YOLO, a bachelor thesis 2020
With this research I am inviting you to a journey through one’s speculations.
Life is a constant movement, where moments are taken by other moments. In this cycle, creation becomes a tool for capturing these ephemeral glimpses. Most of the time we tend to forget to reflect, to remember these precise moments as experiences we once had. We take those moments for granted - perhaps it is in our nature to be ungrateful. I believe it is a natural human condition - to never feel fulfilled, constantly seek for something new. Perpetual restlessness. A consistency in life or an appreciation of a constant chaos? Something in between losing one’s mind and allowing imagination to flow freely. Is it a constant contradiction between change and stillness. Recently I have stumbled upon certain definitions of words that had allowed me to briefly digest a constant swing between contradictions of my own being.
I have found comfort within these words.
This particular research began with anguish of attempting to grasp a notion of one’s struggle for answers. In some cases it had brought me to the depths of absurdity, later it evolved into questions of existential phenomenons and at the very end I was struck by the established rules of society. I turned to history attempting to find comfort with similar minded revolutionaries keeping in mind the notion of history being an unexperienced past. Later realising all of what was written were speculations of historians, philosophers, critics and anthropologists. Each holding their own belief and explanation on a certain change, each telling their own story allowing me to reflect on myself.
In the end I found comfort in the avant-garde divisionism. I found myself sympathising with romantic notions upon the world. I discovered a language of poetry being an expression in dealing with human communicational conditionings. I have decided to dive into experiencing living as it is- this was brought up to me through comprehension of Fluxus.
Imagination, Insanity, and The Separated Artist
My research begins with the desire to comprehend the image of the outsider figure. The reason for this is obviously the stereotyped image of the artist, but also the image of the madman. On March 11th this year I invited a person. He, as identified by himself, took on a route in pursuing a bohemian lifestyle. For me, he was a man who personified the outcast. A slight disillusionment with reality, through him I allowed myself to fall into an unexplored miscellaneous world. I invited him for a dialogue, an interview, which according to my preconceived plan had to manifest itself in some sort of an artwork. But the project went on. It escalated from me being an attentive observer to completely befriending an outcast. While romanticizing his unique understanding of the world I have exposed myself to a stream of imaginative forces that I shared with my subject. During the period of approximately 40 days, while being in a perpetual connection with this persona, I found myself creating works based purely on romantic conceptions. There was a need to disagree with societal constructs and psychological theories that positioned the outcast as the radical other, thus restricting the imaginative forces. A constant rush of new experiences made me aware of a feeling of unsettledness, which later reminded me of Jean Jack Rousseau’s theory of the child figure. Although the works produced during this particular period were coming from my convergence with a person I was with, some crucial understandings were made visible only later. One of the things I came to realize was that outcasts with a romantic view of the world, such as my subject, up to this day are invisible dwellers, experiencing different forms of displacement. But the individuality of my subject also invited a sense of awareness of my own being. Ultimately, through an established friendship with an outcast - my research began.
The human condition is in a constant flux, in a perpetual transformation. In society, ideologies arise as counterpoints to specific events - wars, pandemics, technological or scientific developments. Each happening brings with it a certain turmoil in the human psyche - inviting questions, creating a space for contemplation or in some other way displacing the individual from its habituated perception. The drive to exchange our views and our shared condition, leads us to form particular groups with our peers and co-thinkers. A movement starts. These individuals gather around a table seeking to find a middle ground for the understanding of the human condition. Later they declare an ideology. They write down their current beliefs and reflections on society.
Why do we do these certain actions - seeking for others and expressing our own beliefs? Perhaps all we are doing is simply looking for belonging, a sense of community.
History taught us of the many separations between cultures, traditions, languages, beliefs, stylse, political structures, education etc. This separation partially derives from humans themselves, as well as their placement in the world, which raises two questions - how we, ourselves, create it and how our placement affects us? To partially grasp certain turmoils within our history, first, let’s find the beginning point where this division might have unfolded.
The division I am particularly interested in is in between the beliefs of certain individuals and societies established judgments of those particular thoughts.
To begin understanding separateness requires understanding what is meant by the word individual. This specific use of the term appeared in the times of Romanticism. Fed up with the rational ideals held by the Enlightenment thinkers, the romantics had turned to the discovering of the self. As society was transitioning towards vast industrialization leading to urbanization and consumerism, the self experienced being neglected by society. An antithesis for this was found in the innocence of the child, which Jean Jack Rousseau mentioned in his book Emile or on Education. Rousseau proposes that the values of freedom, spontaneity and innocence should be central for humans to remain true to oneself. On this same topic, Oscar Wilde, in a book The soul of man in socialism argues that art has the biggest power in developing romantic individualism - an open-mindedness, with strong potential for a change in human civilization. Wilde investigated romanticism, showcasing the artistic persona as the one standing against the development of machinery. Later in the book, Wilde specifies a crucial point on how individualism operates within society, stating that what an individual is truly seeking, is simply a disturbance of monotony, tyranny of habit, and a reduction of man being perceived as a machine. The need to find a place for oneself within society as an individual becomes a key point in the romantic movement. Instead of aiming to fit, the romantics declared a revolt for self-independence. This led artists, poets and writers to reflect upon their own selves within their own times, separate beings within their individual conditions. Thus using one’s imagination became a highly regarded tool in creating works of art. The technique of mimesis was condemned as being too artificial. Such romantic ideals were taken as something disconnected from society. Thus, terms such as Bohemian, outlaw, poète maudit or émigré began to be used in defining the romantics. This led to the creation of the stereotype of an artist as a misunderstood figure, alienated from society.
This misunderstood persona appeared as a threat to society - an individual who was openly exposing one’s metaphysical considerations of existence. German art historian Edgar Wind writes that “it is essential to the well-being of a society that the whole should be less mad than the parts” (Wind, 1960), emphasising the inevitable seclusion of certain groups of individuals. The need to expose one's conditions became an act of childish revoltedness against everything that was already established. Or, conversely, a desperate shout in searching for others experiencing similar conditions - a child trying to use a fork to eat soup. This raises a question, how wide one’s creativity may flow outside the borders of established rationality beliefs?
In the lectures given on Art and Anarchy (1960), Edgar Wind discusses imagination as a power with great mysteries. However, he also argues that allowing one’s imagination to run wildly, might lead to getting destroyed by its excess. Wind draws a parallel to what Plato considered to be the divine madness. Plato believed that only an individual free from the constructs of society, who no longer possesses any duties, is able to produce divine works of art, thus praising a certain form of madness as a possibility for an expression of one’s creative forces. This leads to another question - why unleashed imagination is so closely related to madness?
Perhaps the answer lies within the alienation between the public and the individual who has given in to the mysteries of imagination. Michael Foucault, in his book Madness and Civilization draws a correlation between insanity and creativity, which also finds its expression in the arts. Let’s take the example of Francisco Goya's etch The sleep of reason produces monsters (1799) where the artist showcases a man, believed to be Goya himself, asleep at a drawing table, being haunted by mysterious creatures. On the etch there is a Spanish caption - “Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and source of their wonders.” Goya sympathized with the idea that unleashed imagination could allow one to transcend perception, nevertheless, leading one to misrepresent reality. Submerging into one’s own imagined reality requires one to voluntarily step out of the already given one. This stepping out is the link between madness and imagination and is the reason for the social misrepresentation which creates unnecessary isolation.
Perhaps this is the reason why creative forces hold such a power over individuals and society as a whole. E. Wind in discussing Hegel, states that in the times of horrific disintegration artistic energies manifest in order for the stream of imagination to flow. This showcases the importance of societal disruption which creates a space for a child to shout out his needs and beliefs. The shout becomes a means to express the unfairness of forced isolation. At the same time it becomes a manifestation of one’s individuality in a multiplicity of miscellaneous worlds.
This particular connection between despotism, alienation and creative force can be reviewed through Albert Camus’ writing on metaphysics in The Rebel. He states that the act of rebellion represents the search of the individual for unity. Camus’ metaphysical subject is thus an exiled individual whose inevitabile conditions also include revolt. Therefore, the disruptiveness of society finds its ground in accepting the inevitability of human unconditional revolt. In the need to find a positioning in certain conditions an individual seeks for a space. Camus relates this to art -“Artistic creation is a demand for unity and a rejection of the world (198p., The Rebel)”. Thus a revolt which derives from the alienation of an individual finds its shelter within acceptance of inevitability. The question arises where and in which form it settles?
The case of voluntary exodus; or defining Avant-Garde
“The artist reconstructs the world to his plan” (Camus, 200)
Moving away from romanticism and into the 20th century we can observe a shifting approach concerning the position of the outcast in society - from societal alienation to a voluntary resignation - a total abolition of establishments. By this we shall call out another stream - Avant-Garde, which will allow us to understand the notions of separateness, the metaphysical need for unity and the role of creativity deeper.
Let me clarify myself, I am not interested in analysing the artworks of Avant-Garde artists, but rather investigating the fluctuating experiences of living and approaching life through the Avant-Garde lens and its consequential ideology.
The word “avant-garde” itself derives from the military dictionary, denoting soldiers who were ‘out in front’ in order to report the conditions on the front line. I could also compare the avant-garde to the second world war japanese kamikaze soldiers, who voluntarily initiated suicide attacks in order to protect their countries and its ideologies. From this perspective the emphasis is placed on the need to seek beyond. As if the conditioned individual is in search of his own land and for it is willing to sacrifice himself. Renato Poggioli in the book The Theory of Avant-Garde (1968) identified the movement of Avant-Garde as “the anxious search for new and virgin forms” (Poggioli, 57). From this new detached perspective there were no borders limiting Avant-Gardes’ stance on reality. Thus, all sorts of fresh ideologies were able to sprout from certain groups of individuals - forming their own inner circles in order to reflect upon the human condition. Meanwhile, a form of declaration, better known as a manifesto, was introduced to the followers of the avant-garde way of living.
The original concept of a manifesto was first introduced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who launched the Comunist Manifesto in which they described their political stances on social structures. What particularly draws attention, is the fact that the propositions given by K. Marx and F. Engels stood for preliminary the same ideas as those of the avant-gardist - a need to annihilate separateness. The segregation that the Comunist Manifesto approached was observed through the lens of social classes, while in the case of Avant-Garde we shall approach it through the perspective of the individual’s alienation caused by its partially voluntary exodus from society. Thus, the form of the manifesto allowed individuals to collectively declare their frustrations. Fillipo Tommaso Marinetti wrote the Futurist manifesto, within which he stressed out the notion of perpetual change, therefore highlighting the rejection of the past and bringing the focus to the present time. In this way the Futurists increasingly emphasised the modern man, who’s journey hand in hand with technology later led to a preposterous glorification of war - “We will glorify war - the world’s only hygiene” (Futurist Manifesto).
Futurism is closely linked to Fascism because of its pro-military and anti-female notions. What particularly catches attention is the original stand point of Marinetti’s manifesto - an attempt for a new world order where one is willing to sacrifice oneself in the name of ideology. Quoting the manifesto itself - “...beautiful ideas worth dying for...”. Thus, the ideology of japanese soldiers manifests itself in the principles laid out in the Futurist manifesto. Similarly, the notion of antagonism, an embedded desire for opposition, plays a central role in the development of the Avant-Garde way of thinking. This showcases how the demand for antagonistic unity and a wish to reach similar minded individuals, has led to the expressions of one’s rebelliousness in the format of a manifesto. Concluding, another question arises, what was meant by the abolition of the past within the ideology of the Avant-Garde?
In order to understand the concept of the present moment we shall remember what E. Wind underlined when defining the connection between collective societal upheavals and creative forces. This particular connection unfolds through the movement of the Avant-Garde named Dada bringing us back to the notion of the constantly fluctuating human existence. Dada is known as the most infantilistic movement, due to its use of nonsense, intuition, absurdity and playfulness. Perhaps, however, Dada unconsciously has something else to state. The deeper roots of dadaism can be associated with nihilism. The primal Nietzschean idea of God being dead leads to the individual being left only with the present moment. In a sense, the absence of universal truth, which for centuries was seen as a transcendence into something greater, smashes the individual with what is left, so to say, the here-and-now. In order to elaborate, the state of society during the times of Dadaism must be taken into account. The tremendous tragedies of the First World War had struck dada thinkers with only one option - to submerge into a contemplation and exclamation of what is presently happening - wiping out the past and with no proposition for the future.
A. Camus writes - “...rebellion hinges on everything that aims at falsely replacing the vanished deity and reflects dishonour on a world which undoubtedly has no direction but which remains the only proving-ground...” (Camus,41). The concept of the present moment manifests itself through the comprehension of the inevitable unknown. Abolishing the past and without clear future propositions an individual is left with uncertainty. In the case of Dada, this leads one to take a position of absurdity, thus supporting infantilism. The founder of Dadaism Tristan Tzara states in the manifesto - “Dada does not mean anything”, which then reinforces the nihilistic approach and simultaneously stresses out the infinite possibilities of what could be acted out in the present moment. By removing the responsibility from itself, Dada invites the individual to strip away from the pressures of a predefined understanding of the past. An individual with no construction of the past and no plan for the future is thus free to create.
Why was it important to call out specific Avant-Garde movements and their ideologies within this specific research? So far we have stumbled upon certain universal human conditions - rebelliousness, which was compared to the child figure, as well as imagination and its possible ways of manifesting through an individual. Concerning the modern avant-gardes, the interaffection between society and the individual was brought up, thus exemplifying the shift from the alienated romantic self to a self that decides to become separated, while accepting certain inevitabilities as part of the human condition.
On November 25th of last year I moved houses. It was not a regular move from one apartment to another, rather it was a movement from a three room apartment to a former 20th century hospital which was taken over in the beginning of 70s’ as an act of rebellion against housing issues. The building is home for over 250 people, each one of whom is responsible for maintaining the well-being of the building. An inner child searching for a same-minded community has found a harbour for a moment. The people inhabiting the building have taught me how to live in the present moment, how to cherish when you have everything or nothing at all. Living amongst anonymous artists, rebels, outcasts, musicians, philosophers, writers, astronomers, teachers, lunatics, farmers, historians, sailors, grandpas and grandmas, former punks, contemporary hippies and all other possible manifestations of individuality, invited a feeling of modern avant-garde nostalgia. There floats an unwritten rule - every one is allowed to be their true selves. The moment I settled in, I was greatly welcomed. Entering as an observer, but following the desire for curiosity, I ended up in activities that presented to me what could be meant by experiencing moments. One night, by chance I hopped into a van of one of the residents of the building, who brought me to some food waste containers. He opened one of the containers and shortly explained to me how to distinguish which food can be collected. In that precise moment I had experienced a surge of excitement, which was followed by disappointment towards society and finally exploded through the spirit of creativity. I took out my camera and began documenting the action. The project later evolved into a series of documentations called Skipping. In the end, despite the instrumentality of documentation and the perks of having a fridge full of food, I came to some more revelatory realizations. The action for me was not about seizuring wasted food or extracting some sort of an art work, it was about that specific glimpse of the moment and the specific combination of experiences which went through my being. While I was not alone in this choice, that exact night I voluntarily accepted becoming an outlaw of society. I began to share time with the residents of the building, mutually celebrating each arriving moment. The gatherings in the main area where some would play live music. The rooftop where different thoughts were shared. Someone’s room where comfort for each other was granted.
Klaudija, how could this peculiar way of living be connected to the concept of being present, as expressed in the Avant-Garde theories?
Quite frankly, the connection is the acceptance of the here-and-now, the need to disobey the structures imposed by society and the wish to celebrate living. Perhaps, occasionally reflecting through artistic lenses.
The need for finding this lens has led me to the notion of conversation between I and the other, which found its format in a dialogue. Thus within the need to grasp the experience of experience, language stepped in as a means to share the experience between I and the other. However, we could also claim that language alters the way we experience things. Martin Heidegger has described language as a means of connecting to the other as well as to the self, which he claimed to be of significant importance in understanding the act of being in this world.
The case of Poetics; or the search to make a dialogue
While investigating language, another word steps in - a poetic language.
The case of poetics plays a role in allowing us to understand how an everyday communicational tool - language gets its balance between imaginative forces and rational reasoning.
When considering language as an instrument it is crucial to see how differently it is being approached in poetics. To emphasise the difference in the use of language I will investigate Michael Oakeshott’s The Voice of Poetry in The Conversation of Mankind, where Oakeshott gives a rather peculiar approach towards poetics. First, he clarifies what a conversation means, stating that each voice is a reflection of a human activity (491p.). Oakeshott distinguishes four types of speech - a voice of practical activity, a voice of science, a voice of history and a voice of poetry. The voice of practical activity, which derives from symbolic language, is believed to be the most universal voice in the human kind. This voice leads to a desire for symbolic language and rationality, which Oaekeshott argues is achieved through the imitation of other selves. Thus, the voice of practical activity is inauthentic, leading humans, as Oakeshott states, to boredom caused by constant repetition. Although there is no true way of escaping symbolic language, Oakeshott brings an emphasis on contemplation, which he identifies with the voice of poetry. By the means of poetry, a voice finds its authenticity since it does not derive neither from an already constructed image, nor from previously established facts. The voice of poetry becomes an immediate touch. To better comprehend this notion, Oakeshott compares poetic activity to the activity of creating by the drive of imagining. For example, fictional characters of writers are created where they no longer belong to the world of practical time nor space. Our desires to comprehend are overtaken by contemplating wonder. Poetic imagining creates a sphere where inquiries of other voices loses its power and for a moment allows one to escape constructed realities of agreed symbolic signals. It provides a sphere to create novel notions. As Oakeshott puts it - “a poet does not do these things: first experience or observe or recollect an emotion, then contemplate it, and finally seek a means expressing the results of his contemplation : he does one thing only, he imagines poetically” (Oakeshott, 525) This formulation, of the immediacy of the poetics experiences is vital in understanding how the voice of poetry coordinates everyday life. The poetic experience becomes an activity where one’s contemplative imagining is invited. Thus, no longer there’s a need for following other voices and instead one is able to create an authentic voice of its own.
How important is the voice of poetry in our society?
The voice of poetry allows one to speak in one’s own manner. Compared to the voice of practical activity, the voice of poetry appears only when one is freed from the constructs of others. Accordingly, poetic activity can be compared to aesthetic experience because of its capacity for creating autonomous character. Thus, the activity of creating falls into the category of the poetic voice.
To showcase how the poetic voice gets its meaning in art, we will analyse works of George Brecht and Alison Knowles who both use poetic language in creating instruction cards. Both artists are coming from the Fluxus movement whose artistic practice focuses on the encounters of the everyday. George Brecht has built his works based on scores, where cards would hold specific instructions for a spectator to act out. With this technique Brecht experimented with perceptual capacities while using the simplest approach - language play. For example, a card of water showcased three steps of water stream ( coming from ; staying ; going to ) symbolising, so to say, an immediate touch with perception. Brecht gives another way of contemplating water while dismantling the normative ways of perceiving, allowing the spectator to use imagination for experiencing another kind of perception. By creating a poetic imaginary image, Brecht strips down the perception of the everyday and creates a space for contemplating one’s experiencing of one’s own surroundings. In a way Brecht questions the voice of practical activity - he takes into consideration what is perceived as a natural phenomena of water flow and with an authentic voice invites the viewer to one more time contemplate the water flow of our imagination.
Alison Knowles created scores in which she gave a rather absurdist approach to the mundane use of language. Conversation (1962) was an instruction card in which the artist invites the audience to perform their own injury as an invitation and sole focus of a conversation with a stranger. At first glance, one might wonder why one even needs instruction on how to start a conversation, unless a conversation is perceived as a play. This conversation-as-play is used by Knowles to showcase how the most common everyday communication act - a conversation, can be approached from a totally different angle. The instruction suggests to put on a bandage as a conversation starter. The receiver of a communication act will never know if the injury took place. The conversation is thus invited to wonder. It is not positioned in facts or already preconceived conversational rules. The voice of Knowles becomes an example of how poetic imagination creates a space for another to contemplate.
Why does it become important to recognize the differences between these voices and their usage? By exploring these different voices within M. Oakeshott theories, we are able to draw a parallel to the experience of separateness. There is a gap between the voice of practical activity and the voice of poetry, both fluctuating within society. The poetic voice offers a place for contemplating the breaking down of predeterminate structures, thus creating certain bewilderments within symbolic establishments. Thus, when one embodies an authentic voice one unintentionally resigns from preconceived structures, from the practical voice. Accordingly, when one accepts the voice of poetry, one is able to create free from constructs.
In the book Poetry, Language, Thought Martin Heidegger supports the notion of poetic language as the ultimately pure spoken language that every one of us has in possession. Heidegger insists that there is a need to return to poetics in order to escape rational attempts of understanding reality. Acknowledging the power the voice of poetry has over an individual allows that same individual to enhance one's own vision of the world.
Acknowledging the inevitabilities of the human condition; acceptance
As we have seen, certain ideological or voluntary separations between individuals leads humans to incessantly change and shift, pushing them to either adapt to or abandon particular societal conditions. Manifestations of individuality allow one to contemplate, reflect, accept and create. Awareness is brought up as a tool for acknowledging the finite relationships between the different activities. The endless progress of humans in the world brings in the realization that for every action there is an equivalent reaction, whilst any cause necessary results in a certain effect. Whether it is the effect of alienation or of voluntary separation - in recognizing it, one is able to position oneself amongst the causes, as if in order to move forward one has to awake its inner rebel and empower its own voice.
Perhaps, for one to move forward one has to submit to the presence?
A Case for Experience and Living
Futurism and Dada supported my first baby steps. Fluxus has shown me a world where a certain degree of voluntary separation from society is possible, bringing awareness to the present moment. Dick Higgins writes - “Fluxus is not : a moment in history or an art movement. Fluxus is: a way of doing things, a tradition, and a way of life and death” (Higgins,1997). Etymologically, the word fluxus comes from the latin fluere, to flow, which also refers to the constant change within the lived experience of the individual. Fluxus brought into attention the mundane, the everyday, the present, and has shown how the present moment can be more holistically embraced, experienced and observed.
Fluxus expressed emphasis on the present; in philosophy such emphasis can be observed in the tradition of phenomenology, which takes as its starting point the experience of the embodied subject. While researching my own awareness of experiencing the present and the mundane, I have stumbled upon Martin Heiddeger’s notion of being thrown (ger.: geworfen) into the world. In the book Being and Time (1927) Heidegger formulates the notion of being thrown as a means of understanding our being’s temporality. Thus, the process of being thrown should be taken as an action which orientates an individual into a range of possibilities within the spectrum of being-in-the-world. It directs an individual to acknowledge the present as a temporal structure, since as Heidegger states - being thrown in the world has already happened. A suggestion is made to act upon one’s own seeking for what truly matters. In relation to the fluxus attitude, the notion of possibilities becomes a key point in overcoming this thrownness into the world, since possibilities suggest techniques for emphasising the temporality and simultaneity exalted by the present moment.
Thus, what particularly interests me is the notion of chance, which allows one to experience infinite ways of manifesting being’s presence within the confines of temporality. John Cage created a chance method through which he was searching for new means of expressing the infinite possibilities for expression one has. This way Cage emphasized the process of chance in all life activities. The metaphysical reach for wholeness, which Cage compared to nature is expressed through the intentional nature of human experience. From the human perspective, nature has no pre-set intentions, while humans are able to create structures as a means to sort out this metaphysical feeling of being thrown. By fully submitting to effects of chance, Caged highlighted the more natural dimensions of expression, thus overcoming the conception of pre based formulas in the expression of human being. Cage was developing his notion of chance through an investigation of Eastern philosophies, specifically in teachings of Zen. In Zen Buddhist philosophy, the world is seen as an intertwined relationship between constant flux and chance. Thus the relationship between Cage’s chance method and the Zen philosophy, gave a foundation for an artistic process grounded and embodied within the ordinary, drawing an emphasis on the everyday encounters.
In January 2020, the notion of chance had brought me to destroying my own project. I gave myself a possibility to experience what it is to let life be decided by the flip of a coin. Cage claimed that the chance method allows for a space free from intentionality and invites a closer connection with our pre-intentional nature. While living according to the decisions made by a coin, I have discovered a few peculiarities present within the chance method. To begin with, having no possibility to choose in any immediate sense, did leave me with a number of undefinable unintentional outcomes. Nevertheless, choosing which decisions should be made by chance allowed me to still nurture some sorts of intentions. Thus, even though I left some decisions for chance, I had power in deciding which decisions I shall give to the consideration of the coin. This made me question how much chance actually played a role, and how much freedom from my own intentions I had. To challenge this questioning, on January 31st, while developing an extensive project, I flipped a coin for deciding whether the project should be destroyed. The coin said yes. Thus, I have destroyed what was already developed within the project. In retrospect, this experience has given me a realization that one’s own intentions can challenge oneself, an awareness that one’s own intentional stance upon the infinite possibilities can manifest its existence in the world.
Our intentional stance towards realizing and understanding the experience of being thrown in the world brings us to Heidegger’s concepts of dwelling and building. We could say that the comprehension of being thrown becomes an essence of being, thus dwelling becomes a means for delivering meaning to our existential thrownness in-the-world. Through the concepts of dwelling and building we will be able to illuminate our rebelliousness that is seeking unity and desires to belong. To dwell, according to Heidegger, is to accept the conditions of the unknown, which each mortal carries while thinking linearly about the concept of time. The lack of clarity in life invites one to dwell, to seek for meaningful space. In this case, the notion of space has a different connotation - what Heidegger identifies as the primal oneness. Deriving from his understanding of being-in-the-world, space becomes the world which unfolds through the fourfold - through beings' relation with earth, the sky, divinities and mortals. Accordingly, the way a being is able to cope within the fourfold, reveals the embeddedness of being in the fluctuation of the world. The notion of building steps in, representing the connection between being in an act of dwelling in a search for a momentary position. Heidegger stresses out the connection between these definitions by arguing that in order to dwell one must build. To understand what could be meant by the term build Heidegger gives an example of a bridge. The pivotal task of the bridge, he argues, becomes a gathering of separate components, in this way bringing the fourfold together - allowing mortals to dwell in between the things. Thus, a bridge plays a role in connecting being with another being, as well as being and the space in-between. The concept of building allows us to unveil the metaphysical need of humans to come together and share each other's dwelling. An instance of this can be observed in Fluxus, which exemplifies how dwelling is in a perpetual state of building.
Instead of building bridges, Fluxus made an island. The founder of the Fluxus movement, George (Jurgis) Maciunas, developed an international system for Fluxus to mediate and reach out for individuals from all kinds of places and backgrounds of the world.
Jonas Mekas in his diary I Seem To Live wrote- “I seem to enjoy only brief glimpses of intimacy, happiness. <...> I do not believe they could be extended, prolonged. So I keep moving, ahead, looking ahead for other moments”. The awareness Jonas Mekas shares with readers gives a certain sense of relief in settling within a glimpse of one’s condition of existence. As Mekas states, the diary showcases his attempt to regain a lost paradise. Acknowledging the displacement caused by societal turmoils he had found a safe harbour in embodying his existential being through the lens of a camera - as if for a brief moment attempting to catch his own dwelling in the world. In the ‘homemade’ movie As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I saw Brief Glimpses Of Beauty Mekas has built a five-hour ecstatic journey through the joys of daily living. The Fluxian approach towards chance manifests itself in the assemblage of the video material, guided by intuition rather than intention. Mekas uses a machine to mediate between memory and the paradise of his epiphanic moments. Through filming he is able to preserve and celebrate the present moment. This way, his film has no clear narrative, there is no beginning nor an ending, everything happens simultaneously, at the same time. He reconfigures the temporality of events while openly questioning himself : “I am not so sure what I am doing. It’s all chance…”. Although this might look as a confusion of one's existence, Jonas Mekas showcases it as one of the conditions of being a human, inviting us to accept the beauty of the unknown. Occasionally addressing the viewer as a friend, Mekas creates a place for one to feel welcome on his journey. Although, soberly, works of J.Mekas were only concerned with living, it allowed the viewer to notice the unseen beauty of life. Thus, even if we are only watching somebody else's life narrative, we still have an ability to identify with it. Consequently, creativity becomes a manifestation of life, and maybe more importantly - a tool to deal with our everyday existential conditions.
In the text Freedom? Nothingness? Time? Fluxus and the Laboratory of Ideas, one of the Fluxus members, Ken Friedman, writes how each individual who joins Fluxus is coming from different social groups, environments and career occupations. He mentions Daniel Spoerri, a ballet dancer, Dick Higgins, a typographer, George Maciunas, an architect and Henry Flynt, a mathematician. Each of these individuals carried with them the notion of experiencing life in itself. Friedman rejected the idea of calling any action art and chose to highlight the experience of life and its senses. To quote Friedman himself - “I never did become a minister. Instead, I pursued a daily life.” What particularly draws attention is the fact that the coming together of individuals from a wide range of social activities exemplifies the shared need for belongingness to a certain community. Thus, in Fluxus, a wish to exclamate life in itself is the primal force uniting the individuals. Awareness is brought to the fresh perspective of the everyday.
While searching for my own lost or perhaps yet undiscovered paradise I have made the decision to refer to my process not as a creative activity but as an occupation with experience itself. This comfort for the reinterpretation of my creative process was supported by Fluxusattitude. This particular notion derives from Dick Higgins theoretical writings on the Fluxus essentials, in which he also argues on the ability of creativity to flow through any matter, defining it as intermedia. While the concept of intermedia allowed Higgins to merge different art mediums, I would like to propose a broader spectrum of what intermedia could incorporate. If we consider the definition of fluxus as constant flow, Higgins intermedia would be the means of highlighting the process rather than the end means. In a way, that combination of any mediums gave space to experimentation within otherwise established borders. Whilst erasing any preconceptions of what an artwork should be, Higgins based this way of thinking in an attempt to present life itself as a work of art. In an essay on intermedia, Higgins talks about his fellow friend Allan Kaprow, whose happenings merged with everyday activities. Although the term was used to describe a new form of emerging art, the original philosophy behind happenings showcases a simple approach towards the gatherings of similar minded individuals. While seeking ways to bring forward the experience of the present moment, Kaprow succeeded in completely blurring the line between institutional definitions of art and life. The purpose of a happening became the experimentation and the play between individuals - therefore inviting the spectator to become a creator as well. Happenings and the related notion of intermedia, has thus brought attention to the importance of community as a foundational force for creativity. The creative process thus became distributed amongst people and different media, which exemplifies the importance of the process of making and sharing, rather than the final ends.
This particular understanding of the intertwined dimensions of the creative process brings me back to what A. Camus stressed in the book The Rebel, stating that “according to the revolutionary interpreters of the phenomenology there will be no art in reconciled society. Beauty will be lived and no longer imagined” (Camus, 199). From this statement of Camus, a question rises - could it be that Fluxus had reached the total abandonment of separateness of art as some quasi-religious figure in the world ? I believe it did. George (Jurgis) Maciunas was occupied with drawing diagrams and seeking to find answers to the same historical questions that guided me in this thesis. Meanwhile, Dick Higgins introduced a tool for blending artistic practice in a combination of all sorts of possible mediums for expression. Finally, Allan Kaprow has declared the elimination of the line between art and life. In his critical book “After the End of Art”, Arthur Danto summarizes these certain actions by stating that art after a process of self-realization took on a route towards criticality. Thus, this same awareness of experience of the everyday brings an understanding that art, as a phenomena, is a form of dwelling, present within each being. Art can no longer be separated as a subject but rather should be accepted as a way to experience life in itself. Be it in the opening up of new perceptions, in the blending definitions, or the unleashing of imagination, perhaps in the creation of ideologies, or celebrations of life - within all of these actions the spirit of creativity flows.
Avant-Garde (n.). (n.d.). Retrieved from
Camus, A. (2013). The Rebel. Penguin classics.
Cottington, D. (2013). The avant-garde a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Danchev, A. (2011). 100 Artists manifestos: from the futurists to the stuckists. London: Penguin Books.
Danto, A. C., & Goehr, L. (2014). After the end of art: contemporary art and the pale of history. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Dewy, J. (1980). Art As Experience . New York, NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Friedman, K. (2012). Freedom? Nothingness? Time? Fluxus and the Laboratory of Ideas. Theory, Culture & Society, 29(7-8), 372–398. doi: 10.1177/0263276412465440
Groĭs Boris, & Bach, M. (2016). Particular cases. Berlin: Sternberg Press.
Heidegger, M. (1971). Poetry, Language, Thought. Translations and introd. by Albert Hofstadter. New York: Harper & Row.
Heidegger, M. (2010). Being and time: a translation of Sein und Zeit. (J. Stambaugh, Trans.). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Higgins, D., & Higgins, H. (2001). Intermedia. Leonardo, 34(1), 49–54. doi: 10.1162/002409401300052514
Higgins, H. (2003). Fluxus experience. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Hunton, Christopher (2010) Falling for the Insane Artist: A Look at Foucault's Madness and Civilization, ESSAI: Vol. 8, Article 20. Available at:
Jonas Mekas: As I was moving Ahead Occasionally I saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty. (n.d.).
Kaprow, A., & Kelley, J. (2003). Essays on the blurring of art and life. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Maciunas, G., Fietzek, G., & Schmidt-Burkhardt, A. (2011). Maciunas Learning Machines: from art history to a chronology of fluxus. Wien: Springer.
Maciunas, G. (n.d.). Fluxus. Happenings And Other Acts, 94. doi: 10.4324/9780203204344_chapter_8
Mekas, J. (2019). I Seem To Live: the New York diaries 1950-1969, Vol. 1. Leipzig, Germany: Spector Books.
Poggioli, R. (1981). The Theory Of The Avant-Garde: Transl. from the Italian by Gerald Fitzgerald. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Pr.
Podoksik, E. (2002). The Voice of Poetry in the Thought of Michael Oakeshott. Journal of the History of Ideas, 63(4), 717–733. doi: 10.1353/jhi.2003.0010
Pollio, H. R., Henley, T. B., & Thompson, C. J. (2006). The phenomenology of everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, O. F. (1991). George Maciunas and a history of Fluxus ; or, the art movement that never existed.
Wheeler, M. (2011, October 12). Martin Heidegger. Retrieved from
Wilde, O. (1997, August 10).
Wind, E. (1960, December). The Reith Lectures : Art and Anarchy. The Reith Lectures : Art and Anarchy. Oxford.