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Fluxus: The Practice of Non-Duality

by Natasha Lushetich
Rodopi, Amsterdam, New York, 2014
274 pp., illus. Paper,
€ 62; eBook, € 56
ISBN: 978090-420-3851-6; ISBN:

Reviewed by Flutur Troshani
Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki

Natasha Lushetich makes a valuable attempt to understand systematically how Fluxus is preoccupied with structures of power/authority and its convolutions, capable of moving from simple acts of refusal to deeper and open contestations of hierarchies, institutionalisations and cultural sedimentations. Such a pinning down of the research scope benefits both the central argument and its intuitive dispositions. At various levels, in fact, this book structures itself around Fluxus’s urge to eradicate established dichotomies between content/form, subjective/objective, rational/corporeal, rituals/play and as a response sets to create alternative relational systems (21 - 22). In this sense, to fully understand the intellectual potential and pitfalls of its premise, Lushetich investigates Fluxus with regard to Derrida’s decentered play, Gramsci’s approach of the human as “processual,” and Zen-inspired interexpressive aesthetics (14, all italics from original text).

While a published version of her dissertation project calls for a stronger editorial hand and a more refined elaboration of the writing style, this book, nonetheless, traces a heuristic methodology for laying claims upon how Fluxus is both symptomatic and a product of the cultural paradigm that has perpetuated it. Underlying this argument is the practice of ‘non-duality’, interlaced here as a theoretical approach and explicated in seven chapters. The first, which technically accounts for the introduction, not only presents the volume’s structure and overall organization, but also proposes to move beyond a rigid disciplinary approach. In fact, Lushetich shifts her discussion from merely delineating some of Fluxus’s basic traits to opening up the scope of research towards more abstract categorizations related to its most distinguishing features: its “non-hierarchical heterogeneity,” categorical slippage, “its tendency to bricolage” and “its emphasis on performativity and interactivity” (10).

Once Lushetich anchors her project around these pivots, her argument benefits as she expands them into the subsequent chapters. In moving forward, though, the volume rehearses some of its methodological preoccupations. For example, the second chapter, on the one hand, indicates Lushetich’s dexterity with her topic, but, on the other, the course of reading is often suspended as she drifts from one concept to the next, thus raising technical questions which, at times, are either left unexplored fully or remain unacknowledged. Nonetheless, this chapter aligns Fluxus’s response to leveling the dichotomy of content/form in language by “exploding the ‘playing field’ of signification, by emphasizing the gameness as well as the pervasiveness of language and by harnessing the interpellative powers of language” (29).

Throughout the third chapter, Lushetich examines the practice of Fluxus with regard to the dichotomy of subjective/objective as bound to temporality. She transits from “the two world theory, derived from the notions of fixedness and reification in the world beyond” to how “Fluxus compositions, films and durational performances perform and thus produce time” (23). Despite its conceptual slippages and based on a speculative premise, Lushetich recognizes Fluxus’s dismantling of this dichotomy as a creative response to well-formed expectations about time/space relationality. From there, the principal concern of the fourth chapter is to read interexpressive aesthetics in a somewhat delimited sense. By drawing connections along the inter-aesthetic scales of the rational/corporeal, she marks out the human body as the locus of interplay and implies causalities through the idea of interconnectedness.

If the interexpressive aesthetic model is pressing here, then, what strikes most is the dominance of modes that indicate how Fluxus disrupts congruent systems of signification, as in social rites and pledges a full-fledged turn towards “a simultaneous multiplicity of realities” (chapter five, 183). There is, to be sure, a body of Fluxus works (Flux Wedding, Flux- Mass, Flux Funeral among others) that disrupts such dichotomy, but perhaps Lushetich’s argument would have gained if, at times, it did not reflect upon itself. In general, this chapter is complemented by the sixth one that examines the problem of value and sets to “demonstrate that the Fluxus systems of exchange operate within distinctly Gramscian frameworks” (25).

Chapter seven, “The Logic and Legacy of Fluxing,” serving as conclusion section to this book-length study, summarizes the theoretical frame, artistic practice, and legacy of Fluxus. In this sense, this book is valuable for anyone interested in praxis-bound theorizations of contemporary art. Each chapter is summarized in a “concluding thoughts” section, which intimates its controlling idea and makes sure that, on the whole, they do not drift away from the general framework. There is a preface, a list of illustrations, a useful index and a bibliography in this book.

Last Updated 29th August 2014

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