9.27.2006

Conceptual Crossroads and Bloated Celebrity Blowhards


In the latest New York art opening list compiled by Douglas Kelley, he discusses two topics -- the Fluxus Legacy Debate circulating around a show of George Maciunas ephemera at Maya Stendhal Gallery, and his reaction to PBS’ Andy Warhol documentary.

I’ve excerpted pieces from each section here for your reading pleasure.

"Fluxus Legacy Debate:And George Maciunas
Which Came First?
The Chicken or The Egg Head"

George Maciunas (1953-1978)
Charts, Diagrams, Films, Documents, and Atlases 1953-1978
Maya Stendhal Gallery,
545 West 20th Street,
Opening Sept 28th, 6-9pm
"It's Alive! It's Alive!"

“Dear Douglas,

Thanks for your latest note on George. There is one issue I'd like to bring forward: George was essential to Fluxus, but his genuine achievements are obscured by describing him as a sole force in Fluxus.

George was a central figure in a network of strong figures. There would have been no Fluxus without George -- and there would have been no Fluxus without the rest of us, all contributing in different ways and at different times. George was the co-founder of Fluxus, not the sole founder, and even though he was the one and only George Maciunas, he was not the one and only Fluxus participant.

As someone who worked closely with George from 1966 on, and as a person he always labeled a "100% Fluxman," I make this note with respect for George's deep and genuine achievements. George would have been offended by the notion that Fluxus ended with his death -- it didn't, but many speak as thought it did. George's keen understanding of social networks and his attention to social forces indicates what actually happened: George worked within and hoped for the continuity of what became a thriving community. Despite various arguments, and occasional factional struggles, the real Fluxus involves many people -- and the real George, with his care and attention to charts and diagrams, shows this.

Warm wishes,
Ken”

“To which ...I replied in part,

How wonderful to hear from them you! Yesterday at lunch with the dealer Harry Stendhal your name came up. I asked if he had ever seen something I had just the day before come across, which I can't believe I didn't stumble across last year when I was trying to trying to bone up on all this?--Your "40 Years Of Fluxus" piece, which I thought presented a very mature and very generous appraisal of George, which, I don't have it in front of me, but commented that while George was one of the important founder/originators, and as protective and feisty as any first-time mother, after he did his part, seemed to learn that for love, it to let go, when it was time? from what I've heard that seems right.

I love the fact everyone still has such passionate opinions about the guy, the movement, the legacy and the future of Fluxus. My humble opinion is that Art Historically Fluxus is the great conceptual crossroads, and the ultimate bridge to all of which that went before, and to all that is yet to come. And that what ever it was when it started, it quickly evolved into something much, much more. And solely because it was not all about heroic tragic individualism in art and its massive bombastic institutional personal displays.

I was going to address the Mr. Fluxus issue.

It would seem on its face patently absurd that anything as collaborative, in a positive post modern sense, and as fundamentally opposed to the stolid romantic individualism of post war European existentialism in most other movements, as Fluxus should even have a"founder" or "father" or a "figure head." I thought his Mr. Fluxus personality was a character he created because he was shy or a silly print icon like Mr. Peanut? Sort of like the way my friend Red Grooms has Mr. Ruckus and he still calls me J. Tabasco?

I don't mean to rewrite Fluxus Art History as a unitary personality cult, I just want to promote this show.

D"

"After which I got to further clarification as well as a 47 page Article about legacy issues that I'm still trying to digest.”

DKS on the Andy Warhol documentary,

“How many of you caught Ric Burns's new four-hour PBS documentary on the career of pop artist Andy Warhol last week? Hated it.”

It was a “…four-hour, overblown, somber, big budget, however beautifully executed, bloated, romantic totalitarian existentialist piece of crap production with its stellar array of celebrity blowhards."

"...I don't believe that his career, life, and collaborative style of working, is best retold as if a natural disaster? With Mr. Burns' production style of boggy and echo - ie submerged piano duets and moaning and groaning clarinets and bass violas wailing so sorrowfully in the distance, this production not his life is the disaster.

I found it very interesting that Mr. Burns got the top professional full-time Las Vegas quality Warhol impersonator, some one who, some might argue, has had outstanding career performing what they consider to be the most polished and elaborate Warhol impersonation ever seen- Jeff Koons. Jeff got to to be that soft, gentle, reflective interior voice of Andy' to cover Andy's quotes from his books and elsewhere. What a perfect match. Those are my favorite parts when he was reading the thing so tenderly. I am sure Jeff relished it as much as Andy would have theoretically enjoyed being the voice of Marilyn Monroe in a documentary about Jeff Koons?

The startling, stunning voice over surprise of the show for me was the main narrator Laurie Anderson, who with a relentless no nonsense NewEngland schoolmarm voice of authority, like a Jean Harris, mixed with Edward R. Morrow, seemed perfect for those PBS corporate i.d.s…

Andy Warhol was a much more interesting artist and complex fellow than you get from that documentary. I felt it was a heinous propagandistic exercise in myth making ascribing to the dominant American procapitalist discourse of the lonely romantic heroic existential individualism.... or how, one sad, but brave, so weird, yet intelligent, gruesome but sympathetic Art geek with three-quarters of a human brain, plus the steely determination of this Polish mother, (together with some of the most ironclad bonafide rabbis of the art Mafia) single-handedly, and with only a pocketful of dreams, and a devout parochial love of all things cheap, trashy and American and a Hope in his virtuous Virgin bloodless heart that would always spring eternal until his last dying day due to gross unconscionable hospital malfeasance.... would turn the world on its head, so that we could never look at it the same.”

[DKS List Newsletter]

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