Progression of Art
Cut Piece puts the artist at the mercy of the audience: Ono invited the audience to cut away her clothing as she sat completely still and expressionless on stage. The interaction between artist and viewer is unequivocally intimate, as the viewer completely invades the personal space of the artist, literally cutting away the boundary between the self and the other. Control is literally in the hands of the audience member who holds the scissors, and the outcome of the piece changed each time it was performed. This particular piece likely influenced Marina Abramovic's Rhythm O, though Abramovic took this concept even further, presenting the audience with items to use on her body as they wished, including a knife and a loaded gun, which one audience member pointed at her head.
Optimistic Box #3 - So much the better if you can't play chess (you won't imitate Marcel Duchamp)
Optimistic Box #3 is an actual fold-up chess set similar to Dada readymades but in this instance the viewer is invited to interact with the artwork. In order to see the entire text, one has to open the box to continue reading. The interior verse is a tip of the hat to Marcel Duchamp, the artist who conceived the readymades. While this piece is an object and not a performance, it still incorporates the Fluxus ideals; nonsensical humor and a lack of boundary between the art and the viewer. The significance of this piece is in its insistence that the viewer interact with it, unlike traditional art objects in a museum context in which touching is forbidden.
Total Art Matchbox
The piece is a box of matches with "directions" printed on the cover stating, "USE THESE MATCHES TO DESTROY ALL ART - MUSEUMS ART LIBRARY'S - READY-MADES - POP-ART AND AS I BEN SIGNED EVERYTHING WORK OF ART - BURN - ANYTHING - KEEP LAST MATCH FOR THIS MATCH -" This piece literally proclaims the Fluxus belief in anti-art and is one of many "editions" manufactured. Often Fluxus artists would produce a large number of identical pieces to deliberately devalue the object. It can be assumed that many of these boxes were burned as per the instructions on the cover, the involvement of the viewer completing the piece.
Matchbox and matches
Zen for Film
Zen for Film is an example of another Fluxus medium. It is an eight-minute film showing nothing but a white screen with occasional scratches and graininess flickering across the viewers' field of vision. Even though it is a film, it follows the general consistency of Fluxus art, which is usually simple, ironic, and succinct. Just as Cage used silence as part of his musical compositions, Paik is using an absence of imagery as the work of art. It has a distinct Zen sensibility, as it encourages meditative interiority, as opposed to active involvement.
The sly directions for Patterson's Licking Piece state, "cover shapely female with whipped cream, lick, topping of chopped nuts and cherries is optional." As in Ono's Cut Piece, again the boundary between viewer and artwork is removed. Here the frisson of sexual tension is made nearly grotesquely apparent (the act of licking, the specifics that it be a "shapely female"). It is not the artist who is made vulnerable, it is his "shapely female" he puts in a fairly uncomfortable position. The piece was performed on several occasions, touching on the subjects of the erotic, objectification, and misogyny.
"Shapely female" and whipped cream
Make a Salad
In Make a Salad the participants are instructed to make a salad. The act of creation as the focus of the work, and the repetitive, nearly meditative actions of the participants, mark this piece as distinctly drawing from the more Zen-influenced aspects of Fluxus practice. The piece has a vital auditory component: the noise made by the chopping of vegetables and the rustling of lettuce leaves is to be considered as musical and beautiful as if one was listening to actual instruments performing a symphony, a notion coming directly from composer John Cage.
Vegetables, knives, bowls