Fluxus in our time

index.jpg fluxusThere was, and is, a distinction between ego-attached “look-at-me” hijinks and the performance, or placement, or identification of art. Art for no sake other than its own. Ephemeral. Left to experience. Left to memory. Gone.

We remember Fluxus, a precursor to the fountain of conceptual art, and “happenings” to follow. Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, LaMonte Young, Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins…musicians, painters, sculptors, writers…following the lead of George Maciunas’ 1963 manifesto. Different from but influenced by Marcel Duchamp & John Cage and elements of Black Mountain College relocating to New York & San Francisco.
Consider Larry Marotta’s contribution- God, Lipgloss and Meat.

So, what, where, and when Fluxus now?


Whatever event inspires, whenever, from the banal to leap through a wall of consciousness and softly whisper…


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Terror Is Winning

TERROR is winning so far. IslamicInfiltrationsign620x465-vi-300x225

I won’t comment on the merits of this Virginia school incident; one version is reported for us in the Washington Post. I wasn’t there so readers need to determine the veracity of the news outlets.

But let’s look at the reaction. This micro-pebble tossed into the mass media pond didn’t merely ripple the surface, it surged choppy waves, necessitating a decision to shut down schools in the entire county, not just the one high school where the class met. We are reacting in superficial knee-jerks to incidents that start with one click, one phone message, one package left at a bus stop and result in effects such as the closing of LA city schools. It doesn’t require much to generate such a result.


There must be rejoicing in Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of ISIS. No terrorist need fire another round. Save radical extremist explosives for blowing up historical religious antiquities instead of suicide vests. The West, notably United States, squanders more resources in reacting to false positives than in trying other means toward creating solutions.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Here’s my concern, and a question: what is this COSTING America in terms of productivity?

This is a chess game, not checkers, and it may be that terrorist strategists have a long game plan, one that employs attrition as the primary weapon, not bullets and boom-booms.

How much has the warfare US laid in the Middle East cost us?
And how much more will it cost as veterans require extensive medical and psychological treatment, many for the rest of their lives?
How about the suicides, the substance abuse, contributed to in part by experiences of those defending our freedom?

What is being ignored because this country chooses to load up the defense & homeland protection budget at the cost of fundamental needs?
Checked infrastructure lately in the cities? Sewer/water/highway/bridges? Are they maintained & repaired.
Where does US rank in healthcare among the developed world?
Where are the jobs that keep workers earning middle class paydays?
Is the quality of primary & secondary education allowing young Americans to prepare for global competition?                                                                  You’ve heard the meme: “If you think education is expensive, consider how much a lack of education cost.”

I see this as a war of attrition, with the West, specifically our United States at risk with more to lose. This shouldn’t be measured in terms of 2016 dollars, but in REAL COST over the decades to come.

“This is the way the world ends…not with a bang but a whimper.”

TERROR is winning so far.



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Notes following “the theater is a blank page” by Ann Hamilton and the SITI Company

Sharon & I left Mershon Auditorium/Wexner Center for the Arts just over an hour ago, guided out the back door after a shared experience of the theater as a blank page as directed by Ann Hamilton and Ann Bogart and created and performed by the SITI Company.

It was apropos that we stopped in North Market for a bite before the show, as that’s where we first became acquainted with Ms Hamilton back in the ’90s when she arrived in Columbus and shopped frequently for fresh chicken at our Red Rooster Poultry stand.

After a few minutes converging in the Mershon lobby we were escorted to a section of seats in the upper, upper balcony to accommodate the 120 guests of the audience. The other 2300 seats in the theatre were covered by a light muslin and inaccessible. As we filed in and sat at almost the length of a football field above the stage we viewed the pedestrian activity of members of the SITI Company performing backstage tasks- the theater as a blank page had begun.

From here it’s just sensory impressions I absorbed as they emoted some cognitive reflections. Let me add, this piece was influenced by selections of Virginia Woolf’s TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, in which a company member read aloud throughout the performance, and with which the participatory audience actually handled the written word, printed on cloth ribbons and passed from seat to seat, the long linear line of language as magnified silhouettes overscale mundane movement mesmerized among volleys of non-haiku “a moment longer…time ran short” as we share amusement with ribbons of strangers with ribbons of text with the Q the tyranny of the alphabet the R the majesty of backstage litter the cloud of curtains the shreds of text falling floating grooming fabric a muslin mandala adding dimensions only to transform like Kali like a puppy like a pajama party on a boat covered in sleeping bags as layers of forgotten events lift from the cocoon of sentiment.

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Robert Bly’s “Dragon Smoke” rising from Cleveland Heights

This is a clarion call to let you know about Holly Jensen, a working poet. Her current piece is “Selected Timelines.” More here, and here.

Upon absorbing “Selected Timelines” I envisioned a conversation by a campfire…Michael Pollan, Richard Brautigan and Holly Jensen. As the crackles of seasoned white oak logs modulated to a whisper, and shadows danced just above the embers, Michael suggested they open a second bottle of vintage 1984 port. Holly smiled. Richard observed, “that was the year I picked to leave.”

Robert Bly once essayed “Looking for Dragon Smoke” and reminded us of the poets in ancient times, the “time of inspiration,” the poet flew from one world to another, “riding on dragons,…dragging behind them long tails of dragon smoke.”

After my re-reading today of “Selected Timelines” I unfolded the paper to study the pattern, and upon refolding, spied a wisp of smoke float outward. A leap occurred, to repeat Bly’s critique, from the conscious to the unconscious and back again, a leap from the known part of the mind to the unknown part and back to the known.

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My Whiter Shade of Privilege

Current events, Ferguson & Florida, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin…they’re so alien in my experience. Sure, I can intellectually get a grasp on these matters, but in my core, I’ve never walked their path. I’ve never feared a cop while I’ve abided by the law. But I’m Caucasian in America, college-degreed, professionally-employed, physically present as a six-foot two-hundred-plus pounder who walks solidly on both legs. Cops don’t mess with me, as on the surface, they have no cause. I also have fathered two sons, now healthy young adults, and there has been much they have done to cause me to have concern for their well-being, but I’ve never wondered if they would arrive home at night, safely. However, I know women, African-American women, who do have sons. They cannot rest assuredly at night as I can. So I’m considering my position of privilege.

My friend Daniel Fox just posted on Facebook, as follows:

I have no idea what it’s like to experience the omnipresent weight of exclusion from access to opportunity, people, and resources as an African-American.

I have no idea what it’s like to be avoided, targeted and looked at with suspicion constantly.

I must try to imagine.

It’s only the beginning of my duty as someone who has been handed every privilege, to use my empathetic imagination to understand what life is like for another human.

The world won’t change unless people who have privilege (and for the sake of simplicity, let’s just talk about white men) put their reputations on the line and speak up about ending the systematic oppression of portions of our human family.

This is my acknowledgment that I have failed to consistently use my privilege in an effective way to end oppression.

Yes, this post alone is slactivism. it can also be the beginning of a call to those of us who don’t face oppression on a daily basis to put “looking good” on the line and speak up and then commit to changing things.

To which I reply: Here’s a first step, or at least an early step- exchange eye contact with fellow humans you pass in public, strangers-but-once, to share our common bond. This is an entry to empathy, and relieves the costume of privilege. Not to stare, but to explicitly not divert our vision. Add some friendliness to your facial expression, a loose relaxed semi-smile. check the body language. We’re hardwired to wear game faces and postures as we navigate, but those of us who are privileged to know better can actualize our emotional intelligence and humanize our mileau, so let’s do it.

Please reply with your thoughts. Thank you.

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Something There Is that Brands a Place…

index.jpg cbus

Something there is that brands a place, that defines a community, that clearly distinguishes the locale that residents call their city.

There has been a commotion of late loosely surrounding the Fashion Meets Music Festival in general, and specifically aimed at the festival organizer’s invitation to feature R&B performer R Kelly to headline said event. UPDATE

The organizers defended their choice in the wake of numerous complaints from artists and consumers alike about Kelly’s past arrest, acquittal, and ongoing reputation as a sexual predator. One such rationale voiced by Bret Adams, “…we are not the morality police.”

FMMF started with the honorable, civic-minded intention to mark Columbus as a destination Labor Day Weekend with a signature festival that is unique, combining the local resources of our fashion/design infrastructure with that of myriad musicians, bands, songwriters and producers in the 614. But by their own admission, this was the first attempt to plan and execute a music festival of this scale. There are bound to be missteps and misfires.

In my opinion, the FMMF train derailed when it lost track of its audience, the customers, the tens of thousands of music, arts and fashion consumers who were the target of FMMF’s marketing plan. Complaints proliferated on social media sites about the perception of out-of-town consultants calling the shots with top-down decisions. This digests poorly in a town that succeeds year after year in staging popular grassroots festivals such as ComFest and Independents’ Day.
A band dropped out, then another, both in protest of R Kelly named as a headliner. Then a popular public radio broadcaster withdrew from sponsorship. More publicity. Growing gnashing of teeth on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE: This writer is on staff at WCBE 90.5 FM, and involved in the decision made by General Manager Dan Mushalko on July 25 to withdraw from our partnership of FMMF. From this perspective I recognize elements of the organizer’s intentions that are positive, with a goal of Columbus hosting a distinctive annual music festival in the magnitude of SXSW in Austin. The intention of elevating Brand Columbus in the perception of those outside the 614.

Here’s where I believe they missed- Fundamentally, branding is NOT the message a committee fabricates and pushes out to the world. Rather, a brand is a PROMISE…past/present/future…the ongoing perception of a product, of a name, of a place as it is realized by the target of the branding, the audience, the customers. On a micro-level, our personal brand is simply our reputation. Not merely how we talk, but truly how we walk, what we stand for. We all carry such a brand, even R Kelly.

Collectively, the “US” in ColumbUS have developed an integral sense of place associated with our many developing neighborhoods, our philanthropy to local causes, our championing of local artists, our diverse food culture and all other activities distinctively Cbus. This is our brand, organically grown from roots upward.

Columbus, our Columbus, is the community that said “NO SLUTSAUCE FOR YOU, MR. HOMOPHOBE!”
And now we have made it clear that sexual predators are not welcome at an event celebrating our arts.
THIS is the Columbus Brand. It has nothing to do with serving as morality police.

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So, I didn’t allow sufficient time this morning to ground myself and breathe with intention, with affirmations.  I needed to be on time at Mt Carmel East to have last week’s skin graft examined by Dr Kaplansky. “I’ll get grounded after the appointment,” I reasoned. NOPE! Although the news about my leg healing is not bad, the surgeon was no longer impressed with the effects of the wound-VAC, a reverse pressure device I’ve carried on my shoulder for 3-weeks.  Good news…I’m off the wound-VAC.  Now this means dressing changes at home EVERY DAY, rather than 3x/week.

So…I get home, tell Rachael I really need to get grounded. And I started my daily ritual, out on the front porch, with Oak Street passing by in a light humid breeze. I’m just visualizing a glossy jasper-red root, rooting my sacral chakra deep into Earth, anchoring me with a firm foundation, drawing spiritual nourishment from Gaia, but opened my eyes to see a fleet of Columbus Police Department armor convoying westward on Oak, turning up 20th at my corner…POLICE SWAT.

This matter is not facilitating my grounding, just when I realize I need to be grounded.  SWAT has absorbed all our attention with the sound of their detonated FLASH-BANG within the apartment complex behind us in Olde Towne East. A police sniper at the ready, blinklessly training his sights on the doorway that now is door-less. Then, as silently as they appeared, they disappeared. Apparently the object of their desire was elsewhere.

So, perhaps I can repeat my effort to ground, but here’s James, ready to perform a quick patch of porch ceiling & soffits to appease the bank appraiser, a band-aid to hide the wood-rot so we can close on this purchase of the American Craftsman that  we’ve rented for nine months.

But look what time it is!  I must get to work.  And still, ground-less.  My only solution, to tear my head off the pillow and allow myself an extra half-hour in the morning.


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