Saturday, August 28, 2010

Past is Prologue

_New book - The Eve of Fluxus by Billie Maciunas_


Having finished reading The Eve of Fluxus by Billie Maciunas, my first reaction is that I am not quite sure how to characterize it. A romantic memoir noir?  A behind the curtain tell all?  A coming of age story?  Billie has orchestrated all of these and her vivid recollections into a volume that continues to add to the history of what is Fluxus.
Try to describe Fluxus to anyone; this is no easy task. One might say, “It’s after Dada… it’s similar to Conceptual and Pop in some manner, yet only in the sense of several siblings that have gone their own ways.” Of course, this may invite an, “OK, whatever” reaction, on behalf of the casual art observer that belies the intense internal artist debate that surrounds Fluxus.  Billie herself is no stranger to debate.  One of my first interactions with her came on the heels of someone commenting that one of my pieces was fluxus. She strongly took exception. I strongly agreed; fluxus influence and deliberately creating fluxus work are two different things in my mind.  Since then we have had several interesting exchanges on that topic. No less than Fluxus, George Maciunas is undeniably hard to decipher.
Larry Miller from the book’s afterword describes the mindset. “Scholars are still sorting out histories of those who chose to distance themselves from George and his particular brand of Fluxus, those who he did not want as “members,” those who sought him out for approval, and those he actively deemed to be “excommunicated” for reasons he perceived as failings.”

Billie’s book is her highly personal account of a woman arriving late to a party. A memoir of a self described non-artist wandering into a highly charged period of time shortly before the death of George Maciunas in 1978.  While this book may not satisfy those searching for the history of Fluxus, it does describe what that history looked like as George’s cancer advanced and ultimately took his life. 
In many ways Billie is able to paint a vivid picture of a grand exit in the midst of trauma and pain. The orchestration of their flux wedding as the Black and White piece comes into focus as an exit strategy; one “holy fool” donning the clothes of another.  Her description of Georges final demise in Boston Hospital and the unfolding chaos of his estate and determination of what to do with his art and documents are fascinating.
Billie unabashedly delves into their brief yet emotional relationship as George seems to be delving into portions of his persona that were obscure to even some of his colleagues.
At times a disturbing look at two people having psychological pain as a relational basis, it stands out as testament of Billie’s resilience that she overcame the rejection of some within Georges circle to continue as a strident defender of his legacy.
Will everyone involved in Fluxus agree with Billie's observations and interpretations? What's past is prologue and this will be one more log on the already fiery debate.
With a foreword by Kristine Stiles, an introduction by Geoffrey Hendricks and afterword by Larry Miller; this is highly recommended reading.

The Eve of Fluxus is available at http://www.eveoffluxus.com/
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