display box, 2009

In the early ’60s, Yoko Ono’s performance efforts (what Maciunas called “neo-Haiku theater”) and composer John Cage’s experimental music — with his use of random sounds and silence — were major influences on Fluxus. Flux artists specialize in noise music, brief performance works, puzzles and games, as well as “intermedia.” They refuse to conform to the restrictions of paintings or sculptures or theater, preferring to blend or muddle them. Curiously, Fluxus has also been influential on architecture because of Maciunas’ early interest in prefab buildings.

a-yo-fluxrainmachineA typical Fluxus project was Maciunas’Flux Rain Machine (right), a little, clear plastic box with a bit of water in it. The water condenses and forms droplets on the inside of the box. Voila— rain.

Another plastic Fluxbox by Keith Buchholz holds a pair of dice. The cover declares, “Roll 13 and Win!” But a pair of dice can only add up to 12. Voila — futility and the illusion of easy prosperity.

One reason that Fluxus isn’t more widely known, I’d suggest, is that its ideas and elements were various enough that they could easily morph into or be  absorbed by the larger waves in ’60s art, particularly pop art and conceptual art. To a degree, both of these also had origins in Dada, so the flow of Fluxites into their ranks is not surprising.

Even so, Flux artworks are often distinguished by their manufacture: They’re cleverly made from cheap, ordinary, even scruffy materials, including human hair, cardboard, string, discarded books, clothing, broken crockery and novelty-store items. These “found objects” are deliberately not employed for museum-quality masterworks. The pieces are ephemeral and disposable, even self-destructive.

They’re more like junk. With a sense of humor.

Jon Hendricks is a Fluxus scholar and the curator of a major Fluxus archive, the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Collection, which was recently donated to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

HENDRICKS: “Maciunas’ idea of Fluxus was to move away from art that was something precious to something where art can become a part of everyday life.”

Maciunas also disliked the idea of the heroic individual artist. He preferred collaborative and group efforts. Which inspired his use of boxes. He borrowed the idea from Marcel Duchamp’s Boite-en-Valise and Joseph Cornell’s famous shadow boxes. But for Maciunas, Hendricks notes, the box isn’t a way of framing and fusing together disparate objects through a single artist’s sensibility. A box is a way to contain contributions from dozens of artists. They’re like little museums that way — or anthologies. Indeed, Maciunas’ first boxes were called “editions” and they were like yearbooks, compiled annually from various efforts by Fluxites.

fluxexhibit3-yoko-ono-wereallwater-360lunchbox-edition-2009-webIn Fort Worth, Touchon’s mail exchanges with other artists and his boxed-up collections eventually led to his assembling Fluxhibition #3 at UT-Arlington — which he was able to do very quickly with works submitted from around the world. The show is sub-titled “Thinking Inside of the Box.” It features 140 kits, cases, tubes, cans, birdhouses, bottles and containers — including a piece by Yoko Ono herself, a limited-edition, yellow Japanese box containing a poem, “We’re All Water” (above). Through the course of the exhibition, we see the box as utility item and metaphor, the box as a little stage, as board game, toolkit, toy set, parfait glass, map case, juggling pin, animal cage and laboratory sample — just about everything except the box as coffin. Touchon likes to point out that even a website can be a box — and he’s created several linked, Flux-related “web-boxes.” In fact, his entire exhibition is mounted to the walls of the gallery on shelves made of the cardboard boxes that will be used to ship it to its next home.

It’s a touring show — in a box.

fluxhibition3-install44

But — is it Fluxus?

Scholars like Hendricks see Fluxus fading after 1978 with Maciunas’ death and with the other Flux artists going in new directions (echoing what a number of early Dadaists did when they turned to Surrealism in the ’20s). So Fluxus belongs to a specific historic era — just like Impressionism or Cubism. Today, you could call your artwork Fluxus or Cubist, and Hendricks says, it still could be interesting. But it won’t have the same meaning, the same revelation. Times change, people change. What was fresh can now feel redundant or irrelevant.

HENDRICKS: “Movements do tend to have a kind of time frame, a period when they are essential, when they have to exist.”

Touchon argues that this is the way collectors and curators think, not artists. Collectors want movements to be limited to a period, a place, a canon of select works. This increases the value of their own collections. Ironically, Touchon himself is clearly a manic collector. But for him, while Flux artists may play with boxes, Fluxus itself can’t be contained in one. The impulses behind Dada and Fluxus, he believes, resurface during certain periods (World War I, the Cold War, the Bush years). Besides, he notes, over the years, Fluxus works have often been produced by artists in their spare time. They’re a low-cost sideline, so to speak, a way to stretch the aesthetic muscles, an intellectual game that doesn’t have to pay the bills.

Which means the Fluxkits and Fluxcreations are likely to go on –

[VOICEOVER intercuts with sounds of Touchon picking through the boxes in his house]:header

TOUCHON: “So there’s more … ” [rummages]

– and on –

TOUCHON: “This is full …” [rummages]

And on.

TOUCHON: “I think this is one of them here…”

So — has Touchon ever thought of rental storage?

TOUCHON: “Well, I’m considering that at this point. But I’m still actually organizing the collection to tell you the truth. [Laughs.]”

Fluxhibition #3 runs through July 31 at the E. H. Hereford University Center Gallery at the University of Texas at Arlington. Cecil Touchon has already posted a call for contributions to Fluxhibition #4: Fluxus Amusements, Diversions, Games, Tricks and Puzzles.

Cover image: Spectators by Carolyn Waite.

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2 Responses to Group Show: Fluxhibition #3 Thinking Inside Of The Box [University of Texas, USA]

  1. touchon says:

    Thanks for posting this Yoko! Hope you send something for the show! (even an empty box!)
    Cecil Touchon
    http://fluxmuseum.org

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