If you’re struggling to plan how to best celebrate the holidays with your most avant-garde of friends and family, perhaps the art historical movement Fluxus can offer some suggestions.
Fluxus was officially founded in 1960 by impresario George Maciunas, marked by a manifesto with revolutionary aspirations. It called for a worldwide purging of “bourgeois sickness” (which surely includes traditional consumer-friendly stocking-stuffers) and “dead art,” in favor of “living art,” “anti-art,” and a “non art reality” that aimed to bridge the elusive gap between art and life once and for all.
Born in part from an experimental music scene centered around John Cage and the classes he taught on experimental composition at the New School in New York, the event score was the distillation of a musical score to a simple, written instruction to be carried out by a single performer or group. They elevated the mundane, promoted the absurd, and, in line with the countercultural attitude of the 1960s, said “F you” to the establishment of art and academia.
Most event scores were so simplistic (like La Monte Young’s “Draw a straight line and follow it”) that they left room for the performer to interpret, and—as chance was embraced by many Fluxus artists—for the environment to intervene. They were meant both as a way of making art, and a way of living life.
So, whether as a bid to appease your most anti-consumerist cousin, as an artsy cover-up for forgetting to buy your art-historian uncle a gift, or if you just want to school the whole family on an obscure moment in avant-garde history this season, we’ve compiled the most appropriate event scores and tips to make for one very Fluxus holiday.
Fluxus Gift Ideas:
“Find something you like in the street and give it away. Or find a variety of things, make something of them. and give it away.” Alison Knowles, #16 Giveaway Construction (1963).
“Find a way to produce everything everybody needs, and get it to them. Make it work.” Jackson Mac Low, Social Project 3, April 29, 1963, the Bronx.
“Send a yam this year.” Robert Watts, Christmas Event (date unknown).
Fluxus Holiday Decorating Ideas:
“Walk out into a forest when it is winter and decorate all the spruces with burning candles, flags, apples, glass balls and tinsel strings” and “walk out into a forest and wrap some drab trees, or yourself, in tinsel.” Bengt af Klintberg, Forest Event Numbers 1 and 2 (December 1965).
Festive Fluxus Party Games:
“On a given day, everyone is asked to bring a brown bag with an object of their choice in it. An area is designated to contain the bags. At the end of the day, the bags are distributed at random.” Larry Miller, Bag exchange (1969).
“Take a Christmas tree into a restaurant. Place the tree in a seat next to you. Order two cups of coffee, placing one in front of the tree. Sit with the tree, drinking coffee and talking. After a while, depart, leaving the tree in its seat. As you leave, call out loudly to the tree, ‘So long, Herb. Give my love to the wife and kids!’” Ken Friedman, Christmas Tree Event (1964).
“Send invitations to all your friends—except one—with the following:
Green party green clothes
And to one person:
Red party red clothes.”
Bengt af Klintberg, Party Event (1967).
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