FLUXLIST: REPOST: re: Zen and Fluxus
Wed, 18 Oct 2000 05:03:10 -0700
>From October 10th, 1999:
Today a small boy observed me through the window
at the bakery. When I said hello, he ran away.
It seems to me that this is not "art" but rather, my
experience was similar to the experience which
I had always believed was the aim of art.
A number of issues concerning aesthetics declare
the death of the innocent eye and take it for granted
that one cannot regain the innocent eye. The observation
of an object is always tainted by its relation to ones
own perceptions of previous objects and how they
relate. I disagree with this western concept.
One of the major essences of Zen is the return
to the "innocent eye." if we silence that top layer
of ego cream which buzzes with activity in the
forefront of our minds, if we are still and silent
long enough, we begin to hear through that
long romanticized (in western traditions) ego.
The connections buzz but soon slow, and we
become once again an innocent eye of pure
Now it seems to me that this initial stage of
enlightenment should be the goal of all
"creative activity." Quite frankly, the
presentation of something new ALWAYS
creates a stillness of ego and emphasis on
studied observation. Well, maybe not always.
Humans have a psychological tendency to box
chocolates rather than taste them. Humanity
has a subconscious urge to turn blobs of substances
into human faces; it stems from our initial
birthing instincts to differentiate mother from
father and parents from strangers. That's why so
many people see a face in the moon.
To me, then, revolutionary art must be aesthetically
varied from previous "art." In fact, I'm not sure
if looking to fit the idea of spirituality into art is
even remotely important; perhaps we should reject
our impulses to create a revolution in art and instead
focus on the concept of guerilla spirituality. The
__manufacturing of mystical experience.__
Working under the art umbrella to create revolutionary art
is like Che Guavera asking the Bolivian Government for
tanks. It should follow that, since revolutionary concepts
do not arise from art, rather, art from revolution, then I
think the best approach to "new art" is to ignore whether
it is art at all. The freedom we then possess is extraordinary.
How then do we manufacture mystical experiences? And is it
Well, according to "Zen and The Brain," a fine book by James
Austin, which was published by MIT Press this year (which I
found courtesy of Max Herman) the answer is as simple as
meeting any of these criteria:
1. A feeling of deep and profound peace.
2. A certainty that all things would work out for the good.
3. A sense of ones own need to contribute to others.
4. A conviction that love is at the center of everything.
5. A sense of Joy and laughter.
This, I admit, is the shallow end of the insight spectrum.
There is a deeper end which follows these insights:
1. emotional intensity
2. an increase in understanding and knowledge.
3. a sense of unity and ones own part in it.
4. a sense of new life or of seeing the world in a new way.
5. confidence in personal survival (an after effect, it notes,
as mystical experiences make one forget the self)
6. ineffability (the inability to describe what had occurred)
7. the sense that all the universe is alive
It also says, quite importantly:
1. a sense of paradox, or that opposites coincide.
2. unusual emotional combinations; such as ecstatic joy
and serenity, or love and sadness, etc.
Now of course the role of the artist since god knows when
has been to try to capture the "glory of god," now in an
age where the glory of god is in fact little more, to most
people, than the glory of physics, beauty, or coincidence....
that is to say, we live in a predominantly atheistic age,
regardless of what one thinks about religion. The world
has little concern for deities anymore, and is looking in
a great number of other places for the experiences that
religion once accounted for.
So as artists in the late 90's- (I say artist, forgetting for
a moment that we are not out to create art anymore but
experiences, but hell, artist is a lot easier.) - we have
the challenge of creating that experience through our own
actions. The above are not to be seen as the only manner
of which to make "art" or experiences...(in fact, I will use
"experiences" from now on.) but as a blueprint for an ideal
final product. It was once said that any reaction from an
is the essence of an artistic work, which in my opinion has led
to a duel between artists to outshock each other, and has taken
art down a very long funnel into a sewer. Now, I believe
we should strive for these criteria as an "essence" of our
Is it ethical?
I am curious myself concerning whether the idea of
creating experiences which affect people in a manner
similar to mystical experiences is ethical. If it does not
presume and subvert the natural occurrences of these
In my opinion, any mystical experience is essentially
the same. The insights gained from these experiences
are not ours to define. We are not molding dogma,
we are breaking it. We are providing an opportunity
for insight, not the insight itself.
Is it possible?
I came about this idea after Ken Friedman of Fluxus fame
asked for a short description of several pieces of Fluxus
work that I had enjoyed:
A year later, send a postcard reading, "Gesundheit!"
Say hello to every pretty girl you meet.
If she replies with a smile, you get a point.
The one with the most points wins.
"Ice Cream Piece"
Performer buys an ice cream cone and then
(a) eats it, or
(b) gives it to a stranger, or
(c) waits until it melts completely, then eats the cone, or
(d) on finishing the piece, buys another ice cream cone.
Albert M. Fine
(and I quote from my letter to fluxlist:)
To me, the distinctions are evident; these pieces rely on an
individual who can perform the piece as art at any time.
They do not require an audience. They are a shifting of
the focus and attention we give to art; only changed
to give focus and attention to the "mundane." Some are
charming, simple gestures designed to make life worth
smiling about. It is the act of becoming aware, and
appreciative, of the beauty of the every day. They read
like spiritual excersizes. Like haiku. They de-emphasize
the academic, the gallery structure, the "artist." They say
that a match being lit and going out is as beautiful as any
Rimbaud. It is also, because of its purity and statement,
and inherent connection to all walks of life, "revolutionary."
Unfortunately, the idea of Fluxus has been tainted by egocentric
gluttons and Nam June Paik. Well, its not Nam Junes Fault,
but he introduced or exemplifies the shift of fluxus from simple,
independant-of-art gestures to the emphasis on gallery
and even Maciunas, Fluxus founder, decided on the importance
of the "artifact."
The lack of artifact is why I believe we should ignore "art."
We are creating only experience, a shift of the everyday,
__even if it is through the artifact.__ The emphasis is on
the experience by the viewer of the artifact.
I'm interested in the idea that spiritual experiences are a
derivation of panic; the brain faces its own mortality and
can no longer make sense of the world it has constructed
for itself and so experiences things without the safety net
of denial. The difference between Jesus and a Schizophrenic
was only that the spiritual experience is different from panic,
in that the spiritual experience comes with a realization that
without such constructs we are all quite well off anyway- and
panic comes when we are hurtling from a plane towards earth
at terminal velocity or are about to be hit by a bus.
Art is merely an expression of shit. Artists derive from anal
expulsive personalities; the joy of painting descends from the
pleasure of the attention parents gave you when you first learned
to poop properly. That's Freudian anyway, and I count myself
the shit hurlers of the world whom are called artists in polite
But to make art anything more than the hurtling of fecal matter,
have to have the aspiration to hurl our shit to heaven until it
Otherwise comes a shit rain of canvas and pages filled only with
the incessant ramblings and smearings of the ostracized and
Let us then see how to create experience without art, even if art
is a necessary requirement. It is not merely performance but a
studied lifestyle, the dedication to creativity in every avenue
life. It is to embrace act over artifact. In this we could call
ourselves "actists," which I meant as a joke but now, looking at
it typed, has the very serious ring of revolution to it. It is
a principle of conversion but rather, a process of self
that reaches across multiple borders and sciences.
"Fuck art, lets rock," they once said, to which, 10 years later,
said, "Fuck rock, lets art," and now we will say, "Fuck Fucking
rocking, let's GOD."
Peace out motherfuckers,
October 10th, 1999