Thursday, March 6, 2008

Art/Performance: FluxConcert2008

Dare I semi-waffle on this post, given that FluxConcert's creator is one of my very few (and therefore very precious) readers? I don't dare.

I might have an M.A. in Modern Art and Critical Studies from an Ivy League university, but what I know about Fluxus is hardly enough content for a critical blog post. I believe it was a movement of the 1960s, I believe that it was an art of words much more than an art of pictures, and I believe that it had a performance-related manifestation. I believe Yoko Ono was involved.

The FluxConcert was a (mostly successful) attempt to reënact (or in one case, debut) rarely-seen pieces of art from the Fluxus "catalog." I don't have my program (it was crumpled into a ball and thrown onstage, in a very Fluxus-appropriate act of audience participation), so I cannot provide you with the names of any of the pieces that I particularly liked (or disliked), but I will describe them.

As the audience arrived, each person was given a paper airplane along with his or her program. Although few of us realized it, this gifting was the first piece (Snowstorm—I only remember the name because it was the first one), but those airplanes served as ammunition; the audience began throwing them at the stage as soon as what we thought was the first piece began to wear on our nerves (which was quickly (the piece consists of four masked people standing in a row for the duration of ten minutes, although we in the audience did not know that the duration was of any given time, and hoped that by throwing airplanes and/or shouting, we might be able to make it end)). Some of the more impressive pieces were successful for non-Fluxus appropriate reasons (in one, two performers took turns making loud, improvised, bird-like noises at each other, and I was blown away by their skill and talent (dirty words, I imagine, for a Fluxor)). Others worked in very Flux-appropriate ways (like one in which all the performers walked on stage and set up complicated instruments, only to play one simple note together, and then dismantle their equipment.) The performer who conducted audience questionnaires on preference of shoes did an excellent job recreating (and thereby deadpan mocking) a market-research interview. He was great.

I think that Fluxus pieces in general must have been much more successful in the 1960s, when it could be counted upon that a major percentage of the audience was chemically altered. Our crowd, for all of its hipsterishness, was rather meek and uptight. If, say, 50% of us had been chemically altered, we would have been more participatory; we would have been louder and more brash and more engaged and less polite. The work, then, would be more experimental, rather than merely performative. We were, after all, in a warehouse in Brooklyn, watching seven men, aged 25-35, in tennis shoes and zip-up hoodies, do random arty stuff; that's about as ground-breaking as New York magazine—it's amazing the show wasn't sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery.

Maybe next time, they'll hand out acid tabs instead of paper airplanes. . .

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