February 3, 2003
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College presents Flux-Mass by George Maciunas, a re-enactment of an historic 1970 secular performance piece, on Sunday, Feb. 16 at 4:30 p.m. in Johnson Chapel. This event is directed by Fluxus artist Geoffrey Hendricks (Class of 1953), professor emeritus at Mason Gross School of Art at Rutgers University, in conjunction with the exhibition CRITICAL MASS: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia, and Rutgers University 1958-1972, on view at the Mead Art Museum. A reception following the performance will celebrate the exhibition and special event.
Amherst's Flux-Mass extends the original version, first presented at Rutgers University, as a memorial to Fluxus artists who have died in the last thirty years. It will include original performers, Yoshi Wada and Larry Miller, noted performance artist Carolee Schneemann and students from Rutgers, Amherst College and Hampshire College.
The original 1970 Flux-Mass, an improvisational "happening," grew out of the pedagogical experiments of artists-teachers at Rutgers University in the '60s, who strove to develop new ways of working with students in a participatory manner to create and to experience avant-garde multidisciplinary art. The event has been described as a "ritual readymade," referring to Marcel Duchamp's use of everyday objects as art and also relates to Dada cabaret performances. George Maciunas researched the liturgy and traditions of the Catholic mass in order to develop humorous interpretations. The premise of such performance art, with its emphasis on the body of the artist and multi-sensory experience, resonated with the structure and symbolism of the mass. The Flux-Mass differs from traditions such as the Mardi Gras Carnival and medieval passion plays in that it was a secular performance by people identifying themselves as students and artists.
After its original 1970 performance at Rutgers, Flux-Mass generated controversy: the priest's assistants wore gorilla costumes, the sacramental wine was in a plasma bag, the Lord's Prayer was said in a dozen languages simultaneously, and antiphonal "chanting" included the sounds of barking dogs and locomotives. Although some clergy, administrators and state legislators protested to Rutgers, Hendricks and his colleagues were protected by the recent free-speech mandate of the university that ended an era of McCarthyism on campus. Thus, Flux-Mass represents not only a major work by Maciunas, but also a landmark in experiential education and a demonstration of academic freedom.
The original performance of Flux-Mass is documented by period photographs and costumes in the Mead Art Museum exhibition, guest curated by Geoffrey Hendricks. This exhibit also includes paintings, drawings, texts, performance scores, installations, videos and photographs by the Rutgers group associated with the innovative Fluxus movement. The exhibition, starting with Allan Kaprow's first Happening in 1958, presents works by Geoffrey Hendricks, Bob Whitman, Lucas Samaras, Roy Lichtenstein, George Brecht and Bob Watts, as well as the extended circle of Fluxus artists such as Al Hansen, Ray Johnson, Carolee Schneemann, Yoko Ono, Rafael Ortiz, Hermann Nitsch, and Milan Knizak. These new developments in art occurred amidst the student strikes, Vietnam War demonstrations, the civil rights marches, the rising feminist movement, the formation of the Rutgers Homophile League, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. Cries to rethink attitudes about race, sex, gender, and war parallel these radical shifts in art yielding Pop Art, performance art and multi-media installation art.
Amherst's presentation of Flux-Mass is co-sponsored by the Fine Arts Department, Theater and Dance Department, and Women's and Gender Studies Department with support of the Amherst Arts Series made possible by a generous anonymous donor to Amherst College.
Seating is limited. Call 413/542-2335 for free ticket reservations, available in the museum lobby until 4 p.m., Feb. 16.For further information about the exhibition and related events, call the Mead Art Museum at 413/542-2235 or visit the Web site, www.amherst.edu/mead. The exhibition and special programs are fee and open to the public.