Critics’ Picks

Nam June Paik, Robot: The Baseball Player, 1989, mixed media, 67 x 55 x 18".

Nam June Paik, Robot: The Baseball Player, 1989, mixed media, 67 x 55 x 18".


Soudain l’Été Fluxus

Passage de Retz
9 rue Charlot
July 14–September 20, 2009

For a movement united around its own dispersal—from George Maciunas’s mail-order catalogs that marketed Fluxshop goods worldwide, to the more utopian distribution of artistic agency to anyone who could follow directions—Fluxus occasionally shows a great capacity for accumulation. “Soudain l’été Fluxus” (Suddenly, Fluxus Summer) takes stock of what the movement has amassed, consolidating a cornucopia of Fluxus works, museological in scope and fanatic in density. Conceived by Ben Vautier (who goes by his first name only), with help from Bernard Blistène, the exhibition draws on a confederacy of private collections, including Ben’s own. Individual works, lovingly preserved, emit a certain zeal when joined by their affiliates, and the image of Fluxus pieces as idiosyncratic and enchanting (or enchanting because idiosyncratic) cedes to a vision of one big boisterous riff. Works and documentation of Fluxus events hung cheek by jowl are included alongside several pianos, including La Monte Young’s Piano Piece for David Tudor #1, 1960, attended by its bucket of water and bale of hay. Much of a room is dedicated to Robert Filliou’s acrimonious poetry and George Brecht’s laconic direction pieces, while nearby, vitrines of Fluxkits recall the jollification of Fluxus’s renegade art market.

What all this has to do with Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly, Last Summer remains somewhat opaque; however, the suddenness of Fluxus works flash-mobbing the Passage de Retz—in a country that rarely recognizes the movement’s legacy (this is only the fourth historical Fluxus exhibition in France)—finds an echo in the clipped pace of the posters, parcels, and puns gathered there. This makes it an exhibition to see quickly (lest the pace begin to try your nerves) but many times, before the abrupt abundance is scattered once more into captivating Fluxus particles.