1981 – AKI FLUXFEST – 2021


It took quite a while, but exactly forty years after the FluxFest at the AKI in Enschede we proudly present the ‘catalogue after the end of the event’. It was a promise made to the artists who cooperated with this legendary festival in September 1981. For many of the participants, however, it took too long as nearly half of them have passed away by now.

In 1981, many exhibitions were dedicated to a new style of figurative painting. The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam showed works by seven ‘Young Italians’, whereas the Groninger Museum became the temporary home of the so-called Neue Wilden of the Mülheimer Freiheit with artists like Dahn and Dokoupil. Meanwhile, the Royal Academy in London presented ‘A New Spirit in Painting’. The studios of young artists like Peter Adamski and Nicola de Maria, who had started their careers with conceptual photo work, smelled of paint once more. Performances, conceptual art and installations didn’t seem relevant and ‘up to date’ anymore.

This was definitely not the way to go.

The city of Enschede was home to the AKI, the Academy of Art and Design. Peter van Beveren taught at this institution, but in the early nineteen seventies he had set up an Art Information Centre in Middelburg. He sent notes to museums and artists with the request to send him printed matter and documentation (‘all the information is listed in our card index’). And that is just what he did.

Van Beveren thought of his archive as a work of art: in 1974, his Kunst Informatie Centrum (Art Information Centre) was presented in the Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven.

Van Beveren had a great idea: a Fluxus Festival in Enschede.

Joop Hardy, director of the academy between 1968 and 1981, had converted it to a very lively institution where ‘everything was possible’.

In September, Hardy would be replaced by artist Sipke Huismans – in between Wim van Stek was in charge – but Hardy’s anarchistic approach still had a firm hold on the academy. Therefore, it would be an ideal place for a historic FLUXUS FESTIVAL.

It should be a truly phenomenal party for a week, from early in the morning until late in the evening with lots of unexpected actions, or better: ‘events’.

Also part of the plan: a historical exhibition with original works of art, with multiples from the FLUXSHOP in New York and a selection of beautiful printed matter designed by George Maciunas, Ben Vautier and other artists. Last but not least, photographs of the many concerts and actions of the heydays of Fluxus should also be included.

A catalogue was to be published after the FLUXUS FESTIVAL or even better: a very comprehensive overview with everything that had happened during that week in Enschede.

It was impossible to invite all the artists, composers, poets and filmmakers on our wish list. Still, those who couldn’t make it would be included in our very beautiful upcoming edition with a special contribution.

Willem de Ridder just had to be part of the festival. He was a Fluxus pioneer, founder of the legendary European Mail-Order House and long ago, together with Wim T. Schippers, initiator of some secret organisations, foundations, associations, institutes, societies, syndicates and companies. Of course, we would also invite the latter, plus Misha Mengelberg and Bob Lens who had contributed to several historical Fluxus concerts in 1964.

And which foreign celebrities should we invite? Dick Higgins, the American poet and composer, and the man behind the famous Something Else Press, would surely want to travel to Enschede. By asking a question (What did you mean exactly with ‘intermedia’?) he was ‘switched on’ for a lecture of at least one hour. To restore the balance, a troublemaker like Ben Vautier should be present too.

The Danish artist Eric Andersen was also always quite contrary. I remember that he once lent a mass produced lighter to the museum in Wiesbaden, but he wanted the object to be insured for a fifteen thousand euro. Andersen enjoyed such things.

Who else should be present? Without a doubt the poet and performer Ludwig Gosewitz: he was part of the first Fluxus event in Amsterdam held on the 5th of October 1962. From the nineteen sixties onwards Gosewitz meddled with astrology: we could ask him to draw up a horoscope for all the participants of the festival.

Takako Saito from Japan lived in Dusseldorf and was known for her special sets of chess. Her Liquor Chess would be just the thing for Enschede: it is played with small bottles with liquor on a somewhat wobbly wooden chessboard. Sometimes, the colour made clear whether the piece was a rook or a pawn, but you could only be sure after drinking from the bottle. By the way, Saito still doesn’t know how to play chess.

It was perfectly possible to organise several Fluxus concerts with pieces starring sheet music. There were composers who shot at such sheets (Dick Higgins) or set fire to them (La Monte Young). Giuseppe Chiari, the only Italian Fluxus representative, drew in black ink or coloured felt-tips on existing sheets. Sometimes, these new ‘compositions’ were performed, but most copies were framed and hanging on walls in the homes of collectors.

Chiari hardly ever left Florence, but a decent fee might entice him to travel to the Netherlands. (All participants of the festival received a fee of two thousand guilders maximum, excluding travel and accommodation expenses.)

The Czech happening pioneer Milan Knížák could not be left out. In the early nineteen sixties, he and his friends dressed in a kind of pre-punk style. I mentioned it in my book ART, NO-ART & ANTI-ART (2019), ‘Men wearing jackets decorated with safety pins, women wearing mismatched shoes, earrings made from everyday objects….’

Knížák could stay in Prague if he were just willing to send us some exiting designs. These could then be made at the academy’s fashion department. Moreover, this would be perfect material for the catalogue!

Last but not least, Wolf Vostell. Actually, he was more a Happening than a Fluxus man, but he was touring Germany with a so-called Fluxus Zug. His ‘Mobile Museum’, consisting of nine containers, had arrived in Gelsenkirchen, just over 100 kilometers from Enschede. Just imagine his face if we paid him a visit with a few hundred people!

After we had printed inspiring confidence stationery in June – with an AKI FLUXFEST logo – it was time to send out the invitations. Moreover, we asked everyone once involved with Fluxus for a special contribution to the catalogue.

To order this publication, click HERE

Harry Ruhé

1981 – AKI FLUXFEST – 2021

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