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February 24, 2012 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-02-24

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Friday, February 24, 2012 - 5

UMMA frames
anart with 'Fluxus'

Exhibition explores
the edginess of
performance art
By JONATHAN ODDEN
DailyArts Writer
You will decide to read or
not read this article; having
made your decision, the hap
pening is over
-- you've just
experienced Fluxus and
Fluxus Art. the Essential
The University
of Michigan Question of
Museum of Life Gallery
Art's Fluxus
opening will Tomorrow
have a slightly through May 2(
modified ver- UMMA
sion of Ken Free
Friedman's
"Mandatory
Happening," which was known
to the Fluxus artists as an event
score.
With spring quickly approach-
ing, UMMA is preparing to
launch an extensive project
an exhibition, "Fluxus and the
Essential Questions of Life,'
and four months of programt-
ming surrounding this topic. To
kick the Flxuts festivities off
UMMA is opening its gallery
show tomorrow.
Describing art as disconiect-
ed and spontaneous as Fluxus is
difficult, since the movement is
neither clear nor linear, accord-
ing to Educational and Curatori-
al Deputy Director Ruth Slavin
She said Fluxus only makes sense
iin little, fleeting epilihanies.
"Perhaps the best isay to con-
ceive of Fluxus art is to think o1
the movement as one centered on
a conceptual base and not on an
aesthetic or form," Slavin said
"In that way it was very avant-
garde, very unique for the Cold
War era."
Though the range of debates
about Fluxus is immense, its edg-
iness is rarely debated. Founded
by Lithuanian-American art-
ist George Maciunas, Fluxus
was inspired by the experimen-
tal music of John Cage in New
York, and the movement became
a group of international artists
organized by Maciunas. The
Fluxus artists were not bound

by culture or twedium but were
instead connected by a desire
to question the high art of the
museum and to blur the lines
between art and life. Their tool
was a form of performance art
often using prop-kits, which they
called Fluxkits. These Fluxkits
and event scores -- like the
Friedman - made up the Fluxus
events, which they termed "hap-
penings."
"Sometimes these Fluxkits
and event scores were humorous;
sometimes, they were boring or
offensive, silly or even annoying,
but they always raised questions
about the art itself," said Lisa
Borgsdorf, public prograns and
campus engagement manager
for UMMA.
'f'akte Alisona Knowvles's 1962
event scoire "iopositioa," a plait2
piece of paper with the inscrip-
tion: "Make a salad." Below it,
a video of Knowles making the
salad plays on a television screen.
"It's actually quite interesting,
once you get past the reaction to
looking at a piece of paper and
what appears to be a loop of the
Food Channel," Slavin said. "It
questions creation, domestic-
ity and whether the art of salad
timaking rivals the museum can-
vases - where is art's valuation?"
Another debatable issue is
whether it's the event score
that's vital or the actual trial of
enactment that carries artistic
value. For example, Knowles's
"Wounded Furniture" reads:
"This piece uses an ol piece of
ffurniture in bad shape. Destroy
it further, if you like. Bandage
it up with gauze and adhesive.
Spray red paint on the wounded
joints."
f Since no original version off
this piece exists, University
Housing has allowed students
in five dormitories to recreate
the event and actually destroy a
piece of furniture. One of these
final pieces will have the honor
of being the first student work to
ever be exhibited in the gallery.
"Swaying between intrigue
and annoyance is not the 'wrong'
way to feel about an event score,"
Borgsdorf said. "Works like
a Knowles' force you to think out-
side the traditional aesthetic and
sformal terms. Instead, it asks you
to debate whether it is the idea,
i the work or the performer who is

creating art."
With works like these plain
event scores, which almost
require enactment and partici-
pation to understand their mes-
sage, the question of organizing
a museum show true to the Flux-
us mood has become a focus for
the UMMA staff.
"In presenting the show, we're
trying something very differ-
ent," Slavin said. "Because Flux-
us was so anart-- that is, against
fine-art labels - it really is only
reaching the museum as a histor-
ic item. That's why we're striv-
ing to break the show's concepts
down and ask people to experi-
ment and experience Fluxus in
their own time."
The exhibit explores how
Fluxus works by isolatingthe dif-
ferent tlaemes and splitting them
into 14 major questions - such as
"What Am I?,""Happiness?" and
"Danger?" - which drove the
movement. Since there is no spe-
cific pathway alongthe exhibit, a
provided map will direct visitors
to those questions in which they
are most interested. The objects
in each theme reflect an answer
or ask a further question.
"In (the them(e) 'Change?'
Fluxus artists conclude that
going with it can be a lot more
fun than trying to fight it," said
Stephanie Miller, manager of
public affairs and publications
at UMMA. "As Ken Filedman
suggests with his Flux Corsage
- a plastic box filled with flower
seeds - you might get started
by getting yourself some flower
seeds, planting and nurturing
them, and giving the blossoms to
someone you love. The plant will
die eventually, and so might your
love, but neither of them will
disappear; they will change into
some other form of energy."
Fluxus was an integral part
of pioneering performance art
and bringing anart into perspec-
tive. Even though the movement
has now passed into history, the
mantras and ideals held by the
group exist today.
"I'm convinced that if they
had the Internet, they would
have used it," Slavin said. "Maci-
unas would be tweeting and on
Facebook. The sprit of Fluxus
lives on in the intermedia today;
the flash mobs and the viral vid-
eos are the new happenings."

Hto
"Ahhh Mr Potter. Welcome to therapy."
Gervais, Dan.,vi s bring
humrt B' Short'

By PROMA KHOSLA
Daily Arts Writer
On HBO's new comedy, "Life's
Too Short," creators Rickey
Gervais and Stephen Merchant
once again
find humor in
the awkward-
ness of daily Life'sToo
life. It's shot S
in the "moc hort
kumentary" Pilot
style that Ger-
vais so lives, a Sundays at
style that lends 10-30 t.
itself perfectly HBO
to exploiting
everyday embarrassment.
Contrary to all the promo-
tion dropping of Gervais's name,
"Life's Too Short" is centered on
actor Warwick Davis, who calls
himself "the U.K.'s go-to dwarf."
Davis's other roles include Pro-
fessor Flitwick in the "Harry
Potter" films and an ewok in
"Star Wars," which he men-
tions multiple times in this pilot.
Davis plays an egotistical cari-
cature of himself, running an
agency called DwarvesForHire.
The humor comes from his lack
of self-awareness, not from his
being a dwarf. When he goes to
Gervais and Merchant looking
for work, Gervais's "I thought
we made the (door) buzzer high
enough" is a clear dig at Davis

not be
at hisl
Tha
fame
Davis
rude
taxes.
ously
how I
a fam
divorc
new F
of pr(
talent
pound
I
c
Gc

irig able to take a hint, not his true idtntity. And it's dou-
height. bly gratifying to see his wit and
it oblivious delusion of clever delivery.
and charisma is what leads Though it's amusing, the
to do things such as be show isn't laugh-out-loud funny.
to his wife or not pay his It's worth watching, though,
He perceives her as obvi- for the skill with which Davis,
ordinary and unaware of Gervais, Merchant and a slew of
ucky she is to have landed forthcoming guest stars execute
ous film star. She wants a the chalenging humor of just
e, so Davis has to find a going about their lives. The pilot
place on top of the work features Liam Neeson ("Taken")
omoting unknown dwarf asking Gervais and Merchant to
and paying off 250,000 help him with irtprovisational
Is. comedy.
It's also a lesson in one of Ger-
vais's cardinal rules of comedy:
Be able to laugh at yourself. Nee-
Rem ember: son immediately missteps in his
improv role as a hypochondriac
.ood things by saying he has AIDS. When
Merchant advises him against
me in small it, Neeson indignantly asks why
Gervais gets to joke about offen-
paeKages, sive things. "We don't know,"
Merchant replies. "He just
does."
Maybe Merchant is summing
these things - Dwarves- up the general phenomenon of
re, the divorce and Davis's Ricky Gervais: He can get away
ing accountant - are dis- with things in the entertain-
d as plots. But "Life's Too ment industry at which others
isn't a comedy to watch would inevitably fail. Having a
ory and character devel- show about nothing that just lets
nt. It's a minimalist series famous people be awkward and
ng an underappreciated funny is one of them. How does
Seeing Davis as the cam- he get away with it?
main focus is refreshing Merchant has an answer.
his roles so often conceal "Again, I don't know."

All
ForHi
bumb
guise(
Short
for st
opme;
starri
actor.
era's
since

DOES FLUXUS ART FLOAT YOUR
BOAT?
PERHAPS YOU SHOULD WRITE FOR THE FINE ARTS
BEAT. WE HAVE BOATS. AND FLUXUS.

DOES 'COMMUNITY CULTURE'
SOUND AS AWESOME AS
'SPRING BREAK'?
WE THINK SO. IF YOU AGREE, YOU MIGHT BE A
PERFECT FIT FOR THE COMMUNITY CULTURE BEAT.

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