Fluxus Movement

Fluxus Movement – Discover the Avant-Garde Fluxus Movement

What is Fluxus? Take a trip with us back to the 1960s and discover the experimental and ground-breaking art movement known as the avant-garde Fluxus movement. This unique movement was founded by a group of artists from all corners of the globe who sought to redefine the importance of art beyond the visual aesthetic and toward the artistic process. In this article, we will explore the Fluxus movement that shook the world as well as its pioneering artists and some of the most impactful Fluxus artworks of the late 20th century.



An Introduction to the Fluxus Art Movement

Many may be unfamiliar with the founding of one of the most impactful 20th-century art movements of all time, the Fluxus movement. This movement was founded on the activities and “happenings” led by a group of interdisciplinary artists, including designers, poets, composers, and individuals specializing in innovative art forms such as video art.

The basis of the Fluxus movement was to disrupt the notion that art could only be appreciated through its aesthetic value and was therefore re-introduced in the 1960s and 1970s with a new perspective that focused on the artistic process of artworks as opposed to the final product.

It is of no debate that the process behind the making of an artwork is inherently critical to the output but some may still disagree with the idea of the Fluxus movement as placing itself somewhat superior to that of “making art for art’s sake”. The Fluxus movement was highly experimental and, in a way, refreshing.

Fluxus ArtGeorge Maciunas’ Fluxus Manifesto, copies of which were thrown into the audience at the Festum Fluxorum Fluxus, Düsseldorf, February 1963; fluxus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This is perhaps the only art movement in art history that did not hyper-fixate on a particular way of executing artworks and was instead open to the possibilities of how processes of art production can be reimagined. The introduction of intermedia approaches was at the forefront of the Fluxus movement, accompanied by performative artwork, video installations, and other art forms reinvented as an experience of experimentality.


Popular Artists in the Avant-Garde Fluxus Movement

Artists from all around the world joined the Fluxus movement and were seen as a large collective made up of multidisciplinary artists whose communal approach to experimenting with art-making processes, produced some of the most profound artworks of the 20th and 21st centuries. Listed below are a few of the most famous Fluxus artists from the movement whose contributions not only encompass the essence of Fluxus but also extend the genre of intermedia artwork.


Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986)

Artist NameJoseph Heinrich Beuys
Date of Birth 12 May 1921
Date of Death 23 January 1986
Nationality German
Medium Performance, painting, sculpture, visual art theory

Another co-founder of the Fluxus movement was German performance artist Joseph Beuys who was a key character in the establishment of artistic/performative events known as “happenings”. Beuys was most famous for his ideas around Humanism, the spiritualist movement Anthroposophy, and Socialism, which formed the foundation of his work.

Beuys’ intention around his work was also based on creating artwork that would transform politics and society.

One of the most influential life events that impacted the artist’s career and life was set in the 1940s when Beuys served in Crimea as an active member of various bomber units. In 1944, Beuys was involved in a plane crash close to the Crimean Front. This incident left a strong imprint on the artist and he fashioned the belief that he was rescued by a group of Tatar tribesmen who nursed him back to good health by covering his body in animal fat.

Artist in the Avant Garde Fluxus MovementOffset poster for US lecture-series Energy Plan for the Western Man (1974) by Joseph Beuys, organized by Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York; Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Later on in his career, Beuys adopted the approach of making art and living life through shamanic influences and established his identity as an artist in line with the role of a shaman. Beuys sought to re-align his artistic process in light of emotion and spirituality, which were becoming scarce in his time.

Beuys identified his performances as a healing practice driven by shamanic practices and as a psychoanalytic approach to presenting art. Fluxus provided just the right platform for Beuys to explore his ideas.


George Brecht (1926 – 2008)

Artist NameGeorge Ellis MacDiarmid
Date of Birth 27 August 1926
Date of Death 5 December 2008
Nationality American
Medium Participatory art, conceptual art, Avant-Garde composition

George Brecht was a popular artist in the avant-garde Fluxus movement who was most famous for his event scores and his multidisciplinary roles as a chemist, avant-garde composer, and conceptual artist. Brecht is credited with being one of the pioneers of participatory art, which engages the viewer as a primary participant in the artwork, thus involving the viewer in the final realization of the artwork or performance.

Drip Music (1962) is one of Brecht’s most famous event scores, which is considered one of the major contributing factors to the onset of conceptual art.

Event scores are defined as the integration of simple gestures and objects from everyday life into performance art. Event scores refer to texts that detail instructive actions or proposals in the context of a performance. The significance of event scores in the Fluxus movement was an important aspect of performance and thus aided in the expansion of alternative thinking around what conceptual art was.


George Maciunas (1931 – 1978)

Artist NameGeorge Maciunas
Date of Birth 8 November 1931
Date of Death 9 May 1978
Nationality Lithuanian
Medium Architecture, graphic design, performance, sculpture, mail art, installation, music

This famous Lithuanian-American artist is regarded as the founding father of the Fluxus movement who also created the first manifesto, which outlined the foundations of the movement itself. George Maciunas was the primary organizer of many early happening events. Maciunas was deeply fascinated with art history since his period of art studies in the United States and even created his art history chart.

In 1966, Maciunas published three versions capturing Avant-Garde history, which included an introduction to Fluxus, originally described as Neo-Dada.

Fluxus ArtistGeorge Maciunas on a 2016 stamp of Lithuania; Public Limited Company Lietuvos Pastas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Fluxus movement was described by Kristine Stiles, a Duke University professor, as a movement that was aimed at global Humanism, executed by breaking down the boundaries of artistic media, political, and cultural norms. This movement would blur the lines of culture as it already began with the previous movements of Futurism and Dadaism.

The Fluxus Manifesto was created by Maciunas in 1963 and described flux as a state of flow and a purging of the bourgeois culture and professional approach to norms in the art world, fuelled by commercialism, illusionistic art, abstract art, and imitation. 

The movement was further described as a tide that promoted non-art realities, anti-art, and art that could be understood and appreciated by all people and not just the art critics and professionals of the industry. Maciunas’ ideas sparked an influx of artists across the world who not only agreed with the terms of the manifesto but also solidified the societal and cultural revolution inherent in the Fluxus movement manifesto.


Nam June Paik (1932 – 2006)

Artist NameNam June Paik
Date of Birth 20 July 1932
Date of Death 29 January 2006
Nationality South Korean
Medium Performance, sculpture, installation, video art

Nam June Paik was a famous artist in the avant-garde Fluxus movement who is celebrated as an icon in the introduction of video art to the movement and as an important medium in the broader context of art. Nam June Paik was incredibly significant to the movement in an age of increasing technology and the use of the computer in art.

The American-Korean artist founded the term “electronic super highway” while describing his view on the future of telecommunication.

What Is FluxusPaik Nam June (left) and Isang Yun (right) in 1959; 김언호, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Like many early Fluxus artists, Paik was influenced by the productions of John Cage and first exhibited in 1963 in a show titled Exposition of Music-Electronic Television. Here, Paik presented scattered televisions and used magnets to alter the image of the screen.

Paik also shocked the audience when he played a Chopin piece as part of a performance and then threw his body on the piano.

He also dove into the audience and “attacked” Cage and another pianist by pouring shampoo on their heads and hacking their clothes with scissors. This was to be the beginning of Paik’s introspection into the Fluxus movement and pushing the boundaries of performance, discomfort, technology, and communication.


Alison Knowles (1933 – Present)

Artist NameAlison Knowles
Date of Birth 29 April 1933
Date of DeathN/A
Nationality American
Medium Performance, printmaking

American artist and Fluxus founder, Alison Knowles, is one of the most influential Fluxus movement artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. Knowles collaborated with artists such as Marcel Duchamp and John Cage during the 1960s and was one of the leading artists of the New York art scene.

Knowles’ artistic practice was unique in the experimental world of Fluxus since her process incorporated textile, aural, and visual elements.

Knowles was also the first artist to create the first computer-generated poem called The House of Dust, which was a digital poem created in partnership with the composer, James Tenney. In 1963, Knowles was also invited by Maciunas to create a book object called Bean Rolls, which consisted of an unconventionally-formatted book made up of multiple paper scrolls.

The book was performative since the viewer could pick up any scroll in any order and draw their conclusion, thus each viewer would be reading a different book.

The scrolls contained found texts derived from songs, advertisements, scientific texts, recipes, and cartoons and the performance would be staged with various participants in the form of stage readings. Talk about innovation and creativity!


Dick Higgins (1938 – 1998)

Artist NameDick Higgins
Date of Birth 15 March 1938
Date of Death 25 October 1998
Nationality British
Medium Printmaking, poetry, composing

Dick Higgins was the co-founder of the Fluxus movement alongside Maciunas as well as an art theorist, artist, and inventor of the word “intermedia”. Higgins was inspired by the music theorist and composer John Milton Cage Jr. who promoted unconventional uses of musical instruments and inspired Higgins to pursue his passion for electronic correspondence. Higgins attended private boarding schools in England in addition to Yale University and the Manhattan School of Printing.

In 1962, Higgins took part in the first Fluxus happening in Wiesbaden, Germany alongside Alison Knowles.

Higgins then founded the Something Else Press a year later, which published the first few texts on the first Fluxus performances in a series called the Great Bear Pamphlets. The mid-1960s saw Higgins and Knowles incorporate the use of computers as an art-making device and the duo generated the first “computer-generated literary texts”. Among these top artists of the Fluxus movement were other artists such as Al Hansen, Yoko Ono, Addi Køpcke, Joseph Byrd, Terry Riley, Emmett Williams, Alice Hutchins, and Shigeko Kubota who also produced profound Fluxus-inspired artworks.



Famous Fluxus Artworks From the 20th Century

Open to all and any forms of interpretation, Fluxus art was approached with an open book for many performance artists and was not defined by any particular style. The first Fluxus event was held in 1961 at the New York AG Gallery and continued to spread across Europe. Below, we have compiled some of the best Fluxus artworks from across the 20th century that have impacted the genres of performance, installation, and video art.


Make a Salad (1962) by Alison Knowles

Artist NameAlison Knowles (1933 – Present)
Date 1962
Medium Performance
Where It Is HousedICA Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Make a Salad is an interactive performance artwork by Alison Knowles that focuses on the repetitive actions of its participants while evoking a meditative state in the act of making a salad. This instructional performance highlights one of the approaches of performance art during the Fluxus movement that offered a Zen approach to thinking around engagement, viewer participation, and the concept of “affect”.

Part of the effect of the performance is the auditory nature of the interactions made clear by the chopping sounds from vegetables, which are regarded as melodic and almost seen through the lens of a John Cage composition.

The instructional performance was also featured in the Great Bear Pamphlet series published in 1965. Knowles’ debuted her performance at the ICA Gallery in London, which involved her preparing a salad and chopping in unison with the sound of the live music that accompanied the piece. She then tossed the salad in the air and served it to the audience.

Since then, Make a Salad has been performed across the globe.


Grapefruit (1964) by Yoko Ono

Artist NameYoko Ono (1933 – Present)
Date 1964
Medium Artists’ book with offset print
Dimensions (cm)Pages: 13.8 x 13.8, and overall (closed): 13.8 x 13.8 x 3.2
Where It Is HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, United States

This unconventional-looking artists book by Fluxus multimedia artist Yoko Ono is one of the most famous early Fluxus artworks of the 20th century. The book was published by Wunternaum Press in Tokyo in 1964 and is also one of the earliest conceptual artworks of the 1960s.

Ono introduced the reduction in the physicality of artwork by including numerous event scores in the book.

The title of the book, Grapefruit, was rooted in Ono’s belief that the grapefruit was a hybrid fruit of the lemon and the orange and was the physical manifestation of her spiritual hybrid body. The book is thus a series of performative instructions through event scores that the viewer can either choose to follow or reject. The autonomy of choice and engagement with art lies with the viewer and is divided into five chapters: music, event, painting, poetry, and object.

Grapefruit was originally sold for $3 and after its publication, for $6.


Zen for Film (1964 – 1965) by Nam June Paik

Artist NameNam June Paik (1932 – 2006)
Date 1964 – 1965
Medium 16 mm film leader (silent)
Duration (minutes)20
Where It Is HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, United States

This Fluxus film artwork by American-Korean artist Nam June Paik is a work that speaks toward maintaining awareness in a space that lacks awareness itself. The film contains 20 minutes of no imagery and leaves the viewer with an empty, grainy image of the dust that settled on the physical film. The simplicity and presentation of lack, which is unexpected if one is viewing a film, is a classic Fluxus artwork that encourages meditation and active involvement on the viewer’s behalf.

Paik was also influenced by John Cage who leveraged silence in his compositions and similarly, Paik employs space and film as mediums of meditation.


Cut Piece (1964 – 1966) by Yoko Ono

Artist NameYoko Ono (1933 – Present)
Date 1964 – 1966
Medium Performance
Where It Is HousedDebuted in Kyoto, Japan

This incredibly famous performance piece from the Fluxus movement remains one of the most profound artworks from the 1960s. Cut Piece was a performance by Yoko Ono in 1964 in Kyoto, Japan, where Ono sat on a stage and invited the audience to cut out pieces of fabric from her clothing. Each person would take a turn cutting off the fabric from her suit and the audience’s reactions varied.

Some people chose to boldly cut off large portions of her clothing while some hesitated upon making the selection or decision.

Throughout the performance, Ono remained calm and still, observing the participants as they approached her and made contact with her body. In Ono’s recollection of her performance, she states that she gets into a trance state so that she does not get frightened and by giving the audience a purpose, she was able to observe the selections made by her audience.

Ono further stated that the experience was “beautiful poetry”.

Each person would also go on to keep the cut piece of fabric as a memory of the performance. This interesting performance allowed viewers to engage in the experience, which also reiterated the concept of the artwork. Cut Piece was also the performative realization of a score she created earlier.


Optimistic Box #3 (1969) by Robert Filliou

Artist Name Robert Filliou (1926 – 1987)
Date 1969
Medium Wood box with two printed labels
Dimensions (cm)6.5 x 12 x 2.8
Where It Is HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, United States

Optimistic Box #3 is a readymade, interactive artwork by Robert Filiou, a famous French filmmaker and Fluxus artist. The sculpture is a fold-up chess box, which invites the engagement of the viewer by opening up the box to reveal the full text.

The text on the inside referenced Marcel Duchamp as a nod to his introduction of the sculptural ready-made.

The readymade interactive sculpture presents an artwork that negates all boundaries between the viewer and the artwork, which was unconventional yet a common characteristic of art during the Fluxus movement. Most artworks in the Contemporary age still maintain the distance between the viewer and the artwork and interacting with a physical artwork such as a sculpture or painting is still somewhat forbidden in most institutions.

The end of the Fluxus movement was marked by the passing of George Maciunas around 1978.

However, the movement’s impact on the modern and Contemporary art world left a reverberating impression on many performance, street, and land artists of the 21st century, including artists such as Banksy. Upon Maciunas’ death, Geoffrey Hendricks organized a Flux funeral, which involved several performances by different artists as per Maciunas’ will. The wake was also held with the nature of Flux in mind as the food was either purple, black, or white.


Burglary Flux Kit (1971) by George Maciunas

Artist Name George Maciunas (1931 – 1978)
Date 1971
Medium Plastic box with offset label and 23 keys
Dimensions (cm)10 x 11.9 x 1
Where It Is HousedMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, United States

This playful and intriguing Fluxus artwork captures the essence of the movement through its imaginative approach to the presentation and incorporation of the most unlikely subject – a burglary. Maciunas introduced the idea of box kits, games, and playful re-invention of the state of flux via artworks such as Burglary Flux Kit. The kit consists of 23 keys with an offset label in a quirky plastic box.

Burglary Flux Kit is presented as a gift to commit a crime, which also draws similarities to curios found in a 17th-century private museum.

The uncertainty that the piece evokes is also an aspect of Fluxus art that centers around the exploration of alternative forms of art and was perhaps intended to evoke questions that incite the viewer to question their role in the experience of art and how these Fluxus kits inform or draw from an individual’s experience of life.

The kit also highlights the theme of access to otherwise criminal activities and perhaps mirrors the access that is not as openly granted to viewers who do not have the keys to unlocking the bourgeois nature of art.


Fahne (1974) by Joseph Beuys

Artist Name Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986)
Date 1974
Medium Oil on board collaged on paper
Dimensions (cm)72.7 x 50.8
Where It Is HousedPrivate collection

This Fluxus sculpture by Joseph Beuys is a significant piece from the artist’s exploration of flux as a tribute to the Mongolian leader Genghis Khan who was famous for conquering sections of Europe and Asia during the 13th century. Beuys always displayed a keen interest in ancient Eurasian cultures and the image of the flag is one that is frequently witnessed in his works, which are related to Genghis Khan.

Fahne is a sculpture and part of a series of artworks that consist of a black model train and a small red flag, housed in multiple museum collections across the world, including The Broad in Los Angeles and the Lenbachhaus in Munich.

Beuys used a folding rule to create the flagpole, which is coated in matt brown oil paint in the earthy red tone known as braunkreuz. This color is affiliated with antirust properties and Beuys’ made-up color called Pompeian red. Fahne is considered an objet trouvé coated in an additional layer of paint for added meaning. An objet trouvé translated in English means “found object”.


The Fluxus art movement was one of the most direct and critical movements of the 20th century that proposed important questions about the nature of performative art and the role of the artist, viewer, and artwork in the broader art context. Elements of Fluxus can still be found in art today yet one can argue that it is not as widely leveraged as it was in the 1970s. What do you think of the Fluxus movement?




Frequently Asked Questions


What Is Fluxus in Art?

Fluxus in art refers to the global interdisciplinary art movement that began in the 1960s and was defined by the artist George Maciunas as a movement that sought to encourage flow and purge the art world of its tendency to produce art for those who only understood art through professional or academic means. The Fluxus art movement was known as the avant-garde Fluxus movement for its focus on the artistic means of production as opposed to an artwork’s aesthetic value. The movement was also a key proponent in the establishment of conceptual art and a tool for introducing alternative ways of inciting engagement with the viewer.


Who Was the Founder of the Fluxus Movement?

The founder of the Fluxus movement is considered to be a Lithuanian-American artist called George Maciunas who drafted the first Fluxus Manifesto in 1963. While other artists are also considered to be co-founders of the movement, Maciunas was viewed as the primary figure behind it. Fluxus was viewed as an attitude rather than a style.


Who Was the Most Influential Artist in the Avant-Garde Fluxus Movement?

While George Maciunas is considered to be the most important artist of the Fluxus movement, the most influential artist in the Avant-Garde Fluxus movement is a shared title among artists such as Yoko Ono, Marcel Duchamp, Nam June Paik, John Cage, Joseph Beuys, and Alison Knowles.


Cite this Article

Jordan, Anthony, “Fluxus Movement – Discover the Avant-Garde Fluxus Movement.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. January 16, 2023. URL: https://artfilemagazine.com/fluxus-movement/

Anthony, J. (2023, 16 January). Fluxus Movement – Discover the Avant-Garde Fluxus Movement. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. https://artfilemagazine.com/fluxus-movement/

Anthony, Jordan. “Fluxus Movement – Discover the Avant-Garde Fluxus Movement.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, January 16, 2023. https://artfilemagazine.com/fluxus-movement/.

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