Essay by Larry Miller

Flux-Labyrinth

Larry Miller

The large Flux-Labyrinth constructed in 1976 at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin as part of the comprehensive exhibition and performance program New York-Downtown Manhattan: Soho was a memorable grand-scale work that marked the particular organizational and collaborative genius of George Maciunas. Covering an area of approximately one hundred square meters, the Flux-Labyrinth was a life-sized environment that provided those who entered an experience which Maciunas often referred to as “concretism” and “functionalism.” From September 5 to October 17 of that year, thousands of participants made their way through the extensive maze of puzzling and obstacle-laden corridors. Based on ideas by numerous Fluxus artists, doors, walls and floors were altered to make passage very challenging. To cite a few examples – opening one door caused a large inflated ball on a pendulum to strike the participant in the face. As it swung back the other way the individual was able to proceed down the corridor. Another door opened only by playing a specific key on the piano connected to it. There was a slippery floor covered with marbles, and a sticky floor covered with tacky adhesive paper.

The Flux-Labyrinth has special significance in its scale, corresponding as a series of large cubicles, to the small scale Fluxus boxes that invited close-up physical participation by hand and head and, often further assembled into briefcases containing a panoply of different artists’ submissions. The architectural “Flux-Box” enabled the human body to fully enter into the puzzling and playing. Part fun house and part game arcade, the labyrinth fit within Maciunas’ broader idea of Fluxus-Art-Amusement. Maciunas spent months planning and adjusting the concepts of the contributing artists. We met several times in New York to discuss possibilities, and Maciunas sent me to Berlin in order to locate materials and begin the fabrication two weeks in advance of his arrival. In all, construction took about one month.

The label written by Maciunas and posted at the entrance to the Flux-Labyrinth read: “Realized by George Maciunas and Larry Miller. With contributions by Ay-O, George Brecht, Joe Jones, Yoshimasa Wada, Bob Watts and … (assisted by museum personnel.)” It is important to note that the work was a cooperative concept and was intended to include sections by artists such as Ben Vautier, Geoffrey Hendricks and others. These could not be realized for various reasons at the time, nor those of Brecht and Watts. Nam June Paik’s piano-activated section went un-credited on the outside label, although it was labeled inside.

Diagrams, sketches and correspondence in several publications by the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection document the realization of the labyrinth that Maciunas and I finally constructed. We built the labyrinth over several weeks, especially with the help of Yoshimasa Wada and Joe Jones. A selection of my photos here documents moments during the construction and opening of the event.

The Berlin version was dismantled, but for the Walker Art Center’s exhibition In the Spirit of Fluxus in Minneapolis in 1993, I was asked to reconstruct the Flux-Labyrinth. The updated construction included the addition of elements from artists such as Geoffrey Hendricks and Alison Knowles, which were not realized in 1976. In 2003 Midori Yoshimoto orchestrated yet another incarnation of the labyrinth at AI Art Interactive in

Cambridge, Massachusetts as part of the show Do-It Yourself Fluxus. For this version, I drew up a plan for an abbreviated “mini-labyrinth” that replicated nearly one fourth of the 1976 installation.

 

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