Anything can substitute art: Maciunas in SoHo
December 11–20, 2012; January 2–February 2, 2013
Opening Reception: Tuesday, December 11, 6–8pm
The Cooper Union School of Art
41 Cooper Gallery, 41 Cooper Square, Lower Level 1
New York City, NY 10003
Hours: Tuesday–Satursday 11–6pm
Closed Sundays, Mondays, and December 21–January 1
The Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center and The School of Art at the Cooper Union is pleased to announce an upcoming exhibition that explores the early work of George Maciunas and the influence of Fluxus on SoHo, New York.
Works and documents by:
Ay-O, George Brecht, Willem De Ridder, Henry Flynt, Geoffrey Hendricks, Alison Knowles, Carla Liss, George Maciunas, Jackson Mac Low, Jonas Mekas, Larry Miller, Jock Reynolds, Mieko Shiomi, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Ben Vautier, Robert Watts, and Emmett Williams, among others.
Curator: Astrit Schmidt-Burkhardt
Many artists are remembered as much for their pithy sayings as for their art. George Maciunas (1931–1978) is a case in point. The Lithuanian-born artist, architect, designer, and self-appointed “chairman” of Fluxus asserted in 1965 that “anything can substitute art.” Guided by this maxim, Maciunas radically challenged the notion of avant-garde art, whether as object, concept, or commodity. Adopting a Cagean attitude, he tried to redefine the role of the artist by substituting art for everyday tasks, experiences, actions, and sensations. Maciunas’s key strategy was to engage in artistic activities likely to have anti-academic appeal as a means of protesting against the elitism of high art—one welcome side effect of which was that virtually everybody could join in.
Created in collaboration with the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, Vilnius, and The School of Art at the Cooper Union, New York City, Anything Can Substitute Art sheds new light on a pivotal period in the histories of both contemporary art and the city of New York, connecting the countercultural activism of the 1960s and ’70s to the moment of Fluxus. The show focuses on rarely seen Fluxus works, as well as Maciunas’s early works, charts, and his plans for artist housing in SoHo. Anything Can Substitute Art forgoes linear chronology but attempts to map an intersecting field of overlapping themes and operations, organized around six areas of focus: included in the exhibition are projects from the beginnings of Maciunas’s artistic and academic career (Genuine Places of Learning), diagrams and drawings dealing with the visualization of space and time (Mapping History), the invention and construction of the movement (Designing Fluxus), work as play (Substitute Art-Amusement), and the attempt to create the first Fluxhouse Cooperative Building (Battle for SoHo), which soon became a home for underground movies (Film Cultures).
The ambivalence of the claim that “anything can substitute art,” re-articulated within the framework of this exhibition, points to the dilemma in which Fluxus found itself, as well as providing salient examples of the impact of this in practice. Fluxus set out to abolish the art establishment and to establish itself as an avant-garde movement at the same time. Torn between two contradictory urges, it became ensnared in one of the most intriguing paradoxes of twentieth-century art.
This exhibition has been generously supported by the City of Vilnius, Lithuania, the Consulate of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, Anthology Film Archives, Ukio Bankas, Akropolis, and LAWIN.
The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is a distinguished private college of art, architecture and engineering founded in 1859 by Peter Cooper, an inventor, industrialist and philanthropist.
The Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, founded in 2007 in Vilnius, Lithuania, holds a large collection of Fluxus and is dedicated to promoting the art of the avant-garde.