Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 12 - The Pink and Blue Number
Log 12 - The Pink and Blue Number

New Plymouth
Wendy Tara 


Fluxus in Germany 1962-1994: a long tale with many knots
Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth:
Summer Forum - Tobias Berger, Benjamin Patterson, Daniel Malone, Jonathan Bywater, Tina Barton discuss Fluxus and its ongoing influence on contemporary art; and Opening Events - Fluxus artist Ben Patterson and others staged three "operas", and other Fluxus works, 14-15 October.

On the weekend I watched an art curator picking up her pen and stabbing her paper with quick sharp jabs to see if it would bleed. I took a peek and all I saw was "Fluxus" and a gibberish shorthand - an art form I’ve never learned or seen on a wall.

We were sitting in our community communing about Fluxus. "What is Fluxus?" one of the five was asked. The woman replied that when her five-year-old daughter noticed that a child had put plastic chairs on her small table, she said "Look Mummy, art!". The young girl saw art in this gesture of child's play. Most importantly she spoke out. I think no matter what age or base level of intellect perhaps in some way we all are Fluxus by this definition. If we choose to see the norm and rearrange it, or just notice it... Like an unpleasant vase with flowers, their heads dropped from the sun, not upright staring the sun down. One may choose to take scissors and cut off their heads or put them in the vase upside down.

All weekend I heard the words "Why are people so scared to write what they see? How it registers to thine own self?" Fluxus, to me, takes the snobby-nose poodles, the art junkies, the hangers-on and the water-bailers and tries to embrace them, surrounds them with spirit love and deepish thought. By doing this theoretically, the sanitised becomes part of the earth again. Fluxus seems not to judge and perhaps does not cast nets to catch judgement, but seeks, I wonder to be noticed, remembered, soft movement, like breeze through a tree; like man’s last breath like blood dripping from one’s wound, or the softest touch...

Well, I’m going to jump back on board here and say Fluxus weekend/camp was fun and freed my spirit. Shall I write more? "I think you should write a thousand words" came a voice from my old couch. Does Fluxus need a thousand words? Or is it you, the bubblegum-chewers of the 21st Century that may want to know what lurks in this girl’s head? Right now. A chocolate muffin and a bubba on my breast...

As a child, I remember the Mercury theatre and its charm, the fairy dust and gold glitter, the velvet curtains and all that’s behind... The actors were my movie stars. Low-paid performers, their art was music to me. Where have they all gone, like sheets of Beethoven’s music? The show must go on. Mercury Theatre is now a Christian church for those who want a lifetime membership to the Jesus Christ Superstar gym to work out their sins in and be in shape when they pass through Heaven’s gate.

We all have our own beliefs, and dogging is not my point. There are many forms of art and performance. Fluxus performs in a way that possibly is not an easy form of expression. How does one know if people will stay in their seats while you perform on the conductor’s mark to sing? We watch and wait, mouths open. No sound comes out. Then a hideous shriek enters my earhole, like that unseeable thing that follows you down a dark alley - you’re always peering over your shoulder to try and see... Or when popcorn won’t jump out of the pot, but smoke will, and a fire alarm will squeal like a tired child.

At this performance, the challenging unexpected reared its ugly head, and people sat there while the smoke gave us inhalation and we started to choke. Only difference is people did not react as one would to a volcanic eruption, but calmly sat and watched. I was on the edge of my seat and the seam of my jeans to see what happened next. I believe that we were all given a gift and if we were not, well, grow one, create it, develop it and post it out there to be delivered.

I stood next to a man at the bottom of the stairs (during the fire alarm) that were laced with talking confused bodies waiting to enter the unknowing unknown room. He said to me, "This is Fluxus". "Great", I said. "No," he replied, "This is Fluxus". Then it hit me. Communication, freedom, collaboration, network, from all walks of life, we were all a part of Fluxus, an art without walls. Fluxus, Fluxus, Fluxus - the word was mentioned over and over again, and so it should. What a great word. As I made my way up the stairs, talking to unfamiliar faces, I thought, "Flux. The state of not being settled and what I know a flow or act of flowing."

Ben Patterson and his volunteer troopers first performed a beautiful piece where seven or so performers came through the audience one by one with roses in their mouths, bowing or curtseying at him and lining up behind him. He poured vodka into a blender, which was on a table before him where he sat. One by one they came fourth placing their rose in the going blender. Some put it in head first, others stalk first, any which way they could. After all had been blended, Patterson drank back the half-a-litre blood-red cocktail. Goblets of blood dripped from the corners of his lips as his head comes over the top of the glass like Dracula rearing his head with pleasure after sucking the life from a beautiful helpless maiden dressed in white to show her purity. When black man stood and turned, there were two roses embroidered on the tails of his tux - red roses with green stems. Classy.

Then there was a grand piano, strings and pieces of wood perfectly lodged in place, tuned to perfection - no amateur styling about it. A woman with black cropped hair and milky-white skin came out, a white artist’s sheet draped around her petite body. She placed herself upon the grand piano. Black man then placed and replaced her like my mother-in-law putting a bowl of pot-pourri on her coffee table - placing and replacing it, standing back and adjusting. She then dropped the robe and a pleasant-looking breast appeared in the soft light, then her shoulder and waist. The robes removed, black man put it to one side. She lay down on her right, her head supported by one hand, her right leg forward and the other back as if to hide her woman-hood. On a separate table sat two big billy-pots and salad servers. Black man opened the lid on it and proceeded to place lashings of cooked rice on her like snow falling on the mountains. Then he garnished her with cream. He then had seven people enter the audience and bring people to the feast and kept them coming. Chopsticks were handed out and viewers were caught up in the moment like insects in a spider’s web eating what lay before them.

After each performance, the performers always stood together, arms around each other and bowed half- a-dozen times. It made me wonder if it was in gratitude, or applause for a scene well done, or in humble praise of the audience and our appreciation of the fantastic scene. For a moment I felt like royalty - not the English sort, but of the spiritual, like the Dalai Lama. But I definitely don’t compare myself to him. I mean he loves all living things, whereas as an earwig climbed out of a toy of my daughter’s the other day, I squished it.

Another performance with a beautiful grand piano was where the black man folded his arm over the other and played with his forearms, counting 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 and 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12 and over ‘til the piano sang music of its own, the sound my mother told me never to make. Shame. Quite pleasant. Beads of sweat dripped from his face. After 10 minutes or so, he stood back and the music of the applause filled the small, crowded room.

As I bruise this skin, tapping in symbols that you may recognise, I look at the stains I’ve caused, I too have been stained by Fluxus and its performers, the art students. And as my friend would put it, Ben Patterson is a bad, bad man. I say a man of fantastic energy. As I sit here, my cigarette smoke passes by my face, lashing my eyes like razorblades leaving them to bleed the universal colour of air. Thank God 4 my eyes. I give Fluxus ? ? ? ?s.


Wendy Tara, Fluxus: antiestablishment of the mind. And roses. (2000)
Wendy Tara, Fluxus: antiestablishment of the mind. And roses. (2000)

Wendy Tara

Wendy Tara is a total goof. I say what I see and draw inspiration from others. My weakness is frustration of ego and unfriendly people with superiority complexes. The best things I have ever created, including my husband, are my children. My daughter enjoys playing with colour. Her non-toxic felts create interesting pictures in her mouth. My son waters the garden ‘til the soil rises out of the flower beds and down the path creating pictures in the dirt of diggers and claws he happily points out to me.

Check out the Log website on www.physicsroom.org.nz/log/ for two further accounts of this project by Lissa Mitchell and Shay Launder.



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room