Twin Portraits at the Periphery of a Flux (Fifth Iteration), (after the texts “Twin Portraits at the Periphery of a Flux,” “Untitled Song,” and “Fluxus Score” by Michael Joyce, 2006, and “Observatory” by Robert Watts), 2006
Mixed media on paper, 122″ x 80″, private collection, Los Angeles
Installed as part of:
Draw a Line and Follow It
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE)
June 21 – August 20, 2006
Notes on Fluxus Project (from 2006)
In my work in painting, drawing and sculpture, I map language using poetic texts as scores or scripts to create complex images of words. For the last three years, I’ve worked in collaboration with the hypertext writer Michael Joyce – interpreting texts he has written for my purposes to create visual palimpsests, landscapes of words.
For “Draw A Line and Follow It” I was invited to choose a Fluxus instruction set from Jean Brown Archive, housed at the Getty Research Institute Library, and respond to it. Exploring the archive verged on the absurd: while scholars perused old manuscripts and drawings in quiet I sat and carefully unfolded archival boxes to reveal games, rubber eggs, boxes of sand. Encountering the Fluxus archive in the context of a research library seemed to be in the Fluxian spirit of play: I sent sand spraying across the desk shared with Piranesian folios, and couldn’t help but laugh. The Fluxus objects in themselves seemed capable of upsetting established order. Further research in the archive lead to evidence of more complex relationships between Fluxus artists than the neat boxes suggested: for example, angry letters between George Macunias and Yoko Ono, describe how each felt cheap and egomaniacal.
But how to interpret a specific instruction set from Jean Brown’s collection in the context of my own present work as a painter and collaborator?
No matter how much I wanted to “fill a small swimming pool with lime jello” it seemed too easy a response. Not only does that kind of gesture have nothing to do with my practice, but the internet is teeming with debates over the legitimacy of Fluxus artists, who was central to the enterprise and who a follower or hack, who a first or a second generation Fluxus artist, and who currently upholds the original spirit of Fluxus.
While it was my intention to engage the Fluxus collection at the Getty, it was never to make an imitative gesture. I am not a Fluxus artist nor want to be one. The parallels I found were philosophic and abstract: I am interested in the relationships between instructions (texts) to actions (gestures) to final “products” or images to audience. To upset the familiar order by inserting the unexpected.
To situate this show and piece within the context of my own work, I invited Michael Joyce to respond to one of the Fluxus scores from the Getty archive. In response to Robert Watt’s “Observatory,” Michael penned a “Fluxus Score” of his own. These are the first two iterations of the large-scale drawing/painting “Twin Portraits.” For the first time in our work together, I asked Michael for more: first, for a song in response to his own “Fluxus Score” and then for a more narrative piece that captured his personal affiliation with Fluxus. As I had learned from Joyce in our initial correspondence:
My thoughts on
> Fluxus in
> general always begin with Yoko (whose work I loved)
> but fast slide
> toward Beuys’ Fluxus work, which means I guess that
> I was more
> interested in the peripheral flows than the central
> premises. That
> said, [my wife’s] girlhood friend Billie Hutching was
> Maciunas’ wife at
> the time of his death (and disavowed, even scorned,
> by the hangers-on
> thereafter, although not by Jonas Mekas who C.
> fondly recalls
> meeting with Billie in the aftermath), so there’s
> always been a sense
> of direct connection. So too with Dick Higgins who
> was part of the
> mid-Hudson crowd around Carolee Schneeman and my
> Liam’s publisher
> Bruce McPherson[….] His work with
> typography and
> imagetexts seems congenial to us.
“Twin Portraits” is a piece that contains all four textual iterations – it is a fifth remove from Fluxus. Michael Joyce’s final piece, “Twin Portraits at the Periphery of a Flux” describes this personal side also present in the archive – about the flawed relationships between the artists involved.
So what kind of image results? A map of language, a process-based wordscape, traces of Fluxian history.
Twin Portraits at the Periphery of a Flux (Fifth Iteration), detail
Fourth Iteration: Michael Joyce’s Twin Portraits at the Periphery of a Flux
(Held in trust)
Third Iteration: Michael Joyce’s Untitled Song
here’s an interesting thing he thinks not unthinking nor thinking of her but observe what you’re thinking unthinkingly paying attention to her today’s modern woman finger on eyebrow poised to take off posing for a self-portrait by someone she does not know so light on her feet so pleasingly unthinking what she does not know as yet and yet observe how she is herself within herself as they say beyond reach or so they say not thinking really how she seems when so under observation not thinking of herself really how she can think she can fly is beyond me though really that is what she would is really how she is like
Second Iteration: Michael Joyce’s Fluxus Score
Counter commands addressed to the ghost of Robert Watts in regard to his “Observatory” to be carried out by Alexandra Grant (or “A Musing in Nine Steps”)
Walk here without moving
Make a mark for each place you have been
Blue for what you have never seen (outlined in green)
Red for each wound or kiss.
Start again, paying more attention to circles.
Count to ten by sixes.
Indicate where the sun has been while you tarried (use the flesh-colored crayon appropriate to your selected ethnicity)
Connect the dots (make sure to write outside the lines), mark on back pencil in hand.
Seriously, though, consider your purposes. Draw no conclusions. This isn’t after all a game, unless of course you see it so.
First Iteration: Robert Watt’s Obersavatory
Finger on eyebrow
Number on banana
Check in bank
Hand at 7, 15’
Mark on back
Egg in basket
Red on sheet
Pen on Y
6 on paper
bean in stomach
elbow on bed
eye on ball
blink at light
dash in letter
1 on calendar
drop in call
match in box
fly on toe
hole in bandana
pencil in hand
pimple on tit
blood in catalog
P on pad
Screw in valve
Bleach on hair
Stand on head
Sun in sky