Associate Professor of Art History & Theory, Melissa Ragona will present “Flux Pour: Non-Language in the works of Paul Sharits” as part of University of Chicago’s Concrete Happenings conference series around the fluxus movement and film on May 5 & 6. This series celebrates the work of Wolf Vostell and the return of the artist’s monumental sculpture, Concrete Traffic (1970) to the University’s campus.
Sharits’s involvement in Fluxus during the sixties extended his interests in compositional practices inspired by the integrated serialism of 1950s Darmstadt school composers such as Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, et. al. The text-based practices or “event scores” of Fluxus in which short form performance instructions were written as scripts or served as conceptual tools for different kinds of activities (musical, performance or action-based, cinematic) had their origins in the aleatory and indeterminate compositional work of John Cage. These Fluxus works were all, in some sense, filmic scores–already taking film up off the screen and into more performative, event-based experiences. The event scores of Fluxus inspired the event of language in Sharits’ films. This paper will map these moves from an abstract relationship to language presented visually as in Word Movie (1966) to a complete abstraction based on sound and color (where sound becomes a central force in also creating what he terms, the “non-visual image.”