Having always considered myself an introvert, I never thought that I would “perform” at an art event. However, on November 11, 2011, at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, I performed in front of fifty people as part of Larry Miller’s famous Flux-Tour.
Even harder to believe, Larry Miller led the tour – the Larry Miller, who actually first invented and conducted the Flux-Tours back in the late 1970s! Some background on Flux-Tours; they were guided by artists, such as George Brecht and Alison Knowles, who brought groups to various art-related places in New York City, and talked about everything but the art, as if the venue itself were a work of art. Flux-Tours challenged conventional definitions of art and demonstrated that anything can be seen as art. So, in conjunction with the exhibition, Fluxus and the Essential Questions of Life, at the Grey, Larry Miller was reprising his work of the 70s.
I was one of his four assistants, who volunteered to find “anomalies” for him to talk about, count the flutes of the Grey’s columns, and collect dirt from various places in the gallery. Miller invited each assistant to perform a brief presentation about some of the objects. Knowing of my Korean descent, Miller asked me to talk in the Korean language about the objects around Zen for TV (1963/78) and Zen for Film (1964) by Nam June Paik (1931–2006).
Yes, in Korean. It made such sense, since it highlights the international aspect of Fluxus, as well as the ironic nature of the Flux-Tour. I felt very excited about talking to a mostly English-speaking audience in my mother tongue, which is something I had not done since coming to the United States.
On the day of the tour, the three minutes dedicated to my performance was a life-changing moment for me. Having more than 50 people in front of me, including the artist himself, whose attention is solely on what I was doing, gave me an adrenaline rush. I wasn’t even aware of how loudly I was speaking about the electric cords that are connected to Zen for TV, and how exaggerated my gestures were in explaining the spinning of the projector of Zen for Film. I was no longer a quiet Asian girl, but a confident young woman in an extra-large painter’s coverall and white gloves, enthusiastically engaged in an art performance!
I was very engaged with the audience too. I felt the mutual trust between us. I fully believed that they would understand what I was talking about, and they knew that I wasn’t talking nonsense in a language they did not understand. Trust filled the air between us, and everything just made sense.
In the end, I learned three important things from the Flux-Tour. First is the confidence I never knew I had. Second is a lesson about communication through art. Cultural background, age, and even language do not matter when people communicate through art. Last but not least is the hat Miller’s wife made for the assistants, which had the Flux-Tour logo on it – with Larry’s autograph! It is now stored safely in my little box with stuff like the dog collar of my first puppy, and a ring I inherited from my grandmother.
–Written by Rooni Lee, NYU CAS ’12 and Undergraduate Intern, Grey Art Gallery