Monday, December 08, 2008

George Brecht

Sad news comes: the artist George Brecht has died, at the age of 82, in Cologne.   His name is probably associated by most with that of the Fluxus scene*, and while his works, both objects and performances, are among the strongest of that association field,  they had their own distinct origins and took a path of admirably independent consequence.  There are two pieces of writing by Brecht that were valuable to me: his 1957 essay, Chance-Imagery, some parts of which are slightly off, but still... and the set of notebooks which begin with the most thorough documentation available of John Cage's course in experimental music at The New School in 1958. _____

*I've long had in mind writing something about Fluxus, but my impressions were fairly negative; under Maciunas's leadership it seemed too commercially-oriented and uncomfortably competitive with when not hostile to the work of others (Charlotte Moorman, for example).  Not to mention the whole Fluxus collectors' scene, an ugly affair, it seems.  Recently, however, a chance viewing of an episode of the current  television series Mad Men, set in a Madison Ave. advertising agency in the early 1960's, has been a trigger for some revision in my thinking about this, especially the character played by Robert Morse, a small role, but one that puts a twist onto an homage of his role in the 1960's musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. In Mad Men, Morse is now the older boss (the Rudy Vallee role in How to Succeed...) instead of the ambitious youth in the mail room. In this episode, he is heard to recommend reading Ayn Rand to a young employee.  Here's the connection: Maciunas was a Randite objectivist and the Fluxus artist provided Maciunas with objects to sell. You read it here first.

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