PRINT May 1999


Dick Higgins

Imagine contemporary art without artists’ books, without performance, without language-based work, without Conceptualism, and DICK HIGGINS’s contribution to our culture becomes clear. Composer and musician, playwright and performance artist, writer and filmmaker, Higgins was an opinionated, mercurial mind who was his own best example of intermedia, the term he coined in 1965 to describe the work he and his colleagues were engaged in. Existing between conventional media, the art flowered with Fluxus, the group/movement/ lifestyle of which Higgins was a founding member in 1961-62. He went on to found Something Else Press, the artists' book publisher that was in many ways his greatest achievement. To the extent that the press snuck avant-garde thought into libraries of the world by virtue of relatively conventional packaging (and marketing), Higgins might be considered above all a teacher, a role he relished.

For all the combat between dozens of movements that have come and gone since the ’60s, one thing unites nearly all who work outside painting and sculpture: a search for art unrestricted by medium. Higgins wasn’t the only artist to push this aesthetic envelope, but he was at the forefront in defining and promoting it, right up to his last performances, in Quebec City, where he died last October.