Meticulously curated by German art historian Astrit Schmidt-Burkhardt and created in collaboration with the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, Vilnius, and The School of Art at the Cooper Union, “Anything Can Substitute Art” sheds light on rarely-seen independent works of Lithuanian-born, American artist George Maciunas, alongside objects documenting the development of the Fluxus movement in SoHo. In the very neighborhood the Fluxus artists set out to abolish the art establishment, 41 Cooper Gallery brings never before seen Maciunas and Fluxus pieces, which includes over 170 objects, documents, ephemera, personal items, and films.
Can Anything Really Substitute Art?
George Maciunas, proclaimed in 1965 that “anything can substitute art.” At the peak of the ‘60s countercultural movement, the founder and self-appointed “chairman” of Fluxus sought to build an artist community along the fray of the New York art scene – in Manhattan’s heavily debilitated ‘Hell’s Hundred Acres,’ now known as SoHo.
Fluxus artists avoided traditional art establishments and institutions, preferring public spaces and the intimacy of their own homes to “mummifying” theaters and art galleries. Maciunas famously stirred up controversy by picketing the line of the American premier of the music theatre piece “Originale” by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as publically condemning all artists participating in such performnaces as traitors.
Traitor, you left Fluxus! A postcard sent by George Maciunas to Nam June Paik in 1964.
The likes of Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik, took part in Fluxus events and have since been featured in countless prestigious gallery and museum exhibitions. Standing before a beautifully curated Fluxus exhibition in SoHo – which hardly resembles the “hell” of ‘60s New York and ad hoc happenings in artist lofts – I could not shake off an odd yet lingering sense of irony and nostalgia.
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