On April 20, The Mary and Leigh Block Museum at Northwestern University presented a discussion and question-and-answer session with noted avant-garde artist, professor and influential Fluxus Movement member Geoffrey Hendricks and noted art historian/author David Getsy.
The eventin conjunction with the ongoing exhibit "A Feast of Astonishments," also at the museumlooked at the Fluxus Movement in the 1970s and how Hendricks, who came out at the start of that decade, expressed his new and evolving sexual identity through his art, which was unheard of at the time.
The Fluxus Movement began in the 1950s and embraced "anti-art," neo-Dada noise music, performance art, literature, urban planning and architecture through a series of large scale planned events known as "happenings." Along with artists such as Nam June Paik, John Cage, Charlotte Moorman, Yoko Ono, John Cale and many others, Hendricks created sculpture and performance pieces which commented on identity and the world at large.
Hendricks' performance piece "Fluxus-Divorce ( 1971 )" depicted his coming-out and divoce from fellow artist Nye Ffarrabas, and made an impact that still reverberates today. The piece features Hendricks sitting atop a mound of earth in a public space for a 12-hour meditation, symbolically depicting the end of one identity ( his heterosexual life ) and the beginning of a new one ( his true gay self ). Buried beneath the mound of earth were his marriage documents, which he and Ffarrabas sliced. The performance also included his wedding ring, but due to a disagreement within the Fluxus Movement, it was excluded at the premiere of the piece.
As the years went on Hendricks created an artistic history of performance and sculpture ( including his famous work involving cloud imagery ) with a focus on identity and reconstruction that made statements on his life as well as his identity. In collaboration with artist Steve Balkin and longtime companion Brian Buczak Hendricks created works that were infused with queerness and sexual identity at a time when these subjects were not openly accepted.
During the hourlong discussion with Getsy, several points were made about the influence of the Stonewall Riots ( June 28, 1969 ) and Andy Warhol's flourishing art scene embodied by The Factory. That the Stonewall incident and The Factory took place in New York City within a relatively short period of the Fluxus Movement seemed not to influence Hendricks or his work. When asked about these possible influences, Hendricks' response was that he was aware of them, but that they existed parallel to his work and the movement, as a whole.
After the dialogue, Hendricks was greeted by the children and relatives of some of his co-creators who have since passed away. Among those in attendance for this event was Keith Buchholz, the organizer and producer of the annual Flux Fest.
"A Feast of Astonishments" will continue at the Block Museum/Gallery ( 40 Arts Circle Drive on the Evanston Northwestern University campus ) until July 17. The upcoming Flux Fest Chicago is slated for May 26-29; visit DigitalSalon.com for more information regarding the festival.