Invitations and Infiltrations

In my research on Fluxus, I found that the movement had two main goals: (1) to challenge elite art institutions and to (2) meld art and life so that they are inseparable. In order to blur these boundaries, they experimented with form through “intermedia” – creating genres of art that crossed traditional categories, like visual poetry. The enactment of art was another way to reach for this goal. Performance and the actions of the viewer became important ways to change the dynamics of space. The audience was no longer separate from art, required to stand at a distance so as to protect the integrity of a piece.

“Fluxus art involved the viewer, relying on the element of chance to shape the ultimate outcome of the piece.” – The Art Story

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The Materials of the Situation

“The interest is not in consciousness and its freedom, but in the production of new situations as an end in themselves” (Wark 58).

In The Beach Beneath the Street, McKenzie Wark introduces the many players in the Situationist movement through a historical derive. This form allows the reader to experience the feeling of being within the SI. It’s a process I’ve enacted in my own life many times: someone introduces me to a new subject or concept, and then I spin off into learning more, following hidden paths of information, making my own map of the topic. What I remember most about these moments is the feeling of being absorbed, of traveling into a different mindspace where connections can occur. Transposing myself into a moment where time is past and present, and a time outside of both. Continue reading

Who Am I? Who Are We? What Are We?

“Towards the end of his life, Aimé Césaire has declared that the question he and his friend Léopold Sédar Senghor came to raise after they first met was: ‘Who am I? Who are we? What are we in this white world?’ And he commented: ‘That’s quite a problem” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Shifting from Breton’s question, “Who am I?” to the collective “Who are we?” helps me to consider the roles that both the individual and the collective play in social movements. In his poem, “Emmett Till,” Césaire flips the equation of a racist, rural South by positioning a young black man as an individual person and his white murderers and the society that enabled their violence as a faceless group. They are an assimilation of “five centuries of torturers,” “five centuries of cheap gin of big cigars/ of fat bellies filled with slices of rancid bibles.” Continue reading

Flower of Glass, Flesh, Fire

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In the short film L’Etoile de Mer, Man Ray portrays the story of a love affair. Using gel to cover the lens of the camera, most of the scenes of the lovers together and of the woman by herself are seen through a gauzy film, as if we are underwater.

The human story is familiar – two people meet in public and walk together, get to know each other better, and then move to a private space. Plot-wise, they move away from each other in their own narrative lines, and then return to each other for brief heightened moments of interaction.

Alongside this narrative is the image of a starfish, which we see in three forms: preserved in a glass jar filled with a clear liquid, alive and in motion in the sea, and dried and dead, lying on the floor.

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The Body is a Stage, a Theater of Light

“We need above all a theater that wakes us up: nerves and heart” (Artaud 84).

In “The Theater and Its Double, “ Artaud describes a kind of theater that engages its audience on a bodily level. The location of the theater shifts: “instead of making the stage and auditorium two closed worlds, without possible communication, {it} spreads its visual and sonorous outbursts over the entire mass of the spectators” (86). I believe that for Artaud, the cruelty of his theater was denying the audience safety and separation offered by traditional modes of theater. He argues that in this way: “a direct communication will be re-established between the spectator and the spectacle, between the actor and the spectator, from the fact that the spectator, placed in the middle of the action, is engulfed and physically affected by it” (96). The audience becomes a part of the performance and its ultimate purpose – which is not to merely entertain or inform, but to change the audience on a physical, bodily level.

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