The first extended study of the renowned artists’ collective Fluxus, Corporate Imaginations examines the group’s emergence on three continents from 1962 to 1978, and its complexities, contradictions, and historical specificity. Its founder, George Maciunas, organized Fluxus like a multinational corporation, simulating corporate organization and commodity flows, a reflection of how he imagined critical art practice at that time. Despite the collective’s critical stance toward the corporation, Fluxus shared aspects of the rising corporate culture of the day. In this book, Mari Dumett addresses the “business” of Fluxus and explores the larger discursive issues of organization, mediatization, routinization, automation, commoditization, and systematization that Fluxus artists both manipulated and exposed in bold relief. A study of six central figures in the group—George Brecht, Alison Knowles, Maciunas, Nam June Paik, Mieko Shiomi, and Robert Watts,—reveals how they developed historically specific strategies of mimicking the capitalist system. These artists appropriated tools, occupied spaces, revealed operations, and, ultimately, “performed the system” itself by employing an aesthetics of organization, communication, events, branding, routine, and global mapping. Invoking “corporate imaginations,” Fluxus artists proposed “strategies for living” as conscious creative subjects within a totalizing and increasingly global system, and demonstrated how these strategies must be repeated in an ongoing negotiation of new relations of power and control between subject and system.
Mari Dumett is an art historian and arts and culture writer living in New York City. She teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology, SUNY, and the Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance at Wesleyan University.