Flash Art International

Flash Art International. A review of the Fluxus Three Star Ala Carte evening at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Hens running loose in the gallery, clouds of flour being blown into the ether, people performing ballet whilst wearing mouse masks, fried £5 notes sprinkled with lemon juice for the diner to eat, people covering each other in nivea cream. Just some of the “meals” on the menu during the Fluxus Ala Carte at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Organised to coincide with the closure of the archival exhibition ‘The Dream of Fluxus’ which presented works from the Silverman Collection. The Fluxus Ala Carte aimed to show the extent and range of Fluxus instructions and events by well known Fluxus artists as well as a number of  local Fluxus inspired perfomances. Developed in collaboration with Knud Pedersen, the Fluxus Ala Carte at BALTIC was a reflux of the Fluxus Ala Carte performed in Copenhagen in the ‘Excellent 92’ festival. Whilst the ‘Excellent 92’ Ala Carte involved a number of Fluxus artists performing their own works, for BALTIC’s version the onus was on the diners and waiters (local artists and BALTIC gallery assistants) to perform each piece bringing a personal touch and understanding to each performance.

Presented as a restuarant, diners  were given 25 Robert Watts one dollar notes to spend on their meal, choosing an appetizer, plat de resistance and dessert from a specially curated menu. Including work by Alison Knowles, Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, George Maciunas, Emmett Williams, and Ben Vauiter amongst others, each person had the opportunity to interprete the work in their own way.

William de Ridder, the Amsterdam based Fluxus artist, acted as Maitre d’ for the evening presenting each diner with a task at the beginning of their meal to present or perform with another guest. From the second you entered the space you became part of a performance, an event, which involved performing yourself and watching your fellow diners as they presented their meal.

In one corner you could see George Brecht’s ‘Drip Music’, being performed by someone climbing a ladder and pouring water into a bucket with a microphone attached so the sound was heard throughout the space. Look somewhere else you would witness 3 people silently dancing around the gallery wearing mouse masks enacting Bengt af Klintbergs’ ‘The Blind Mice Ballet’, whilst someone else would be trying to put a number of hens back into their cage for part of Ben Vauiter’s ‘Hens’. Behind you someone would be climbing onto their chair following the instructions on a walkman (keeping to Fluxus tradition of using basic technology) Willem de Ridder’s ‘Do The Walk’ whilst their fellow diner would be throwing their chair on the floor for the same work.

Suddenly a crash would veberate around the space as building blocks which had been meticously placed on top of a grand piano crashed onto the floor as the lid was lifted, all part of Tomas Schmidt’s ‘Piano Piece #1’. Someone would be walking past you letting out a scream everytime thier feet touched the ground, and a waiter would be shouting across the room to de Ridder the next set of orders.

Fluxus Ala Carte could be seen as a chaotic mess, a vaudevillian humorous joke, but scratch underneath this and you would witness moments of seriousness, concentration and delicate contemplatitive nature as people played chess with Yoko Ono’s all white chess board ‘Play it by Trust’, gently polished a violin for George Brecht’s ‘Solo for Violin’ or studied and carressed a taxiderrmed bird by Sally Madge ‘Game Bird BALTIC Special’. Each of these quiet moments belied the chaos surrounding it allowing for calm amongst the chaos.

20 February 2009

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