Nam June Paik Tate Liverpool exhibition banner

Fluxus, Performance, Participation

During time spent in Cologne between 1958 and 1963, Paik pursued his interests in experimental composition and performance. In his 1960 performance of Etude for Pianoforte at the artist Mary Bauermeister’s studio, for instance, Paik experimented with breaking down the boundary between performer and audience, jumping up in the middle of the piece and cutting off John Cage’s tie with scissors.

In 1961 Paik met the Lithuanian-American artist George Maciunas, the founder of Fluxus, an international avant-garde group whose mission was to ‘promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art’. Paik subsequently helped to organise Fluxus ‘actions’ in Europe, performing in many personally. These included the Neo-Dada in der Musik event in Düsseldorf in 1962, at which Paik performed One for Violin Solo. He also presented Serenade for Alison at a New Music programme in Amsterdam in the same year, and performed Fluxus Champion Contest in the Festum Fluxorum Fluxus at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1963.

Paik shared with Maciunas a drive to challenge established institutions and to break down national and cultural boundaries. The two men formed a long-lasting friendship; Maciunas’s invitation to Paik to participate in Fluxus actions in New York was a major reason for the latter’s move to the US in 1964.

Fluxus

The Fluxus movement originated in New York in the early 1960s with a group of artists and composers centred around John Cage, and developed its ‘anti-art’, anti-commercial aesthetics under the leadership of George Maciunas, first in the US and then in Europe. Fluxus staged a series of festivals in Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London and New York, with avant-garde performances often spilling out into the street. Most of the experimental artists of the period, including Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik, took part in Fluxus events. The movement, which still continues, played an important role in the opening up of definitions of what art can be.