Fluxus-Name List 1963 by the German artist Joseph Beuys is a vertically-orientated, long and narrow collage composed of several different types and sizes of paper, joined in an overlapping, haphazard manner. The top of the collage is a piece of graph paper, the middle is comprised of two linked plain paper rectangles, while the bottom is a scored piece of writing paper with a torn bottom edge joined to the items above by a circular stamp, affixed with glue. The collage combines various black ink drawings, printed material and a handwritten list of names in blue ink. This list is what the title of the work refers to and includes over fifty predominately Germanic and Japanese names, individuals presumably involved with the loose collective of artists from Europe, America and Asia called Fluxus that was founded by artist George Maciunas in 1960. The curator Ann Temkin has noted that ‘Germany was the centre of Fluxus, a worldwide movement in which artists, poets, and musicians used performance to return art to its sense of play. Live performance was an ideal medium for a group that stressed the ephemeral nature of art in a universe of “flux”’ (Temkin and Rose 1993, p.48). 1963, the year in which Beuys made Fluxus-Name List, marked the beginning of the artist’s short-lived involvement with the group.
The collage’s elongated rectangular format contrasts with the predominately circular motifs drawn or incorporated by the artist. The largest element is a perfectly geometric circle with a thick black border that dominates the graph paper at the top. Its interior is filled with small, hand-painted ink circles, irregular in size and shape. Beneath this is an oval item, which could be a film canister, together with what look like wires or electrical components. Across the middle two rectangles the black ink becomes a rough mass of messy, gestural brushstrokes, from which appears the cylindrical form of a piston or battery on the right. The circular stamp is placed over this nebulous mass so that the black ink underneath seems like a violent explosion coming from its centre. The number ‘22’ has been drawn on its side directly below the stamp, its presence reminiscent of a cubist collage, and forms part of the black ink markings that cover over some of the names on the Fluxus list below. Other participants of Fluxus have been keen to stress Beuys’s marginality within the group, and indeed the way in which he slashed ink and scrawled his signature across the list of names signals his deeply authorial way of working, which would eventually lead him away from group methods of production.
The stamped item at the centre of the composition includes a Copenhagen address and telephone number, and the name Arthur Køpcke. This surname also features in the top right corner of the collaborators list, and asterisked; nearby Beuys superimposed his own signature. Køpcke is also repeated at the very bottom of the left column of names. Arthur Køpcke ran a gallery in Copenhagen from 1958 to 1963. He supported many avant-garde art movements by granting them a wider audience in Denmark, and in November 1962 his gallery hosted the Fluxus Fluxorum, a six-evening festival that featured Maciunas and other Fluxus artists. Beuys was invited by Køpcke the following year to do a performance in Copenhagen. The repeated inscription of the gallerist’s name in Fluxus-Name List testifies to his importance within the international social networks of Fluxus, to which this collage pays homage.
According to the art historian Ulf Jensen, in Düsseldorf Beuys ‘opened up the state-run Kunstakademie [art academy] to his friends and like-minded artists, organising the avant-garde music festival FESTUM FLUXORUM FLUXUS, MUSIK UND ANTIMUSIK – DAS INSTRUMENTELLE THEATER in February 1963. He himself performed his first two actions at this festival’ (Ulf Jensen in Ackermann and Malz 2010, p.148), one of which was Siberian Symphony (see Tate AR00655 and Tate AR00674). This demonstrates the pivotal role Fluxus played in the initiation of Beuys’s new performative direction. Nonetheless, as the curator and writer Joan Rothfuss recounts: ‘The Danish artist Eric Andersen said that he and the other Fluxus artists considered Beuys’ work at this time to be “very symbolic, expressionistic, and traditional … In 1964 he was very marginal in Fluxus and very few of us had anything to do with him.”’ Andersen goes on to describe what seems to have been Beuys’s final break with the group, at a Fluxus concert in Copenhagen in September 1964: ‘Beuys and Vostell were kicked out of the festival because we totally disagreed with their position.’ (Eric Andersen quoted in Rothfuss 2001, p.42.)
Despite this fractious break, this period was a fertile one for Beuys’s art, both for his publicly presented ‘actions’ and the related yet private practice of working on paper. Rothfuss emphasises, however, that ‘it’s important to note that Fluxus rejected Beuys as a Fluxus artist, not as an artist per se … For his part, Beuys continued to use the term Fluxus to describe his activities, pinning it to actions, exhibitions, and even, in 1967, renaming his German Student Party “Fluxus Zone West”’ (Rothfuss 2001, p.43).
Ann Temkin and Bernice Rose (eds.), Thinking is Form: The Drawings of Joseph Beuys, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1993.
Joan Rothfuss, ‘Joseph Beuys: Echoes in America’, in Gene Ray (ed.), Joseph Beuys: Mapping the Legacy, New York and Sarasota, Florida 2001, pp.37–53.
Marion Ackermann and Isabelle Malz (eds.), Joseph Beuys, Parallel Processes, exhibition catalogue, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf 2010.