In the early 1960s, exiled Lithuanian artist and Fluxus founder George Maciunas (according to legend) wrote to Nikita Khrushchev and proposed, among other things, a tour of Fluxus artists aboard the Trans-Siberian Railway. Although none of Maciunas's proposed collaborations with the Communist party were ever realized, his intention to spread the art and ideals of the Fluxus movement throughout the Eastern Bloc succeeded. Fluxus East, an exhibition now at Berlin's Kunstlerhaus Bethanien illuminates this previously under-documented history of Fluxus in Eastern Europe. Objects, photos, films, texts, and even police files compiled on their activities, commune the rich narrative of this prolific group which thrived during a period of oppressive state control. Over the next year the show will travel to historical hubs of Fluxus activities in the East, including Vilnius, Krakow, and Budapest, with simultaneous offshoot exhibitions throughout the area. As a result, 'Fluxus East' and its related program embodies not only Fluxus as an important movement, but as a continuing network of people, places and truly revolutionary ideals.
Image: George Maciunas: Spell Your Name with these Objects (1976).
"Uruguay's capital Montevideo is soon to be re-named Montedvd to make it sound less eighties." "Kyrgyzstan is the world's leading exporter of typos." So are the 'facts' laid out in Craig Robinson's new book Atlas Schmatlas. Known by many as the creator of the website flip flop flyin, Robinson has been entertaining us for many years with his light and self effacing website which is part gallery, part blog, part sketchbook, and part television station. Widely recognized for his Mini Pops, pixilated portraits of international celebrities, Robinson also chronicles the life of David with the One long Arm and his own questionable life choices in What If. Not his first foray into cartography (see 2005's fantastic Mapping Bruce) Atlas Schmatlas is loaded with beautiful maps and some real but mostly made up facts about the world. It could be said to be a humorous reflection of an increased cultural and artistic interest in centralized mapping and locative systems. However, it could also be said to be a charming (or irritating, depending on your perspective) and only slightly problematic text that reduces the cultures of the world to pixelized caricatures and a few witty lines of text.
This weekend, the much talked about 24-Hour Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon will be taking place in the gallery's Olafur Eliasson- and Kjetil Thorsen-designed pavilion in London's Hyde Park. The brainchild of Eliasson and Serpentine curator (or Co-Director, Exhibitions and Programmes and Director of International Projects to be exact) Hans Ulrich Obrist, the Marathon aims to bring together artists, architects, and scientists to explore issues of time, space, and reality (all themes that run throughout Eliasson's own practice) and experiment with them in a public forum. An extension of Obrist's '24-Hour Interview Marathon' of last year, the event also harkens back to E.A.T's (Experiments in Art and Technology) infamous and highly influential '9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering' which took place in New York, in 1966, and featured a collaboration between artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer, and over 30 engineers from Bell Labs. Of the many projects underway this weekend, one that succinctly demonstrates the conflation of disciplines and cultures at work is a joint venture between Obrist and John Brockman (of the loosely-organized 'think tank' Edge), for which a broad range of artists and scientist were asked the question, "What is your formula? Your equation? Your algorithm?" Using a simple sheet of A4 paper, respondents ranging from Richard Dawkins to Brian Eno rendered their own scientific method, as art.
Long before there was McSweeney's, there was Aspen. Published by Phyllis Johnson intermittently from 1965-71, each issue of Aspen was a multimedia bonanza--a box filled with individual texts, photographs, audio recordings, posters, postcards, and for some issues a 16 mm film. Initially a proto-lifestyle magazine (the first issue had an article about the joys of cross country skiing, and the proceedings of the 1965 International Design Conference), by its third issue (designed by Andy Warhol and including submissions from Lou Reed and John Cale as well as flip books by Warhol and Jack Smith), it was almost completely dedicated to the practice of contemporary art. A quick perusal of the index reveals an unbelievable wealth of materials. Excerpts from Marshall McLuhan's The Medium is the Massage and the first printing of Roland Barthes' infamous essay, The Death of the Author, sit alongside a diary by John Lennon, a film by Hans Richter, and other gems too countless to mention. The diverse material nature of the periodical lent itself perfectly to the internet's multimedia structures, and in 2002 it was migrated/translated to the web by Stanford book publisher Andrew Stafford. Available via Kenneth Goldsmith's also impressive on-line archive of the avant-garde, UbuWeb, Aspen online is a beacon of accessibility--taking what was an extremely important, small-run, difficult to find, and now impossibly rare publication and making it widely available.
(image: Ian Hamilton Finlay, 'Wave/rock')
New technologies always lend themselves to personal and artistic expression and a new show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives 1840-1860, illustrates how technology and the artistic impulse have gone hand in hand for well over 100 years. The invention of the calotype in 1941 not only allowed photographers to use readily available fine writing paper to make multiple prints, but also made photography more accessible to a broader population. The particular qualities of the paper negative (softening of details and ethereal light and shadow) lent themselves perfectly to the picturesque tendencies of the time