Press Release

GEORGE MACIUNAS 1953-1978

Charts, Diagrams, Films, Documents, and Atlases
September 28- October 28, 2006
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 28, 6pm-9pm

Stendhal Gallery proudly announces the upcoming exhibition George Maciunas 1953-1978, Charts, Diagrams, Films, Documents, and Atlases.

The works on view are Atlas of Russian History, Prehistoric Chinese Art (Shang and Chou Dynasties), European and Siberian Art of Migration, Biography Chronicling Activity between 1939-1978, and Diagram of Historical Development of Fluxus (incomplete). Created between 1953 and 1978, these “cultural timetables” reveal Maciunas’ interest in visually displaying diverse information about historical periods. Maciunas’ charts, diagrams, and atlases make clear his desire to record artistic and sociopolitical chronological evolution. With these charts, he introduced the 20th century as the era of “Art Genealogy”

Born to a Russian mother and Lithuanian father, Maciunas was an artist, art historian, designer, architect, editor, producer, genealogist, typographer, mathematician, musicologist, and leader of the 1960’s international Fluxus movement. Influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s use of art beyond painting and John Cage’s experimental music, Fluxus deviated between the boundaries of art and non-art through Maciunas’ vision of artistic collaboration in various mediums. He combined music, performance, visual arts, and literature to create one of the most influential philosophies and artistic movements in modern art of the 20th century.

Maciunas did not spontaneously design his works, but rather preceded them with eleven years of intensive studies at Cooper Union School of Art, the Carnegie Institute of Technology and New York University. His widespread interests and universalistic approach required a suitable form of knowledge management in order for him to retain an overview of the enormity of the material. Charts, diagrams, and atlases allowed him to reduce complexities, define limits, and make connections between data. Maciunas made some three dozen of these historical diagrams between 1953 and 1978 which not only made clear political, economic, poetic, and aesthetic relationships, but also predetermined the geo-historical framework of Fluxus.

Maciunas believed that the evolution of art could not be understood without an orientation of a particular subject in context of time and space. In 1969, he developed his theory of the “Learning Machine” which called for improvements in methods of transmitting information. Maciunas criticized the rigid, linear-narratives of books, lectures, or other traditional forms of learning for their lack of communication of the layers and connections within history. Networking thoughts into timesaving and efficient charts and diagrams, these “Learning Machines” were also artistically and scientifically interesting.

Space and time, and their dissolution into succession, played an important role as well. By breaking up the factual scheme, the work was extended into the third dimension. The linear order of time is emphasized by Maciunas’ attempt to uncover the complexity of dates by chronologically coding history. He depicts history with mathematical precision through a theory that time runs in cycles, depicted in his charts by a formulaic wave curve. His model of time consisted of four phases; origin, prosperity, maturity, and decline. Within these phases are both primary and secondary cycles of time consisting of mathematical rules that systematize factual relationships. In determining his time frame, Maciunas used dates and their corresponding events to reduce history to technical means.

Maciunas titled his “learning machines” in a scientific way so that his intention was not always immediately obvious. For instance, his work entitled Preliminary Unfinished Form of the Proposed Index Coordinate Graph actually explains the history of art from the Visigoths to Metaphysical painting. Although Maciunas uses epochal classifications such as Visigoth, Gothic, High-Renaissance, etc, as clear conceptual definitions, he breaks down barriers between them by clarifying sections of time. Maciunas left extra space in most of his charts to allow for new ideas and new connections to be added, or to extend the timeframe. In discovering new connections while he worked, Maciunas thematically linked several charts together. He constantly made technical corrections, additions, and extensions.

With these documents, Maciunas criticized the rigid, linear-narratives of books, lectures, or other traditional forms of accessing information. He felt that a linear series of dates did not allow for the necessary communication of layers within history. He therefore developed an accurate way to visually obtain knowledge and quickly perceive themes. The dates, which make up his diagrams and charts, take on a “Physiognomy”, creating a three-dimensional reconstructed historical space.

Whether literally or symbolically, this idea of dimensions was communicated while also limiting specialization. In learning, Maciunas believed it was important to specialize only gradually. A wider range of understanding and orientation of time, according to Maciunas, was necessary for professional success of any specialist.

This show provides a unique opportunity to view a rare body of work that has never before been published or exhibited. The exhibition will run from September 28 – October 28, 2006

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