Truth vis-à-vis Fiction

Emmett Williams for Steffi Weismann, February 2007

Truth vis-à-vis fiction. You can unearth fiction in the strangest places. Example: look up FLUXUS in the formidable New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought. You'll learns that this "Latin word of flux was a "short-lived" movement christened in Wiesbaden 1962 that expired not a half dozen years later. Short lived? Won't Steffi Weismann and Die Gruppe Maulwerker be surprised? Because they believe that this radical movement with live and lively works by George Maciunas ("father of Fluxus"), George Brecht, Philip Corner, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, Nam June Paik, Benjamin Patterson, Dieter Schnebel, Wolf Vostell, La Monte Young and Emmett Williams grew up to become the longest-living art movement of the 20th Century, and still very much alive internationally in the 21st (thanks to far-seeing and open minded historians, curators, collectors, and, I must add, multitalented artists like Steffi Weismann and her fellow Maulwerker colleagues.

While most Fluxus artefacts from the early years are now high and dry in museums and private collections, it is thanks to Die Maulwerker that Fluxus performances -- the real achievement of the Fluxus movement -- are still very much alive -- despite the demise of so many Fluxus and Fluxist pioneers. The list is long and varied: Joseph Beuys, John Cage, Robert Filliou, Al Hansen, Joe Jones, Allan Kaprow, Addi Köpcke, Jackson Mac Low, Nam June Paik, Tomas Schmit, Wolf Vostell, Robert Watts. Wow! What a repertory. What a heritage to keep alive.

Most of the living Fluxus pioneers are still very enthusiastic about what we did in the good old days, but, to put it mildly, and to tell the truth, when we get together and reunions and anniversaries ours on-stage antics are not as exciting as they used to be. Me too? Yes, me too. Remember, I have the temporary honor of being the oldest living OLFART - OriginaL Fluxus ARTist. What helps me in particular to stay in the performance limelight (although there is no such phrase in the Fluxus vocabulary) is the fact that Die Maulwerker adopted me as a kind of mascot some years back. What a pleasure for me to work - and sometimes play - with these multitalents. And performing with them proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Or try to!

When I first saw Steffi perform my "Song of Uncertain Length" (1960) in Spain - "the performer, with a bottle or glass balanced on his head, walks or runs about the stage singing or speaking until the bottle falls off" - I was not only spellbound but dumbfounded. She recited, she sang, she walked, she danced, she teased the audience, she threatened them on and on and on! This classic Fluxus piece was never performed that well. I'll try in my next life.

I'm sorry I wasn't on hand in 1989 during a two-day festival "Fluxus Musik um 1960" at the Hochschule der Künste, directed by the composer Dieter Schnebel, during which Steffi and Gisburg Smialch performed my “Son of man Trio”, or, “Try and Stop Me”. First performed in Paris a quarter of a century ago, with Lette Eisenhauer trying to stop me reading aloud from Francois Mauriac's "Son of Man". Gisburg attempted to read from Kant's “Critique of Pure Reason” while Steffi attempted tried to drown out Kant with the following props: a saw, a sieve, a sack of flower, 9 Reclam paper back classics, earmuffs, electrical cord, full hot water bottle, a flashlight. Old-time in Berlin who saw this no-holds-barred performance raved about it. I doubt if anyone is still raving about how I performed the piece in Paris in 1963. Vive la Weismann!