The Fluxus Art Movement
25 04 2023
Determine the limits of an object or event.
Determine the limits more precisely.
Repeat, until further precision is impossible.
- George Brecht
I was initially inspired to write a piece about the Fluxus Art movement after a lecture from my Keio professor Matthew Waldman. What was particularly interesting was the intersection between Japan, New York, and in many ways London. A large section of my studies is to understand these global cities and countries as individual spirits but also the interconnections between them. Fluxus art seemed like an interesting example of the latter and thus here I thought it useful for a quick exploration on the complex subject matter.
I hope you enjoy!
The Fluxus Movement
Fluxus performance from Dick Higgens in Wiesbaden Germany (1964)
Founded in 1960 by the Lithuanian/American artist George Maciunas, Fluxus began as a small but international network of artists and composers. Often associated with a shared attitude rather than movement; it aimed to bleed the lines between art and life. Fluxus was often political in tone aiming to be “fully grasped by all peoples, not only critics, dilettantes and professionals.”
Its key focus was to "promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art”. Spanning internationally, the major centres for Fluxus activity were in New York, Germany, and Japan.
Fluxus adopted a ‘do-it-yourself’ attitude to creativity, challenging the definitions of what art could be. It incorporated a range of media and processes which included: performances, painting, sculpture, poetry, experimental music, and correspondence art (art sent through the postal service). Many Fluxus artists, such as Yoko Ono did a combination of mediums. It was an alternative to academic art and thrived with a lack of unifying style.
1964 Cut Piece by Yoko Ono. An interactive performance that enabled audience members to cut pieces of clothing from her body with scissors. Kneeled on the stage, the piece fully depended on its audience which created a psychological tension for the viewer around the taboo act. 
Similar to the Futurists and Dadaists before, Fluxus artists did not agree with the authority of museums to determine the value of art, nor did they believe that one must be educated to view and understand a piece of art. Its key idea was to break the boundaries between art and life. George Maciunas stated that Fluxus was “anti-art” to underscore the mode of thinking and practice. A key element of Fluxus was its incorporation of audience or spectator; it aimed to democratise the connection between artist, art, and people. Its creativity and exploration was open to anyone.
The strategy of humour was also adopted into the process encouraging the transformative, innovative potential of accidents/ failure. For one to create something new they must be willing to fail and it's rather hard to accept failure with a chip on your shoulder.
As I write this piece I can begin to be inspired by the Fluxus movement and how its philosophies can be adopted throughout the Global Innovation Design (GID) Program. Although based and fuelled by academic communities, GID aims to break the mould of standard graduate programs through its influence on entrepreneurship, the appreciation of cultural immersion beyond the classroom and a rather ‘thrown into the deep end of curiosity’ approach. It aims to dissolve the lines between design, academics, and society. GID facilitates the belief that for students to really understand a culture, a conversation with a person in a train station can provide more insight than a lecture held within a renowned university. It's the understanding and respect of the surrounding environment that they aim to facilitate within us- if we are designing for a group we must immerse ourselves in their lives. That although we may bring the design process- it is them that should guide the design. There should not be a barrier between designers, society, and the end result.
Personal Note: As I explore my writing style and voice throughout these pieces I debate both the structure and contents I should include. Should my voice and opinions be written throughout or should I summarise my findings in a final conclusion? I’ve determined the only wrong decision is to stall and not write at all so we will try in this piece and will iterate the next.
A particular part I am drawn to within the Fluxus movement is its value in simplicity- appreciation of chance and accident. It is a process of creation rather than focus on the finished product. This balance between exploration and intention is one I struggle with as a human centred designer. In my practice (and I think many other HCDers), design decisions are fueled by a plethora of research and understanding of users. In fact, I think it is a strong gauge for you having completed enough research as the design choices become rather apparent (although may seem innovative to an outside viewer). However, although design decisions are intentional, initial research should be exploratory, open-minded and willing to pivot. One of the largest strengths designers can bring is the idea of pure problem isolation. To enter an environment with strategies to reduce biases and notice hidden details expressed by users or touchpoints. It’s the eye and patience in the initial stages of design research (where the project direction can truly go anywhere) I see most connection to the Fluxus movement.
Furthermore if you think within my career contexts of aerospace, there is the iconic saying of you are ready for launch when your paperwork weighs as much as your rocket. The question can be raised, is there room for this exploration of creativity, almost an anti-rule approach to the rule binding aerospace industry?
In my mind I think yes. I think it is incredibly important and needed. Perhaps maybe not so much for humans in space, as there are large restrictions to (at a basic level) ensure survival. However, I think there are many possibilities in this approach when examining the potential for space products on Earth. If we look at a cutting edge piece of technology, we can eliminate the immense pressure of the space environment and look back on Earth thinking, ‘oh the places you’ll go.’
Regardless, I think every so often an avant-garde approach is needed. Something to snap individuals out of a pattern of thought that may have become predictable, boring, or constraining. There are reasons why these anti-norm movements like Fluxus arise. From unique individuals looking at their current ecosystem and willing to make disruption.