Foew and Ombwhnw: A Grammar of the Mind and a Phenomenology of Love and a Science of the Arts As Seen by a Stalker of the Wild Mushroom by Dick Higgins
rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is a gorgeous curiosity of book as art object by Dick Higgins, one of the real poets of the Fluxus conceptual art movement. I had the fortune of spending an afternoon with Dick Higgins in Chicago once through some very linked-in alliances, in fact my friend Philip and I were assigned to keep Higgins company while our other friend had to go to a meeting, and spent an hour or so talking about book designers.
This book is a prime example of his knowledge and practice in that area: it is constructed like a bible, or more accurately, a supplemental church book with similar black binding, red ink on the edge of the pages and a silk ribbon bookmark. The pages are divided into columns through which four streams of collected poems, plays, scores for actions and other run. In its structure and content it is both playful and quite serious, perfectly embodying what Fluxus is all about.
For instance, this random snippet from page 122, left column:
Two Long PerformancesGood one, Dick. Or this more complicated selection from pages 28 and 30, left column:
by Flux higgins
Losing fifty pounds
Gaining fifty pounds back again
Lecture Number Eight
As early in the morning as possible,
on as inconvenient a day as possible, at
as uncomfortable a season as possible,
and having notified as many people as
possible of the forthcoming lecture, the
lecturer sets out before sunrise, equipped
with a flashlight and accompanied by
the attenders of the lecture, to whom,
however, he says not a single word
throughout. They are led through his
favorite and unfavorable places, and he
points with the flashlight at his favorite
and unfavorable places - or where they
were or might be. It is observed that
the sun rises. (December 1964)
The power of Fluxus is that the game facet of the art distracts you enough to get you to comply and only in reflection are its effects truly felt, and as you feel them, you reflect more and feel more. It sideswipes the bullshit with which you and I come to art. For instance, that page break in the selection above I suspect might just be happenstance of printing, but I equally suspect it isn't. This guy was an obsessive book designer after all, and this is an obsessively designed book. The page break separates the preparation from the action, leader from follower, intention from result - it is the fulcrum on the teeter-totter of existence. And it may not be real at all - but it is now that I said it, and isn't that kind of psychic thermodynamic flow why we bother looking at art and think about books and contemplate our existence? Or is it?
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