Their most famous member, Yoko Ono, influenced musicians as diverse as Diamanda Galas and the B-52s. They explored the possibilities of video art before MTV was even an idea. Fluxus, the name given to a loose collective of New York and European neo-Dadaists, was the most experimental and radical art movement of the 1950s and 60s. Their obsession with breaking down the boundaries between the various disciplines and shattering taboos made them an enormous influence on post-modern and Industrial culture, and on the pranksters who would come after them.

Fluxus artists sought to create art "events" which tested the limits of what we consider "music performance," "art exhibition," etc... and more importantly, sought to make audiences aware of these boundaries. In Ken Friedman's Stage Reversal, he went on stage naked and covered with paint, then washed, dressed, and left the stage: in his Orchestra, the entire orchestra played phonographs. Like avant-garde composer John Cage, mentor and spiritual forefather to many New York Fluxus members, there was a great fascination with Zen. The best Fluxus "events" were like koans intended to shock the audience out of their ruts.

Fluxus art events frequently took their confrontational message outside theaters and galleries and into to the street. In Nam June Paik's Atom Bomb Victim, two uniformed men wearing gas masks carry a stretcher through the street. On it is a woman, "half of the body prepared in a manner of cruel wounds and deformations, the other half in a sex-feast." In Paik's Moving Theater, fleets of cars and trucks drive into a crowded city during rush hour; at the appointed time, all drivers stop their cars, then, after locking up, walk away with the keys.

While Fluxus events could be shocking, Fluxus artists also had a keen sense of humor. George Maciunas, who coined the term, called Fluxus "... a fusion of Spike Jones, vaudeville, gag, children's games and Duchamp." Ay-O's Rainbow No. 1 for Orchestra featured soap bubbles blown from various wind instruments, while the conductor breaks the bubbles with his baton; in Rainbow No. 1 for Orchestra, Variation, the conductor breaks bubbles with a samurai sword. This levity and wit was later reflected among various pranksters — and would separate Fluxus from the drearily serious performance artists who came after them.

For more information view: Fluxus Homepage and Fluxlist FAQ.

Commentary by Kevin Filan, Thursday, July 2, 1998.