George Maciunas

George (Yurgis) Maciunas is born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1931. In 1944 he escapes to Germany with this family, and in 1947 he emigrates to the United States. Soon Maciunas starts with his studies of a broad a variety of subjects: From 1949 to 1952 he studies fine arts, graphics, and architecture at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and, until 1954, architecture and musicology at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. After moving to Manhattan, he continues with his studies and, from 1955 to 1960, enrols in art history at New York University.

Starting in 1960, Maciunas works as a designer in New York. He chooses the word »Fluxus« as the title of a journal he wants to edit together with Almus Salcius – the first usage of the term in an art context. The journal is never published, but the title provides the name for future activities of an influential circle of artists.

Participating in a class on composition taught by Richard Maxfield at the New School of Social Research in New York provides the context for his meeting with La Monte Young, George Brecht, Al Hansen, Dick Higgins, Allan Kaprow, and other artists. With Maciunas the New Yorker Fluxus group gains an important member and organizer. Together with Salcius, he founds the »AG Gallery,« an organization dedicated to literature, music, and film, located on Madison Avenue, where Maciunas also gives lectures. However, the »AG Gallery« only exists for one year. Aside from Richard Maxfield and John Cage, Storm de Hirsch, Dick Higgins, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Yoko Ono, Jackson Mac Low, Joseph Byrd, La Monte Young, Henry Flint, Walter de Maria, Ray Johnson and others are among the participants of this project.

For the »Anthology« – it is published by Jackson Mac Low and La Monte Young in 1961 and is a collection of sources for Fluxus and »the new arts« – Maciunas creates the design, which turns out to be a major influence on the graphic style of Fluxus. After the closing of AG Gallery, Maciunas leaves the U.S. and goes to Wiesbaden, Germany, following an offer from the U.S. government. Through Nam June Paik he soon meets artists in Germany and France who found »Fluxus« as a movement that works across media boundaries. They come together for numerous Fluxus events (Fluxus Festival in Wiesbaden, 1962, followed by events in Amsterdam, London, Kopenhagen, Paris, Düsseldorf, Stockholm and other locations).

After his return to New York in 1963, Maciunas organizes numerous Fluxus concerts in the »Fluxhall« (359, Canal Street). Refusing any theoretical fixation – an approach that has united the Fluxus artists from the very beginning – the group produces a wide spectrum of manifestos and writings. Maciunas himself now concentrates on the production of printed works and Multiples, objects, boxes, films, and books which he combines into group editions and sells worldwide. He tries to realize the political ideal of collectivism with projects of the »Fluxhouse Cooperative, Inc.« which he founded himself. For this, he acquires several houses in Soho in order to provide work-space for artists, film makers, and dancers.

Next to his activities as an editor, Maciunas again becomes interested in Performance activities, Fluxus-events, and banquets. But aside from financial and organizational problems that jeopardize his projects, he suffers serious physical impairment through a severe accident and the loss of an eye. After moving to New Marlborough, Mass., in 1976, he tries to build a Fluxus cultural center, choosing a farm and an old villa as location. With fellow artists, Maciunas installs his Flux Labyrinth in the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, in 1976. In 1977 he organizes the Fluxus Festival in Seattle.

George Maciunas dies in Boston on May 9, 1978.

Selected Literature

Schmidt-Burkhardt, Astrit (Hg.): Maciunas’ learning machines. From Art History to a Chronology of Fluxus. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, Berlin: Vice Versa Verlag 2003

Williams, E. u. Notl, A. (Hg.): Mr. Fluxus. Ein kollektives Porträt von George Maciunas 1931 — 1978, Wiesbaden 1996

Fluxus. Today and Yesterday. Art and Design, London 1993

Block, René (Hg.): Wiesbaden Fluxus 1962 — 1982, Eine kleine Geschichte von Fluxus in drei Teilen, Harlekin Art, Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD, Wiesbaden / Berlin, 1983

Fluxus 1962 — 1982: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstverein Wiesbaden u.a., Wiesbaden 1982/83

Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014 Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger

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