Fluxus | Film
As a Fluxus artist, Vostell worked with a range of media, fitting performance installations with a combination of sculptural, painterly, photographic, and print-based processes, and common, everyday objects. Prior to his turn to creating “event-sculptures” in 1969, the materials Vostell used were often exhausted during the duration of the performance, discarded or else left in fragments called “happening fallouts” and accompanied by photographic documentation, including 16mm film and video. More than any other archival document, the recently discovered documentary films of the making and relocating of Concrete Traffic, made by David Katzive, the first curator of the MCA Chicago, have profoundly impacted our knowledge of the original context, political objectives, and material history of the sculpture. As documentaries, however, they sit uncomfortably within the parameters of Fluxus work, which, in exploring the threshold between art and life, preferred ephemeral events to crafted works of art—a conceptual challenge also posed by Concrete Traffic itself. As films, they embrace Vostell’s comfort with shared authorship, and the Fluxus spirit of collective practice, yet they fall outside the limits of Fluxus Film—a category outlined and anthologized by Fluxus founder and filmmaker, George Maciunas, which included Vostell’s stand-alone film, Sun in Your Head (1963). Made by filming images directly off of the television, and for inclusion into a happening, Sun in Your Head appears on Maciunas’s FluxFilm anthology alongside films by Maciunas himself, Paul Sharits, Yoko Ono, George Brecht, Nam June Paik, and Dick Higgins, amongst others. These films, through stark simplicity, explore the shared performative functions of film’s material base, its recording and projection apparatuses, filmed subjects, the filmmakers and film viewers as well. The materialist strategies represented by FluxFilm would continue to shape structural film through the 1960s and 1970s, while the photographic recording of performance, and performances for and with media, mark an ongoing area of avant-garde practice and an area of academic research typically conducted outside of film studies. Our symposium seeks to expand the defining attributes of Fluxus film, addressing not only the problematic role of documentation within Fluxus practices, the documentation of performances as material film objects and the performativity of media, but also the politics of presence in Fluxus film and performance. Given the global scope of Fluxus along with Maciunas’s broad account of Fluxus heritage—embracing Futurist theater and Bauhaus design along with more contemporary kinetic theater and dance practices—invited speakers will contextualize the materialist strategies, technical breadth, and political objectives of Fluxus work across media and mediated platforms.
Presented by the Department of Art History, Cinema and Media Studies, and the Film Studies Center with additional funding support from the Humanities Division and the Franke Institute for the Humanities.