Weeks 1-3: Happenings and Fluxus

Movements discussed: DADA (1916-1920), Bauhaus Theater (1919-1933), Action Painting (1940s), Gutai Group (1954-1972), Zen Buddhism, Fluxus (1962-1968).

Names dropped: Jackson Pollock, Atsuko Tanaka, John Cage, Allan Kaprow, Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, David Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Alfred Leslie, Lette Eisenhauer, Yoko Ono, George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Al Hansen, Geoffrey Hendricks, Dick Higgins, Ray Johnson, Alison Knowles, Charlotte Moorman, Yoko Ono, Nam Jun Paik, La Monte Young, Ben Patterson, Joseph Beuys, Yves Klein.

Places mentioned: Black Mountain College, New School for Social Research, Reuben Gallery.

1: In groups of two, write a Fluxus score. Groups of two will then be merged into larger groups, combining 2-3 scores into a single 'event.' Fluxus scores to be practiced and performed for following class.

Image: Licking Piece, 1964, Ben Patterson
cover shapely female with whipped cream
topping of chopped nuts and cherries is optional

Fluxus Score: Group 2

The documentation of your score has been lost in the electronic ether. I will keep trying to recover the video from my camera, but apparently the camera likes the file too much.

Fluxus Score: Group 3

Weeks 1-3: Culture of the 1950s-60s, & the Manifesto

What was going on in the 1950s?
Suburban family ideals
Civil Rights Movement--Segregation is still common
The Cold War between Russia & US
Korean War
mainstream introduction of television
rock n roll
= the seeds of rebellion are planted

What was going on in the 1960s?
JFK in office
JFK is assassinated
Malcolm X assassinated
Martin Luther King assassinated
Robert F. Kennedy assassinated
Followed by Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon
The countercultural movement was born
Rise of equal rights, feminism, gay & lesbian rights
Civil Rights Act passed in 1964
Vietnam War
Black Panther Movement
The term HIPPY is born
Psychedelic drugs
Rock in the form of radical folk music: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez
= the seeds of collective action are planted

Assignment 2: Write your own art manifesto. Use the Fluxus Manifesto by George Maciunas and the various iterations of the DADA Manifesto as research models for form and content.

Class Manifestoes

Thanks to Sebastian for scanning these manifestoes.

Weeks 1-3: "Which Culture?"

Review of Reading Assignment: Which Culture chapter from Greenwich Village 1963 by Sally Banes

Warm-up exercise: Emmett William's Ten Arrangements for Five Performers.

How does Sally Banes define 'folk art' in the context of this chapter?
• art by the community for the community
• work that integrates art and life (the everyday)
• functional art
• low-budget
• made by the untrained or non-professional
• handmade and unique (not mass produced)
• recycles the world around the artist
• crudely constructed

To what factors does she attribute the rise in 'folk art' attributes in the avant-garde work of the 1960s?
• Rejection of previous generations values -- European Art is high art; American Art is low art; the fear of communism and the association of folk tradition with totalitarian regimes."A generation grown old before its time."
• Desire to create a uniquely American art form.
• Interest in egalitarian values (accessibility).
• Increase in leisure time.
• Refusal to participate in mainstream culture of corporate production and consumption.

Why does she imply that Pop Art was related to American folk art?
• Its uniquely American quality.
• Because of its relationship to crafts and decorative arts.
• Because of its use of the venacular (commercial arts, commonplace images, domestic and thow-away culture is recycled).

How did the new avant-garde affect audiences?
• audience was activated.
• sometimes given a role in the production or presentation.
• audience related to peformances more readily: remniscent of popular entertainment: vaudeville, church plays, pageants, children's theater, circuses...

What was happening in artist-made cinema?
• home movie quality; handmade; handheld.
• everyday life becomes the subject. (Warhol's haircut or sleep)
• live soundtracks are created by the artist and sometimes the audience.

What as happening in dance?
• Pedestrian movements are incorporated into choreography.
• Games, tasks, and sports are incorporated.
• Irony: how to dance is explained.

What everyday items were incorporated into Fluxus?
• Games, puzzles, rubber stamps, recipes, jokes, parlor tricks, magic tricks.
• Fluxus' printed matter predicts the coming of zines.

What did critics of the time, like Clement Greenberg think of the new avant-garde?
• They saw it as vulgar (pg 104)
• Kitsche

Read Folk Art Makes a Community on page 95
• Relationship to user-generated content (Myspace, Flickr, eBay, Facebook, Amazon) (Learningtoloveyoumore.com)
• the DIY movement
• the craft movement
• the print on demand self-publishing movement

Alter egos mentioned:

Allan Kaprow: page 87
John Cage: page 92 and page 95

Reading of Manifestos

Assignment #3: Bring a helpful gift, book, material, or object related to your peer's manifesto to next class.

Weeks 4-5: Joseph Beuys/Is the lady with the sunglasses an artist?

Warm up exercise:
Go for a ten minute walk with one other person in the class. Do not plan a destination. Do not talk. Take notice of the sights, sounds, and people around you, and the non-verbal dynamics between you and your walking partner.

Rehash of first three weeks:
Avant Garde activities of the late 1950s and 1960s (specifically Happenings and Fluxus Actions): the interest in a more democratic approach to art-making, blurring the boundaries between artists and audiences, integrating the professional with the amateur, using everyday activities and objects as the subject of new works, blending artistic disciplines. Likely a reaction to the conservatism, separatism, and social homogeneity of the 1950s.

Assignments so far:

Group Fluxus Scores (impromptu physical collaboration)
Writing of Manifestos (defining ourselves within the group)
Creation of a Gift Economy (relational activity)

Recurring theme in collective works:
Interest in Utopia--a perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects. The evils of society, eg: poverty, hunger, war, are not present. Utopian beliefs in art: power of art to transform both the individual and society at large for the better. R. Buckminster Fuller was influential among 1970s avant-garde artists because he proposed that we now have the technology to eliminate human suffering through cooperation.

Social Sculpture/Social Architecture
Joseph Beuys' term for how we mould and shape the world we live in through conscious artistic action.

Group reading of "I Am Searching for Field Character" (1973) written by Joseph Beuys and included in Claire Bishop's Participation: Documents of Contemporary Art.

Works by Beuys:

Documenta 5: Bureau for Direct Democracy: an installation where Beuys debated political, art and social issues with gallery visitors for 100 days. On the last day, he fought a Boxing Match for Direct Democracy with one of his students.

7000 Oaks: Begun in 1982 at Documenta 7, Beuys planned for 7000 trees to be planted throughout the greater city of Kassel, completed in 1987. Beuys intended the Kassel project to be the first stage in an ongoing scheme of tree planting to be extended throughout the world as part of a global mission to effect environmental and social change; locally, the action was a gesture towards urban renewal (from Dia Foundation website).

What were Beuys' assertions?
• every person is a creator/sculptor of the larger social organism
• art is a tool for molding a better society
• communication via art as a two-way flow
• staging sculpture-- sculpture is performance
• sculpture should be in motion/in process
• art has healing potential

Read Bill Arning's essay: "Sure, everyone might be an artist, but only one artist gets to be the guy who says that everyone else is an artist", from What we want is free, edited by Ted Purves.

Assignment 4:
As a group, create a temporary "use space" on campus which will take place during our class on Wednesday, September 26, 6-8pm. Ideas: film screening, potluck, free services: massage, instructional demonstration, a series of all of the above, multiple instructions, a lending library, a barter event, a giveaway event. Title the event, make hand flyers, advertise it to the student body. Document.

Art Project!

Hey everyone,

Its me! Julia!

So I was thinking about our class and I remembered some 'art' that involved participation that me and my friends used to do in high school. Remember these notebooks?

We would write our first name at the beginning next to a number or symbol, then on each page there would be a question or activity to complete (next to our number.

So I was thinking.... I should definitely make a new notebook that our class to participate in.

So I would really really really love it if you could give me some suggestions for questions or activities to put on each page.... or if you can think of anything crazy to do with this idea.... So leave some comments here! Or let me know if you have any ideas in class.

Also, I keep an ART BLOG in which I talk and talk about my feelings and opinions on the things I am learning about art. I wrote this long, crazy ramble about participation and art the other day, and its got some interesting participation art related links in it. Also, I've been writing about my performance art experiences (in Elia's class) as well, so feel free to take a look and leave a comment if you feel like it.

Weeks 4-5: Oh Beuys & Review of Bill Arning's essay

Review of reading assignment: Bill Arning's "Sure, Everyone might be an artist, but only one artist gets to be the guy who says that everyone else is an artist" from What we want is free, edited by Ted Purves.

Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler: Everyone is an artist dictum by Joseph Beuys.

What does Arning suggest are the benefits and drawbacks of seeing the artist as genius rather than equal?
Benefits: Museums are built, art is invested in, and the public has access to art.
Drawbacks: The public's creativity is seen as insignificant compared to that of the artist.

What does he suggest is the irony in works that blur the boundaries between art and life AND achieve great success?
They become canonized and separated, in museums and art institutions, from everyday life.
(read page 12, paragraph 3).

What examples does Arning give of staged situations between artists and the public that disrupt hierarchical relations between artist/audience?
A tour of Jim Hodges studio: Hodges instructed the studio tour group to each grab a favorite color crayon, and have someone mark his/her height on the wall. The subsequent slideshow was not of Hodges' work by rather colorful painted houses in Spokane, WA. Like Beuys' dictum, Hodges' presentation indicates that everyone makes creative decisions that shape their environment, even choosing a house paint color.

A tour of Elaine Tin Nyo's studio: Elaine greeted guests with homemade ice cream; prepared curried eggs (a childhood dish) as she described her family's political exile from Burma.

Alter egos mentioned: Joseph Beuys: page 11, 16

Week 5: On Becoming a tourist in your own backyard

Exercise: Go outside as a group and get on the first school shuttle bus that arrives. Ride the bus until it completes a full loop. Imagine you are a tourist: take pictures, ask questions, notice the architecture and environment.

Parking Lot "Use Space" Assignment

In response to Assignment 4, the class voted to leave anonymous "gifts" on the hundreds of cars in the parking lot.

Week 6: Visit to Project Row Houses

Rick Lowe, Founder of Project Row Houses hosted us and gave an overview of his definition of social sculpture. Some interesting (paraphrased) comments that came out of this discussion are below.

• If it is argued that participatory art of the 1960s was politically charged, and today's relational art is often criticized as more about pleasure than politics, can PLEASURE be POLITICAL?

• The personal is political (Patrick).

• Reaching people individually can be equally as radical as reaching the masses. (Julia)

• Sharing personal narratives, and one-on-one interaction offers a more meaningful kind of engagement. (Nancy)

• The relationship with children [in the neighborhood] at PRH was important to Aisen's experience working there. (Aisen)

• [Referring to the ingenuity/creativity of people in Third Ward] Do the wealthy have the same need to innovate as those who make things out of necessity? (Keijiro)

• Why are children socialized from creativity to normalcy-- trained to be uncreative? (Sebastian)

• Does art have to be about something, or just be something? (Emily)

Art as a "score" to be repeated by anyone

Tonight's class included much heated discussion about our intentions to recreate an art event/happening/action from the 1960s or 70s. There were a few subtexts.

1. How does reproducing a work of art affect its aura or authenticity? (See Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," Illuminations, 1938.)

2. Can the documentation of a performance be as important as the experience? (Some of the most famous performances were only witnessed by a handful of people; think of Chris Burden's Shoot, 1971--the dissemination of the photo document is how the rest of the world experienced the work.)

3. What does it mean for us to translate, reinterpret, and recreate a performance, 40+ years later, in this time and context? What role does chance and repetition play in causing the work to mutate?

For more on art as instruction or score, see the exhibition "do it" curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist:

do it is an autonomous show that exists as a growing set of artist's instructions -- (in)formation to be actualized by an interested audience, and capable of taking place simultaneously in many locations in a myriad of permutations.

"do it unites two strategies employed at key moments by the conceptual avant-garde: the generation of a work by following written instructions, and the insertion of chance in the realization of an artwork."

May I have this dance improv?

The first Monday of each month, the delightful Leslie Scates & Karen Stokes open up their dance classroom (Mojo Mondays) to the general public. The Participation Art class has made me proud with their daring jump-right-in-attitudes at these dance improv events which include all skill levels, ours being the, well, beginners.

According to Wikipedia, "dance improvisation is not about creating new movement but freeing the body from habitual movement patterns." Our class attends these events to gain practical insight into physical collaboration, the nature of human interaction, leading, following, listening, and to limber-up the mind and body.

The KLAW gets press

Our final class project (self-determined by the group) was to create a backwards-walking flash mob at The Galleria during the height of Holiday shopping. The Houston Press blogged about this successful rewind of frenzied seasonal mall traffic. To organize the mob, the group circulated a variety of KLAW (walk spelled backwards, of course) text messages and emails that emphasized the number 2-- meet on 12/2 at 2:22 on the 2nd level to walk backwards for 22 minutes. When asked what they were doing, some backwards walkers responded "I can't face the future" or "If you join me I'll tell you," and some did.

The Hijack: A collaborative Performance Piece Initiated by Julia Wallace and Nancy Douthey

Posted by Julia Claire Wallace
This is an excerpt from the EXTREMELY exciting and interesting new Houston art blog entitled,
The Life Art of Julia Claire Wallace

Andrea Grover's Participation art class received an email from students Nancy Douthey and Julia Claire Wallace telling them to come to class prepared to perform a fluxus score that incorporated the thing that they do best.

They showed up to class and were separated into three specifically chosen groups. One group went with local artist and chosen driver, Aisen Chacin. One group joined Julia Claire Wallace, and the other group joined Nancy Douthey. These last two groups were secretly recorded. All three cars received a disposable camera to document the night.

They eventually found the HOV lane headed South, Julia in the lead. They drove and drove until they finally arrived at the ocean. They parked on the seawall next to a statue commemorating the flood of 1900.

They gathered on a raised stage like area and performed.

The first performance was lead by Elia Arce. She split the group in two and placed them on either side of the stage facing her. She lead the groups in a choir-esque yelling match in which she took turns feeding each group lines that she had gathered from advertisements to yell at the other group.

The second performance was lead by Michael Brims who lead the group in a vocal exercise using the Ohm sound.

The third performance consisted of everyone performing the score that they were instructed to bring which incorporated the thing that they do best. They all performed these scores simultaneously:
Nick Teel did a fancy finger trick
Julia Claire Wallace documented her thought process using a digital recorder
Patrick O'brien Doyle played guitar
Nancy Douthey wrote a to do list
Tyson Urich acted like a bum (?)
Shawna Florida ran
Elia Arce laughed
Andrea Grover collected information and redistributed it
Sebastian Forray drew the back of people's heads
John Sanchez did hair

Then everyone began switching off, everyone tried laughing, a few people recorded their thought processes, wrote to do lists, playing guitar, drawing the backs of people's heads etc.

After that performance was done. The group recreated another 60's photo on the seawall in the dark. John Sanchez stood on a chair with his arms raised conducting the sea, and the rest of the class sat around him.

Then they all went home in the cars of their choice.

A significant aspect of this piece is that it was created to put the ideas of the class into motion. Students had suggested going to Galveston in a previous class to recreate the photo brought in by Sebastian Forray. Aisen Chacin had suggested doing a fluxus score where everyone did what they do best. Nancy Douthey and Julia Claire Wallace wanted to see their classmates art realized.