“While there was an initial version of Fluids, there isn’t an original or permanent work. Rather, there is an idea to do something and a physical trace of that idea. By inventing a version of Fluids … [one] is not copying my concept, but is participating in a practice of reinvention central to my work. Fluids continues, and its reinventions further multiply its meanings. [Its history and artifacts are catalysts], an invitation to do something.”
— Allan Kaprow, October 2004
The first Flu-ID card in an administrative office
Length: 30 feet
Width: 10 feet
Height: 8 feet
Date of birth: October 11th, 1967
Place of birth: Pasadena, Los Angeles
Eyes Ice: Transparent
Condition: Complex (solid or liquid)
Address: It’s really moving
ID number: ID block added, multiplied, subtracted – ok, wait a moment, I use the calculator – maybe zero, exactly zero. ID: in decimal 0
Oh, I think, geometrically it’s rectangular.
Are you sure it’s possible to invent a big problem for an ID card? And all these specificities can be visible?
Let the administration be easy, and control your flux.
The idea of a reinvention allows us to rediscover Allan Kaprow’s intention to offer spaces ‘where’ art is happening, instead of focusing on ‘what’ art is. His avantgarde approach towards combining everyday life, topography and public space are all still relevant for our art practices today. Though Kaprow did not see himself as a political artist, he had a great awareness to social changes. He saw the Happening as an event that “does not even remotely remind you of culture”, as he said in his recording ‘How to make Happening’ from 1966 .
We think that it is impossible to create a reinvention of ‘Fluids’ without alterations to the original concept. Today we live in the time of an ecological and economic crisis (which both are the direct result of a deregulated capitalism), and this crisis is being widely discussed in within the fields of science as well as culture. We assume that Allan Kaprow, as artist and educator, would have conducted “Fluids” in a different way today. For the original ‘Fluids’, water and energy were wasted for the experience of an abstracted feeling of ‘doing something together’. We were therefore looking for a solution that would create a spontaneous community, while at the same time making materials (and money) ‘flow’ in a way that would be more sustainable.
Kaprow was very often working with objects of the every day life, bringing them into a different physical and symbolical space, in which they were set free to be used spontaneously. In our reinvention, we disrupt the circulation of objects as commodities in the urban space. We would like to use the budget intended for buying the ice blocks to buy usable objects instead, such as tables, bicycles, fridges, flower pots, water kettles, chairs, dishes, bed covers, and many more, both used and new. There will also be edible plants to be used in the kitchen that are grown in collaboration with the citizens garden Himmelbeet in Berlin; and books in many languages. Out of these objects, we will construct a rectangular structure that will have the original size of ‘Fluids’ (9 x 3 x 2.4 m) in the public space at Lehrter Strasse in Berlin-Moabit, situated at a street corner. Close-by are social institutions such as a home for asylum-seekers; apartment blocks; new luxury apartments and a spa; a hotel; and allotment gardens. It is a 10 min walk from Hamburger Bahnhof by foot. This reinvention of the happening ‘Fluids’ made of objects will be built within one day. There will be free soup and music and other elements that invite by-passers to linger on.
Once the happening is finished, it is left unattended. Quite naturally, many of the objects will be gone in the morning, just as the original structure of ice blocks was also melting during its making. Anyone can come and take whatever they like. It offers its physical presence to the audience: a heap of useful things, for free, in the middle of the city. No message, no conditions are attached to it.
“Let’s do something very, very unusual, while seeming to accomplish something rather kindly toward each other that was needed to be done anyway.” (Allan Kaprow)
Allan Kaprow worked for his happenings with the public or groups of friends. Unlike the Fluxus artists, he didn’t work collaboratively, but always retained a visible solo identity as an artist. Antje Majewski, who was originally invited, decided that in order to ‘reinvent’ Kaprow, the experience of reinventing the structure of ‘Fluids’ had to be understood not just in a physical sense, but also as an intellectual process, that needed to be done as a communal effort. She therefore invited her close artistic friends to work together in a temporary group.
All of the involved artists are in various ways in their practices interested in the use and history of objects, in their possible agency and the narratives that can evolve around them, as well as in an art that situates itself within a multicultural society and (in different ways) within the legacy of conceptual art.
We see the process of thinking about “Fluids” as part of our artistic response and reinvention, therefore it is important to mention the main topics that preoccupied us while preparing our action. Our discussions circled around the questions of authorship, the ephemeral, the role of objects between commodity and artwork, and the role of the institution. Together we spent time on reading texts by Kaprow, discussing and trying to understand what it would mean to work in his spirit.
Kaprow’s approach can often be seen as a liberating process, in which social interactions, as well as interactions with objects, are shaken out of their routines. Proposing ice sculptures that melt is such an idea: to undermine any idea of stability, of the sanctified positioning of art-as-object (of value) inside the closed walls of the museum. The idea to this happening was born out of doubts about his own ‘retrospective’ in a museum. While finally a proper ‘exhibition’ was taking place inside the museum, ‘Fluids’ was happening outside.
We see the offer of the Hamburger Bahnhof to reinvent such a piece as a possibility to initiate a discussion about the roles of museums in general. Are they merely the keepers of objects? Do all objects have monetary value? With our reinvention, we wish to counteract, to undo the capitalist logic that attaches monetary value to anything and everything, including art. We therefore welcome the wish of the Hamburger Bahnhof to ‘possess’ an art piece as anarchic as ‘Fluids’, because it has the ability to act as a subversive and anarchic catalyst from within the institution.
Fluid idiom. Momentarily we can
Keep our heads above water,
No flood today, although
The street is swimming.