Forty years ago, in July 1962, Ben welcomes George to Nice, the last European stop for the mega-activist ‘founder’ of Fluxus. Maciunas will have, in his way, in a thousand ways, fortified a state of mind already existing and still enduring.
To measure the impact of Fluxus/ Maciunas’ stay in Europe over two years (Autumn 1961-Summer 1963), before his return to New York, a single word suffices: immeasurable.
In 1958, Ben opens in Nice his boutique, Laboratoire 32 – which later becomes Galerie Ben Doute de Tout (Ben Doubts All; one can admire its superstructure in the Permanent Collections of the Centre George Pompidou in Paris). One could write pages and pages on the cultural battle between Nice and Paris. To focus strictly on the significance of Fluxus, it is enough to say that Nice came out the winner, and by a wide margin.
For Paris, on July 3rd, 1962: Sneak Preview of Fluxus, street performances by Benjamin Patterson with Robert Filliou, in the presence of Macunias, who had paid for the scheme and fluxed over it. The same day, the instigator Vostell extends an invitation to attend a happening on the bus line PC: PETITE CEINTURE (SMALL BELT). In December 1962, the Festum Fluxorum Poésie, Musique et Antimusique évènementelle et concrète (Flux Festival of Poetry, Music and Antimusic Factual and Concrete), which took place in front of an empty room, but full the last night for the Domaine Poétique (Poetic Domain).
Ben meets Maciunas in London in October 1962 at the Festival of Misfits (where Daniel Spoerri had gathered Robert Filliou, Addi Koepke, Gustav Metzger, Robin Page, Benjamin Patterson, Per Olof Ultvedt, Ben Vauthier – with an h, and Emmet Williams).
Serge III, who will become a representative of Fluxus in Nice, told what really happened during these few days in July 1963. The presence of Robin Page and his wife Caroll, for example. Perhaps from the 2003 catalogue, which Ben edited at his own expense, which I missed, I can still glean two or three little things that I had not known.
But the important thing is the conjoined energy of Maciunas and Ben, and that little cousins are born, and that this continues. Irrefutable fact: the virus spread from Nice—at least as far as France is concerned, that is certain. The high-profile, ego-inflated Ben talks the whole time, and often about what he thinks of Fluxus. This does not fall on deaf ears only during his travels; he travels a lot and speaks several languages. Ben has often reproached me and still reproaches my 1978 text for Flash Art – a very short story of Fluxus – where the importance of FluxNice is reduced to a single sentence. In 2003, in the catalogue Fluxus Continues 1963-2003, he manages to reprint (as an act of Fluxus) the 1979 catalogue of the traveling exhibition of Gino Di Maggio’s collection, and adds to it pages on Nice. Needless to say, my one sentence did not grow even an inch. Today I redress this issue.
For a long time, nothing has surprised me any more. Last June 28th, during an interview at the Ritz, Yoko Ono told me all about her intellectual intimacy with Maciunas. I was on the train back to Nice as she redid her Cut piece in Paris. The previous four days, there were six fluxhistorics to celebrate Ben and the continuation of something that has always existed and which in its various forms, until September 2003 brought us (me) optimism and joy.
Thanks for The Ben who knows how to hold his own against Paris. Last year, for the forty-year anniversary of Fluxus, before Nice, I had organized Fluxus concerts in the Museums of Strasbourg and Marseille; in the wake, Bertrand Clavez had gotten the Menagerie de Verre [Glass Menagerie] in Paris. Ben, who was in the province, declined the Capital. Thanks for The Ben who for forty years has known how to carry high the flame of Fluxus. Yes, first of all, thanks to Ben, for the diversity, the generosity, the wise balance, and thanks to Annie for her self-sacrifice and her competence. Four full days in which the young artists of The Station, with Eva (Ben’s daughter), perfectly managed logistics. Six historical Fluxus members made the trip (Eric Andersen, Geoffrey Hendricks, Alison Knowles, Larry Miller, Ben Patterson, Takako Saito). The friends of Fluxus, collectors, gallery owners, writers who promoted Fluxus (Gino and Viviana Di Maggio, Enrico Pedrini, Caterina Gualco, Eric Fabre, Christian Xatrec, Michel Giroud, Julien Blaine, Arnaud Labelle-Rojoux, Nicolas Feuillie, Bertrand Clavez), first cousins and second cousins (Olga Adorno, Doc(k)s, Olivier Garcin’s Garage 103, le Cirque Divers de Liège with Antaki and Jacques Lizène, Alain Snyers, Jacques Halbert, Catherin and Jacques Pineau, Pierre Tilman, Max Horde, Alain Biet, les Insupportables, and a very young performer from Seattle, Marc Owen).
A large family, in sum, happy to meet and wander for four days, from one pleasant surprise to another, and to meet each night at a different restaurant. A great geniality with a press conference, a debate, a lecture, all of these discourses seasoned with the sauce of Fluxus. At the inauguration of the MAMAC, Ben announces that he is going to City Hall and asks the Mayor to help him with this burdensome task. An impromptu visit of the Galerie Scholtès. Carte blanche [anything goes] at Marcel Alocco. Fluxus un état d’esprit (Fluxus, a state of mind), Sunday, closing day. For an hour, a gift shop hands out Fluxus certificates for any item purchased. Ben Patterson, for the opening of his exhibition on the 15th, organizes a very joyous game of Balmington on the sidewalk, with water guns and umbrellas. Ruy Blas inaugurates his new gallery bench. Max Horde reads a message from the Cancun conference, asking the poor to remain poor so that the capitalist system doesn’t fall flat on its face. Michel Giroud, the coyote peddler, never leaves his immense backpack, full of Fluxus books from his collection L’écart absolu, which he is selling. Alain Snyers and Jacques Halbert reproduce in identical detail a 1976 performance given at the Centre Pompidou where they invite the public to drink and eat cake. Snyers gets tons of manifestos signed for NOTHING which make no commitment whatsoever. Garage 103, by great expansions of Doc(k)s, remembers the story of the C.I.A with the September 11th assassination for the elected president Aliende. The Fluxus collection of Enrico Pedrini, at the Gallery Alain Couturier (held by the Brother Benoit, a Dominican, organizer of the night of galleries in Nice as well as Fluxus), a very pointed choice – with a stunning George Brecht – in contrast to Ben’s Carte Blanche, a messy group exhibition full of humor of all kinds at the gallery Soardi (Matisse’s former workshop).
The Mamac exhibition, another one with a slightly didactic dimension, dear to Ben. Some of the films, of course, were projected. Robert Filliou, at the Cinéma Mercury, the Fluxus films permanently in the most widespread hotel, Hi-Hôtel, and an entire night with comforters and performances in the Delille space, not to mention the films by Biet and Lizène at the MAMAC. I’ll stop there for the exhibitions. There were also the Doc(k)s exhibition, Julien Blaine at Mataraso, Snyers and her hijacked advertisements for the artistic community on the display windows of Galerie Art 7 located right next to a real estate agency and inside, Halbert’s paintings of cherries and peas. A few other great moments on the esplanade between the museum and the theatre, after the exhibition opening at the Mamac and the historic concert at the Theatre of Nice. The piece of or for John Cage: a piano is placed on top of another piano at a right angle. Le Cirque Divers with its pub truck where the beer flows freely. Patterson’s Paper Piece in which the audience is drowned and drowns itself in paper and the sound it makes. At the Theatre there is a hyper-classic concert with the six founding members of Fluxus (Fluxushistoriques), plus Ben, me, and some young musicians from the Conservatory. Standing ovation for the pieces written between 1957 and 1964.
On the grassy open space of Garibaldi Square, in the midst of intense traffic, in the light created by the sun’s reflection on the mirrors, at the foot of the statue of the one who fought the Germans at Dijon, a most symbolic Fluxus using a leaning tree (Knowles, Miller). More unforgettable memories, Saturday morning, yes in the morning, rue Paganini, at the Théâtre de la cité. Some short two-minute pieces, all of great intensity. But the grand finale on Sunday, September 14th at the Brother Benoît’s church, supervised however by two other brothers. All was permitted at Saint-François de Paul Church, right across the street from the back of the Opera, except eating in the church (gnocchi cooked with pistou – as performance – inside the building by Caterina Gualco): Eric Andersen’s Confession, Geoffrey Hendricks’ Poirier, Alison Knowles’ Encoconnage presented by Ben, Larry Miller’s Expériences genesthetics, Ave Maria sung by Ben Patterson. We could eat the gnocchi outside while the audience, holding each other’s shoulders, shuffled out of the church dragging their feet (to Knowles’ piece Shuffle), walking along the side of the Opera to arrive on the Promenade des Anglais in front of the sea.
And to conclude, a bit of theory found in the Quantic re-make exhibition (the Pedrini collection) by Pedrini himself, “Kronber’s discovery (1957) that made it possible to construct a DNA molecule in vitro, after Watson and Crick revealed the model of its structure in 1953, opened the door for the development of genetics. The Quantum Theory, after the first successes in 1927 with the Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, Bohr’s Principle of Complementarity, the re-evaluation of cause-and-effect determinism, the new formulation of the concept of quantic matter, the opening up of the domain of the negativity by means of the dimension of matter, has developed an extraordinarily vast realm of knowledge from which artists have been able to effect the de-qualification of images, an invasion of spaces and of specifics. Fluxus also represented, at a very high level, the dissolution or at least the rarefaction of the historical consciousness of continuum into an anthropological consciousness, with the progressive decline of any philosophy of history or historicism, and has replaced it bit by bit with historical existence as a resolution of the world (Löwith), finally reaching the utopic existence in which the world no longer has its own place nor even its own precise definition; neither can it be circumscribed within a framework that is its own; it is in factno longer ‘the place of history.’”