A compendium of writing from an innovative publisher and pioneering avant-garde artist of the 1960s and ’70s.
An experimental composer, writer, critic, editor, and visual artist, Higgins (Modernism Since Postmodernism: Essays on Intermedia, 1997, etc.), who died in 1998, did not subscribe to entrenched categories when it came to art; accordingly, he pursued a variety of aesthetic interests. A member of the Fluxus artist collective, Higgins sought to create hybrid forms of art, or what he called intermedia—cross-genre works like sound poetry, visual poetry, and happenings (live, interactive theatrical performances). Taking the form of manifestos and critical essays, these assorted writings set down the principles of Fluxus, including an emphasis on internationalism, experimentation, ephemerality, and playfulness, and also detail Higgins’ time as editor of Something Else Press, an independent publisher devoted to short runs of experimental art books and writing. Editors Clay, publisher of Granary Books, and Friedman (Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies/Tongji Univ.), the former manager of Something Else and the editor of The Fluxus Reader (1998), have created an attractive book, with some of Higgins’ essays reproduced in facsimile and sample covers of Something Else books and pamphlets also reprinted. Higgins is strongest in his ability to convey the heady feel of an avant-garde arts movement and the haphazard zeitgeist surrounding an innovative small press. He also excels at explaining complex experiments in art in a straightforward, clear manner. However, few manifestos age well, and a dated quality occasionally arises here due to some jargon and the repetition of anecdotes. Nevertheless, anyone interested in the history of experimental arts movements in general, and Higgins and other Fluxus artists in particular, will find much value in these pages, particularly those seeking a blueprint for their own innovative arts community or advice about how to run a small press.
A provocative firsthand account delving into the importance of artist collectives, the making of hybrid art forms, and the trials of independent publishing.