Dr. Ilgim Veryeri Alaca, Koc University
Department of Media and Visual Arts
On the occasion of his inclusion in the FLUXUS 50 at KUAD Gallery(i), I talked with Eric Andersen about the ‘60s art movement Fluxus. The gallery proved to be an ideal location: It is situated at the heart of Istanbul (Süleyman Seba Street, Be?ikta?) where historical Akaretler Row Houses intermix with the city, culminating at the Bosphorus, that quintessential sea of merging cultures – suggesting a perfect metaphor for Eric’s work as well as Fluxus and its emphasis on the emergence of intermedia, globalism, chance and the unity of art and life.
Coming after a succession of art movements, Fluxus opened up a new perspective for both artists and the public, liberated the meaning of art from its traditional straight-jacket and created a fluid laboratory, or ocean for experimental practice. According to Andersen, these art movements before Fluxus were specifically bonded with certain cities, such as Impressionism in Paris, Dadaism in Zurich, Futurism in Milano. However, Fluxus was specifically urged to create a network, a communication beyond the city limits that started a global dialogue even before internet. Mail art and collaboration were crucial tools which Eric Andersen substantially utilized. This was surely operational. He states that the “local” is dangerous and global perspectives are necessary. So how did Fluxus penetrate society to shift from local to global? Though it can not be measured he states that the impact in society has been greater and faster than imagined yet he continues by saying “Adaptation will take time. Put into the the world seeds; they will not dissappear”. In this regard, for today’s world Eric adds artist residencies are a new way of networking that could open novel ways to see things.
Just like globalism, intermedia was surely one of Fluxus’ key legacies(ii). That major shift in artistic practice has today taken over, evolved and multiplied in so many elusive ways as to leave its mark, like that of a snail’s tracings, on many disciplines as a system of “continuity rather than categorization”(iii). As McLuhan states “We now live in a global village…a simultaneous happening. We are back in acoustic space.”(iv) Cross-disciplinary practices are now a part of our lives, elevating our perception as Higgins describes:
“Understanding the power of intermedia work in general, and the Event in particular, calls for a cross-modal aesthetics of all senses as based in the interactions of hearing, touch, smell, taste and sight. The consideration of intermedial (and therefore intersensory) art therefore requires a simultaneously physiological and cultural framework for each sense as a cross-modal perceptual system(v).
Did Fluxus trigger this? Was it a foreshadowing for todays’ merging practices? Although impossible to say with certainty, Eric mentions that he was closely following scientific innovations at those times. He constantly sought a place “not to know,” divorced from a concrete strategy, urging him to create his own platform for creativity that was not part of an institutionalized system – where, conventional wisdom could prevent one from other things”. His motto, “Don’t do what I did! Never give people what they want; do not adhere to their expectations…” is sage advice for pioneers. From his perspective, innovation should not add to consumption, but to the advancement of the intellect. In this regard, biennials and art fairs today are forcing art to be part of a system. Similarly, design is taking over art as soon as art is malfunctioning by being part of consumer society.
Eric confirmed that the world is not a group of compartments. This thinking truly goes hand in hand with Fluxus’ aim to connect different worlds, for networking at the personal and global level and bridging the various parts of the brain while creating and/or observing the art piece, which is actually a catalyst. Collaborative practice in this regard is, thus, seen as the creation of chain reactions. Eric is strongly of the opinion that the art work should function in multiple levels and should not only be “conceptual”. The sensual artwork for him is the absolute: It forces our brain to make associations and seek connections by way of neural activity. In this regard, he explains that when we listen to someone speak, the function of the words are less than the impact of the body language. Utilizing music in this regard was strategic, since it was an open stage for Fluxus artists in comparison to the static arts. The fact that it was time-based made it more capable and undefinable, whereas a painting is more easily defined and interpreted. Similarly, “walking architecture” was also sequential and open-ended; one never knew where the art work ended and the real world would start.
A native of Copenhagen, Denmark, Eric was a part of many of the most important Fluxus’ activities and renowned for his works ‘Hidden Paintings’, ‘Crying Spaces’, ‘Confession Kitchens’, and ‘Lawns that turn towards the Sun’ and ‘Artificial Stars’. In Eric’s view, Copenhagen was the city for the mind with a liberal and accepting atmosphere at the time, it was an ideal breeding for Fluxus. “Can,” I asked “a similar state of mind be achieved elsewhere, for example, in Istanbul today? Would the flexibility so inherent in Fluxus continue?” For Eric, Istanbul is a special place, a utopia, where there are many subcultures and diversity. In this sense, he thinks the dexterity of Istanbul and its great masses give way to openness and interconnectedness. As he states “Life is flexible”, and with this, he both inspires artists to create new platforms to open the mind’s eye in today’s society and re-chants Fluxus’ maxima. Ending our conversation, he notes “Memories are generated; not stored.” One imagines what Fluxus bears for us now. (And, one is left, imagining what this remarkable show will produce on Bosphorous’ shores.)
(i) http://www.kuadgallery.com/, 15 May 2012.
(ii)”Convergence”, The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 12/2002, Volume 8, Issue 4, p. 64.
Higgins, Dick, Nine Criteria, 1981.
(iii) Higgins, Dick, Intermedia, Leonardo, MIT Press, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2001, p. 50.
(iv) McLuhan, Marshall, Medium is the Massage, Penguin Books, England, p. 63.