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Fluxfilms 1962-2002

10 may, 2002 - 7 july, 2002 / Sabatini Building, Auditorium

Portrait of Nam June Paik, Fine Art Rafael Vostell. © Fabrizio Garghetti
Portrait of Nam June Paik, Fine Art Rafael Vostell. © Fabrizio Garghetti

Fluxfilms 1962-1992 is a programme of films, videos, conferences and concerts presented at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Fluxus festival in Wiesbaden, the epicentre of one of the movements that has determined the course of avant-garde – and especially conceptual – art in the second half of the 20th century. Fluxfilms uses image in movement to reflect on the radical movement founded by its charismatic and unique creator, Lithuanian-American George Maciunas (Kaunas, 1931 - Boston, 1978).

Fluxfilms (around 40 films, mostly black and white, commissioned, collected and often finished by Maciunas) arose in the 1960s during the ‘subversive explosion’ that shattered the cinematographic code. Often made up of empty frames or overexposed materials, these works must be seen as radical experiments with the medium and mechanisms of cinema. One example is Zen for Film (1962-1964) by Nam June Paik (Seoul, 1932 - Miami, 2006), a ‘cameraless’ film using a roll of clear or unprocessed film. Maciunas’ fascination with cinema and its history is apparent in those Fluxfilms that evoke a variety of cinematographic forms, from Walt Disney’s more popular spectacles and the comedies of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to the most avant-garde works, such as pieces by Ken Jacobs and Stan Vanderbeek.

However, without a doubt, the link between Maciunas’ cinephilia and Fluxus’ cultural projects lay in the popular roots of cinema and the central role of humour in both undertakings. Maciunas’ taste in humour seems to have been based, at least in part, on old film models. As with other 20th century anti-art movements, the incipient Fluxus network recognised that these forms of mass entertainment did not only contain the aggression that is endemic to all comic genres, but also an anti-social and anti-bourgeois sensibility that manifested itself in the physical humour, visual jokes, caricature and parody of the silent comedies.

Many of the films made under the Fluxfilms imprimatur can be seen as comedies that share the external parodic approach and internal reflective gaze of their more commercial predecessors. However, in the hands of Maciunas, the reflective side of silent comedy assumed a specific and even literal form, containing games of meaning that activated the parody on a material level rather than within a work of fiction.