The Lithuanianness of Fluxus 0

Ramūnas Čičelis, 2016-02-01
Jurgis Mačiūnas. Self-portrait, 1961

In brief: Fluxus is an "ancient" craft mastery. Its forms - the life of artists, performances and ready-made objects - were in line with the rules set by the pioneer of this old-fashionedly ‎new "craft" Jurgis Mačiūnas.  Lithuanian farmer's environment is art as craft till modernization and Fluxus is a reminiscence of the traditional Lithuanian village order and a refusal to modernize, resisting the four centuries of European art tradition.

In the 50's the pioneer of anti-art movement Fluxus Jurgis Mačiūnas was quite strongly associated with the left and held on to his communist beliefs until his death. This makes J. Mačiūnas the least Lithuanian in the context of Lithuanian diaspora. Fluxist's political views where strengthened by his friendship with Japanese, French and German people of culture, who often where strong leftists. For J. Mačiūnas this revolutionary position was more important not as a system of political values or the starting point for the changing of the world, but as a form - as a way to establish the anti-art of Fluxus in the Western art scene by the means of protest. One of Fluxus' key ideas was the stand against the commercialization of art that had developed in the capitalist environment.

Fluxus performances are the situation actions of the present moment with roots in the French situationist movement: context dictates the content and form of the sabotage against art. J. Mačiūnas is always "here" and "now." In Lithuanian cultural history such stance is common only in the village of traditional order, in which the farmer is not overly worried about the past and the future, because he is carrying out the works that are needed in the current situation.

In the Western cultural context J. Mačiūnas jumps directly from the 15th century to the second half of the 20th century. The monkhood of art is the anti-art, because after the Middle Ages the Western concept of art moved further away from the ancient and Christian traditions. New rules of poetics are being created; people are submitting to the expression of feelings, they seek spectacular grandeur. J. Mačiūnas is an ascetic, who can be compared to ancient Greek philosopher-vagrant Diogenes or to a monk from any Medieval Catholic order.

In the second decade of the twenty-first century the ex-Fluxist Jeffrey Perkins is working on the film George, in which he presents the pioneer of Fluxus as a significant figure in art history that influenced the lives and works of subsequent artists and continues to do so. The role of J. Mačiūnas does not raise any doubts that is why the ready-made objects of Fluxus have already become the collectors' "hunted" prey. Revolution turned into classics and it has devoured its main fighter.

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