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Unpacking the Score: Fluxus and the Material Legacy of Intermediality

Holling, HB; (2021) Unpacking the Score: Fluxus and the Material Legacy of Intermediality. On Curating: Fluxus Special Issue , 52 pp. 64-81. Green open access

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Abstract

It is October 1959. I am visiting George Brecht’s just opened exhibition at the Reuben Gallery in New York. Titled toward events: an arrangement and displaying various objects as propositions, the exhibition is difficult to classify—it is neither an “object exhibition” nor can one really see “performances” (Fig. 1).[1] The “toward” in the title suggests an experiment; the “arrangement”— a musical connotation. In fact, the concepts presented here have been derived from music. The objects are treated like scores. Before putting up his show, Brecht—a chemist by profession and an intriguing personality—had worked for various US companies such as Johnson and Johnson, authoring five U.S. patents and two co-patents, feminine tampons among others. His move towards fine arts coincided with his attendance at John Cage’s classes at the New School for Social Research, known for propagating new approaches to composing sound, music, and noise. As a result of his studies, Brecht conceives of textual notations of varying lengths that allow a great deal of freedom in their execution. These works stand apart from his contemporary Allan Kaprow’s instructions for Happenings that, more prescriptive, constrained room for improvisation (see, for instance, his 18 Happenings in 6 Parts from 1959). In his creative practice, Brecht also differs markedly from Cage, who organizes everyday sounds into musical compositions. Instead, Brecht accepts everyday situations, chance events, and “all occurrences” that might result from an encounter between the participants and the objects as a legitimate outcome. (Here, my use of the word “participants” rather than “viewers” emphasizes the subjects’ engagement over the passive, disembodied viewing.) Brecht wants to ensure that “the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed.”[2] To present these details, constellations, or occurrences in the context of a creative, authorial project, Brecht writes scores for them—an important aspect of my present contestation with the material legacy of Fluxus.

Type: Article
Title: Unpacking the Score: Fluxus and the Material Legacy of Intermediality
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.on-curating.org/issue-51-reader/unpack...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10135615
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