Most of the time, we seek out art; it does not come to us. Boarding buses and trains, standing in line, paying admissions, folding our hands quietly behind our backs—we go to it. We see, we watch, we enjoy (or hate, as the case may be); but rarely are we a part of it except in the most basic terms of spectatorship. Some art experiences, however, break this routine, by leaving their own space, by travelling outwards to us, by immersing us in them.
I recently joined Twitter. And in my frenzy of adding organizations and people to "follow," I somehow found Yoko Ono.
Would you like to know Yoko Ono's daily thoughts? —Twitter asked me.
I signed up, if only out of amusement that the seventy-eight-year-old artist navigated her way to Twitter before I did. While most of the Twitter feeds that I read—from galleries, museums, and a handful of actual "people"—are fairly news-oriented or advertorial in nature, Yoko Ono's tweets are something else. Instead of telling me where she is drinking coffee or what event is coming up tonight at the gallery, or who just walked through the museum’s doors, Yoko Ono delivers an almost-daily feast of Fluxus fancy directly to me—via the ether of the internet.
Ono is the most famous of a ragtag, international group of artists that went loosely under the banner of Fluxus. The artists of the Fluxus group always intended to move beyond boundaries of form and formula, and to embrace movement rather than to accept stasis. The very name itself—Fluxus—evokes the idea of flow; they were the masters of artistic generosity. And even though it exists as a historical micro-movement, Fluxus continues to flow my way through some unexpected vessels—through Twitter feeds and bouncy balls, as well as through a group of chestnut-haired children.
While I may be exposing myself as a nerd here (not that any of my previous reviews on this site were serving as a great cover), I have to admit that Ono's "tweets" have quickly become one of my favorite things about the internet, and apparently, Twitter is one of Ono’s too. In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, the artist exclaimed: ”Tweets? Of course, it's art! It's the latest most exciting art we have now. I am thrilled to bits!” Twitter’s 140-character-or-less format seems perfectly paired to the short Fluxus scores that Ono is known for, and her two-line works of art urge us to live in our heads, and broaden our minds. These bite-sized works of art may seem a little bit cheesy, but they’re fully in the Fluxus spirit, which has (in my opinion) its own kind of inherent beauty. She says: “Go from one room to another opening and closing each door. Do it very slowly. Imagine opening and closing people's minds when you do this” and, “Call your answerphone every day and complain and moan about your life and people around you. Listen to the tape in the end of the year.”
While Twitter brings Fluxus directly to my screen, the curators of FLUXUS NOW!, a one-night event at San Francisco’s Live Worms Gallery in April, allowed me to submerge myself in it through their playful re-stagings of scores by artists George Brecht, Emmett William, Alison Knowles, Takehisa Kosugi, Robert Watts, Ay-O, Joe Jones, Mieko Shiomo, and Mr. Fluxus himself, George Maciunas. While plenty of people have revisited the Fluxus group through exhibitions of scores and boxes, and the scores themselves are easy enough to access, I had never really experienced the impact of Fluxus works as I did in this small sparse gallery, watching a gaggle of kids living out the works.
Introduced by the ringing of a bell and the announcement of the title, each score was enacted in real space and time—bridging the gap, for me, between Fluxus writing and the Fluxus experience. Instruments were played (and not played); books read, dropped, and resumed; rubber balls liberated onto the floor; and audience members marked with lines of chalk. Neither the audience nor the performers seemed to take what was happening too seriously—they were kids, and it was fun. But the impact of these unselfconscious interpretations of the works was strong.
What unites their gallery-bound experiments and so many that weren’t is a spirit of play. No matter where they’re performed, these scores extract a poetry from often the most mundane happenings, a shift of light, the play of shadows against a wall, the curious sounds that can come from common objects. In this, Fluxus allows for a particular and very special after-effect. Looking over a string of Ono’s tweets or stepping out from a Flux event at a gallery, I unfold my hands, get back onto the bus or train, and look out into a world in which everything I look at appears individual, special, unique, like everything could possibly be art and perhaps always is.
Images: Stills from FLUXUS NOW! at Live Worms Gallery. Courtesy Dane Jensen.