A few months ago I read that a new exhibit would be opening at the fabulous Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. So my friend Deb and I planned to go there today and check it out. (We also took in the ongoing Venetian Masters exhibit while visiting the museum.)
With the 50th anniversary of the movement at hand, Zimmerli’s new exhibit is about Fluxus. (Side note: Since learning about the Fluxus exhibit at Zimmerli, I’ve also been seeing updates about Fluxus materials on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Apparently, several area museums are celebrating 50 years of Fluxus.) My first reaction when entering the new exhibit space was a striking feeling of Fluxus being similar to Marcel Duchamp’s readymades in particular and Dadaism in general. I suppose I’m not entirely off the mark with this feeling of déjà-vu as the exhibit (both some of the works and the accompanying notes) made reference to Duchamp as somewhat inspirational. But to begin at the beginning (to paraphrase David Copperfield), I should start with a brief explanation of Fluxus and the exhibit.
According to Zimmerli’s literature, Fluxus is a movement that “focuses on the unpredictable, ordinary, and ephemeral moments of everyday life. It is difficult to define as an art movement, and is best described as a spirit, a philosophy of life, or a laboratory of ideas. Fluxus includes poetry, music, film, performance, printed matter, found objects, humor, wordplay, and unexpected juxtapositions.” Indeed, the exhibit included all manner of works, such as inventive board games (including an invitation to play chess with vegetables), paraphernalia from a Fluxus sporting event (team skis, stilts for soccer playing, art history textbook hammer throwing, and elevated shoes for sprints), photographic evidence of a Fluxus concert (in which a symphony was created based on the pattern of bullet holes left on orchestral paper after being brought to the local police driving range), and a spectacular silhouette made out of a collage of Hershey wrappers cut in different ways to create words (i.e., HERS, HEY, etc.).
As you can probably tell from this brief cataloging of works, this is not your ordinary art exhibit. The items on display are fascinating and oftentimes humorous (something missing in most art exhibits). They do beg to be interacted with, especially the games. “Happenings” have a large role in the movement, as can be evidenced by the mention above of concerts and sporting events, again making this an art movement designed for interaction and participation by many. This kind of performance art is very interesting to me. (I’m still impressed and intrigued by MoMA’s The Artist is Present piece I saw a couple of years ago.)
When the Fluxus movement began in the late 1950s, its epicenter was Rutgers University, with a handful of art and art history faculty members leading the way. With such a history, it is a fitting tribute for the movement to be highlighted in this new exhibit on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.