Few will know it so I will mention here that my on-line nom de plume Paghat the Ratgirl was the name I adapted when I became part of the lingering fluxus movement, sending out crappy mail art objects sometimes to perfect strangers as early as 1972, in the spirit of "senders receive" getting back equally bad (& occasionally shockingly good) artworks through the mail.
I'm glad to be part of a few permanent collections around the world, but I'm aware that when it comes to visual arts, I stink. But then, that's the very soul of fluxus, & I must almost daily fight the urge to move into fluxus movies so that I can call art what is essnetially assinine & incompetent. There are enough people past & present filling the very real need for the assinine & incompetent, & I must keep reminding myself to try for something a mite more coherent.
Paul Sherits was an early fluxus artist at the center of rise of the so-called fluxus-flicker, flux films, or strobe films. His earliest fluxus flicker was Wintercourse (1962), a university project which he thought was destroyed, but a copy surfaced in the 1980s. Like many of the New American Films of this avant garde moment, the film makes no sense.
It is a collage of swift images rendered blurry like Monet, a dog, some people, flowers, a city scape, a construction crane, all in such rapid passing motion that it's hard for what they are to register until the same images recycle from slightly different angles & slowly sink in what each moment of footage has captured.
At one long point in the film we're watching flickering images off a television set, doubling the nature of the "flicker," & then its back to the "real" world of disorienting strobes of image.
It's on the one hand this is a dumb bad film, but on the other hand, with the proviso that the artist himself didn't take it seriously enough to intentionally preserve it, it's an okay rough sketch.
At a scad over nine minutes, it does get dull before it's over, but in the main it's good that it survived as an example of the experimentality rebellious naifs were pursing in '60s, the quest for chaos out of order, of ripping a few strident fuck yous out of the pomposity of the art scene.
Perhaps less so today, but in the 1980s the fluxus filmmakers of 1960s became a veritable film school craze, an inspiration to many who I'm afraid to say were impressed mostly by the fact that they could do that too, & so junked up the avant garde with their lousier imitations of the lousy.
Just about anyone in a film class at that time would be exposed to the likes of Sharits & any number of New York bohemian filmmakers, no matter how good, bad, or indifferent, as it was a "movement" & therefore open to lionization.
If it didn't look like art to most people, then screw them. It was the age where producing endless numbers of silkscreens of soup cans was the epitome of anti-art, & everyone had to be an anti-artist or they were just a bunch of old hats, rebellion needing always to go along with a crowd.
But a modern viewer doesn't have to be that kind of rube pretending to be sophisticated in order to enjoy these silly old piffles. I can get from Sharits' films something akin to what I get from an enjoyably bad cartoon. One big idea of fluxus art was anyone can do, & if something like Sharits' Flux 28: Wrist Trick (1965) would be awfully hard to duplicate exactly, it's method could be copied endlessly with great ease, & so has been.
It's one of his flicker-films with images passing so swiftly you can't see what they are. And when you slow it down or stop it frame by frame, you still can't tell what much of it is, because the ultimate joke is that it isn't anything. We do get the clear impressions of hands grasping, grasping at the nothings that speed by in a joke on us all.
Fluxus 29: Word Movie (1966) is another speeding flicker film of passing words: worm, cow, move, green, hole, feed & so on, way too fast to read, not that the words have any order of meaning. But they play with the mind's desire to make sense of words.
Fluxus Unnumbered: Unrolling Event (1965) in less than thirty seconds is a simple potty reference, delighting in its own childishness. Sears Catalog (1965) is an even shorter glimpse at pages of a catalog, completely pointless & glad to be so. And Sharits' most accessible piffle is Dots 1 & 2 (1965), further swiftly passing images, this time of grids of dots & begging no meaning whatsoever.
Many other pseudo-filmmakers made fluxus films in the 60s & early 70s as part of a semi-coherent movement of conscious frauds. Fluxus artists regarded themselves the inheritors of Dadaism, & promoted the idea that anything posing as art becomes art.
To the youtube generation with cellphones & digital cameras that can take minute-films in a jiffy, imitatiosn of fluxus films are an increasing cinch to make with no talent whatsover. And if tracing over the awful works of originators can be considered taking fluxus to new levels of phoniness, then hooray, fluxus lives.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl