Right. This is it. My first blog entry. Well, I guess I could do worse than to say a bit more about the name, Peter’s flux de parole. Originally, I wanted to call it “Flux de bouche”, “word flow”, but unfortunately, that name is already taken: in 1992, Dutch sound performer Jaap Blonk released an album of sound poetry by the same title. You will find a page devoted to it on Blonk’s website and on that priceless online collection of experimental music, poetry and much more, UBUWEB, you can hear all the tracks and see some of the scores. To make things worse (for me, not for him), Blonk performs texts by authors whose names are also bound to crop up on my blog, especially Dadaists Hugo Ball and Tristan Tzara and Fluxus associate Dick Higgins. So “Flux de bouche” was out of the question, and it became “Flux de parole” instead.
One very important reason why I insist on using the word “flux” is that I have spent so much of my professional life studying Fluxus. As it also says in my bio, I wrote my MA thesis on Fluxus in Holland and my Ph.D. thesis on Fluxus in Northwest Europe. But what is at least as important is that I really want it to be a flow of words. I hope to use this blog as an opportunity to speak about my professional field of interest – avant-garde art from the early 20th century until the present day, and especially Fluxus – without the academic rigour that is expected of an art historian like me. Other names I considered using were “Chatter Letter”, the title that Higgins gave to one of his Something Else Newsletters (volume 1, number 7, January 1968, chips in the academic), and “Serious Gabcard” (Something Else Newsletter, volume 1, numbers 4 and 5, August 1966 and February 1967 respectively – old habits die hard). I would like this blog to be an opportunity to slacken the academic standard somewhat and just chatter and gab.
And there we have the reason why I think “flux de parole” is a very acceptable alternative: the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure used the word “parole” to denote the way an individual expresses himself in language, as opposed “langue”, which is the system that lies behind. In his Course in General Linguistics (1916), Saussure famously compared “langue” to “a symphony, the reality of which is independent of the way it is executed; the mistakes that the musicians who play it might make can never compromise that reality” (my translation from the French – and please notice how I carefully refrain from adding a page number or a footnote here). “Parole”, by contrast, is the realisation of “langue” by the individual subject expressing his/her “personal thought”. Parole consists of all the sounds the musicians make, right and wrong, intentional and unintentional. I want to use this blog to explore particulars, contingencies. I want to focus on the exceptions, not the rules, and I want to treat everything as an exception.
The only lingering regret I have is that I have to let go of the physicality implied by the term “flux de bouche”. It suggests saliva, teeth, lolling tongues and the sounds of chewing, breathing and swallowing. Part of the reason why George Maciunas chose to call his creation “Fluxus” is that dictionary definitions of the word mentioned diarrhoea, purges and “the bloody flux” (dysentery). He even wanted to package the first Fluxus yearbook in (a facsimile of) the box of a do-it-yourself enema kit. “Great box”, he enthused in early March 1963, “listen to this: ‘… in preparation for proctoscopy and sigmaoidoscopy: in the relief of constipation due to fecal or barium impactions.’ Or this: ‘assume knee-chest position… insert tube and squeeze bottle gently… maintain position until a strong urge to evacuate is felt (usually within 5 minutes)’ etc. etc. – wonderful” (postcard to the composer La Monte Young in the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, now at the MoMA in New York – ouch, doing it again). The expression “flux de bouche” would have echoed Maciunas’ corporeal interests extremely well. To compensate for this, I have chosen a portrait of myself that shows me covered in raw egg during a performance of Dick Higgins’ Danger Music #15 (“Work with butter and eggs for a time”) at The Building in Berlin in December 2008. I might one day devote a blog entry to the delights of smashing eggs into one’s own face, who knows.
But I feel I have spent more than enough time speaking about reasons. It is high time that I posted my first real blog entry. To lift just a little tip of the veil: it is about Knud Pedersen’s most recent book and my worries about the value of the idea of “reality” in connection with the type of work I tend to work with. Exciting stuff!