System Aesthetics: A Final System: New Approaches

My conference project was guided by my interest in person-to-person interactions and simple, conceptual art. In class, we tried acting out a few event scores and I was hoping to create another system of performance that work similarly. I hoped to make a few event scores/instructions that encourage people to approach others in a new way. In order to make the event scores, I did a lot of research on other Fluxus artists, wrote and tested a variety of scores with friends and volunteers, and decided on the final list of instructions.

I have long been interested in George Brecht’s event scores because they are simple yet profound. I believe they hone in on the essentials of how we live. They also allow for choice – for the piece to exist, a person must choose to act it out. The Fluxus artist Ken Friedman wrote a happening that reads: “YOU WILL DECIDE TO READ THIS TEXT OR NOT TO READ IT. HAVING MADE YOUR DECISION, THE HAPPENING IS NOW OVER.”

George Brecht, Three Telephone Events

Through Systems Aesthetics, I learned more about Fluxus and the philosophy behind event scores. We discussed John Cage and the artist as a composer. The composer begins the work but it is up to the viewer to realize the work and interpret it as they choose. I also discovered Fluxus’s commitment to art as fun and remembered Fluxus’s concern for art as simple.

At the end of my process of research and experimenting, I had written four of event scores and printed them onto small cards for other people to be able to take and try.

I believe my project is successful in maintaining the simplicity and opportunity for choice that I learned from Fluxus. I was able to create a group of event scores that come from a specific approach to the daily interactions people encounter. I then named my work “New Approaches” to emphasize the focus on how we approach people.

The project changed many times along the way, most often from trying interactions and taking note of the way people responded to the new situations. The first set of interactions were based on simple approaches but then were evolved to interrupt specific systems. That led me to trying my scores as interrupting actions like people unloading their laundry or grabbing food at a cafe.

Event score 1 of 4

I was surprised how challenging it is for myself and my friends who volunteered to try interactions to put themselves in uncommon situations. But when people did choose to engage, they had more fun than I expected. Once a person tried an action once, it then became a game of trying to get more people involved and laugh. During my early experiments, I filmed the interactions to look back on and take notes. However, this presented a problem because when participants noticed the camera, it changed the event. People sometimes felt they were being pranked or something of the sort, which I feel impedes on the choice to participate and on the fact that I wanted my work to be based on the engagement between two people, not any outside influence.

An early test of an event score I wrote

I do wish that I had more time to record people attempting my event scores. The original plan was to have a group of videos to show but due to the end of the semester and my volunteers’ other commitments, I wasn’t able to make a final reel. I do like the “business card” concept so that my work leaves the gallery and can lead to infinite interactions and thought. I see the benefit of just having the cards, however, because people will only be able to use their imagination to be motivated into attempting an event.

This project involved a long process of trial and error, is about relationships of two random people, is more or less formless, and can be endlessly repeated, though as the artist I won’t know if any event is being performed. I hope that whether or not anyone chooses to perform and engage with others in new ways, this project encourages others to think about the norms of social engagement.

Event score 3 of 4