Fluxus was not really about art objects so much as it was about provocations. The artists in the movement, which drew from theater, dada and conceptual art, were overturning centuries-old conventions about artmaking, and conventions about other things too. And, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when they hit their stride, just about everything was being overturned. So I was curious to see how the NYU’s Gray Art Gallery would mount their exhibitFluxus and the Essential Questions of Life. As you’d expect, the works aren’t monumental. There are a lot of texts (pamphlets, posters, stamps, postcards), a lot of found objects (bottles, boxes, timepieces, a white dress shirt), and a lot of small, personal, hand-crafted objects.
Most appealing are the Fluxkits, little boxes that provided all the pieces needed, as well as bare-bone instructions, to perform one proscribed Fluxus action. They’re a riff on do-it-yourself art kits, and also the facility with which just about everything in our culture — even the most ephemeral ideas — can be packaged, marketed, and sold. The exhibit includes Fluxkits called A Flux Corsage (a package of seeds), A Box of Smile (a mirror-lined pillbox),Sacramental Fluxkit (vials of holy water), and Zen for Film (an infinity loop of entirely clear 35mm film). The finest one is A Flux Suicide Kit by Ben Vautier, which contains a razor blade, a rope, a shard of glass, and other potentially dangerous but largely innocuous household objects. It’s funny, chilling and elegant.