Fluxus & Commerce: Frieze Art Fair’s Tribute to “Flux-Labyrinth”


A plain plywood door was the mysterious entrance that fair-goers recently waited patiently for, at Frieze Art Fair’s reenactment of the original immersive environment conceived by Fluxus founder George Maciunas in 1975 (check out photos of the realized 1976 labyrinth here). Maciunas asked artists to contribute ideas for Flux-Labyrinth that created a series of obstacles and blockages that the participant would have to overcome to continue on in the maze. This version at Frieze brought together artworks old and new. Amidst the commercial spectacle of Frieze, Flux-Labyrinth offered a bodily, rather than visual, opportunity to experience art that was not for sale. Despite the menacing waiver, this project was popular enough to draw long lines of people both the Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17 that I visited.

Just what were some of these obstacles? Well….


First, one had to figure out how to open a door…not as straightforward as it sounds when the knob is altered on the other side…


Before long a professional gentleman offered you an absurd form that he promptly stamped and shredded (Amalia Pica’s A bureaucratic obstacle)….


There were some awkward steps (George Maciunas, Shoe Steps) …


As well as Foam Steps and Slipper Steps (also by Maciunas)…

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Then, there was a piano (Nam June Paik, Piano Activated Door). I played Chopsticks.


Large rubber bands followed by Ay-O’s Brush Obstacle


A ball pit (Ay-O, Balloon Obstacle), and here things were starting to get rowdy…


Lastly, there was a room full of strange machines, tubes, and sounds that opened onto…


This grinning gentleman and five others, clad in wigs, gold hotpants and plastic tubing, whom I had to brush past to exit the labyrinth.

John Bock’s Sweat Production No. 9a thus offered the fairgoer a particularly memorable experience that certainly counter-acted much of the passive viewing that is the typically fair experience. Consider the disjunction between the site of this Flux-Labyrinth and the words of Fluxus’s first manifesto of 1963, which read: “Purge the world of bourgeois sickness, ‘intellectual,’ professional and commercialized culture; Purge the world of dead art, imitation, artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art—PURGE THE WORLD OF ‘EUROPANISM!'” Playful and certainly not precious, this Frieze Project felt like a homeopathic remedy to the crush of commodity fetishism and fashion outside.


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