REVIEW: George Brecht’s ‘Drip Music’ at White Cube

Final stage of Fluxus ‘Drip Music’ at White Cube
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Fluxus performance – George Brecht’s ‘Drip Music’
(White Cube, Bermondsey, 12 February 2015; review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

As part of Christian Marclay’s expansive music programme integral to his exhibition at White Cube there is a series of performances by Royal College of Art and London College of Communication students of Fluxus pieces during weekday afternoons. No specific timetable for them to take place has been established, so there are elements of randomness and serendipity as to whether they can be witnessed when visiting the gallery, which follows the spirit of the Fluxus art movement. Marclay’s own practices have strong affinities to those of the Fluxus artists with their subversive, boundary-blurring approaches to visual, sonic and performance art, and music.

I visited the gallery on Thursday afternoon to see The Vinyl Factory Press in action in the gallery, producing the vinyl records on which will be captured each of the twenty-plus music events taking place at weekends, and happened across the tail end of an enactment of George Brecht’s Drip Music.

Notwithstanding the swerve-ball strategies of Fluxus, this is an engaging, elegant Fluxus piece from 1959, stripped down and indisputably minimal in its essence. The instruction, as with many of Brecht’s ‘event scores’, is a succinct phrase to be interpreted by the performer(s); in this case, it reads ‘a source of water and an empty vessel are arranged so that the water falls into the vessel.’

Fluxus ‘Drip Music’ performance at White Cube
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Artur M Vidall, a student at LCC, stood on a wooden stool, and gently tipped a large, shiny aluminium pail, held at shoulder height, so that the small amount of water held within was very slowly discharged in drips to fall on to a wine glass standing on the floor immediately beneath it. As the glass became full water spilled out and combined with water which had not fallen into the glass to form a shallow puddle on the floor around it. When the pail was empty, it was tilted further to a final upside-down position to signal the end of the performance.

This had been an exercise with a meditational quality, reflecting the Fluxus artists’ agenda, which Marjorie Perloff describes HERE as ‘posing questions as to where sounds are to be located in time and space and how they related to the objects and actions that produce them.’ Brecht himself described his art as a way of, ‘…ensuring that the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed.’ This event, for the onlookers who had stumbled across it, articulated Brecht’s vital mission with a refreshing immediacy.

Categories: miscellaneous

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  1. I should add as a postscript, quoting again from Perloff's review of 'Fluxus Experience' by Hannah Higgins, a summation of the Fluxus approach by Dick Higgins, which debunks the notion that Fluxus was an integrated art movement: “Fluxus,” Dick Higgins has observed, “was not a movement; it has no stated consistent programme or manifesto which the work must match, and it did not propose to move art or our awareness of art from point A to point B. The very name, Fluxus, suggests change, being in a state of flux. The idea was that it would always reflect the most exciting avant-garde tendencies of a given time or moment—the Fluxattitude.”
    Geoff Winston

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