Emmett Williams: Fluxus Cathedral
Edizioni Conz Raum
Feb 21–Apr 28, 2019
Exhibition view “Fluxus Cathedral”, Photos by Giorgia Palmisano
Exhibition view “Fluxus Cathedral”, Photos by Giorgia Palmisano

“...All these funny little people, who are they, where do they come from, and where are they going? I don't think they are self-portraits, although they do creep into a lot of my works. They have been keeping me company as far back as I can remember, even as a child, ever-present doodles dancing in and out of a kind of automatic drawing. They have danced their permutational dance on a mountaintop in Japan, on wooden wheels carved by native craftsmen in Kenya, at a Fluxus festival in Korea, on real stained glass in Verona, in a variety of prints and paintings, and here they are in the black marble hall of the former Imperial Castle in Poznań. Keep going, little fellows, and who knows where you'll end up. In a real cathedral, maybe, some day.”

– Emmett Williams, Berlin, 1991.

Emmett Williams uses humor and mock seriousness with an underlying deliberate intent characteristic of Fluxus performance. His participation in Fluxus group activities and collaborative projects started in the late 1950s. Maciunas proposed Fluxus as a complex of different approaches to art, music and poetic practice, evident before this in the work of Marcel Duchamp. These involved chance operations, influenced by Duchamp and composer John Cage, for example in the first ‘happening’, and the ideas of gesture proposed by writer Antonin Artaud. For Emmett Williams ‘Fluxus simply provided a forum, free from the entanglements of the art establishment’, in which many artists could demonstrate their works in the company of kindred spirits.

Emmett Williams (1925 Greenville, South Carolina, USA – 2007 Berlin, Germany) was an American poet and performer of experimental poetry. In 1962, he took part in the “Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik” in Wiesbaden and since then regularly participated in Fluxus concerts and events. The later unconventional autobiography My Life in Flux – and Vice Versa (Stuttgart: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 1991) brings together documents and anecdotes from Williams’s journey between the United States, Europe, and Asia, providing precise and unique documentation of his participation in the Fluxus movement. Returning to the United States in 1966, he became editor-in-chief of Something Else Press until 1970, collaborating on some of the publishing house’s most essential works, including Claes Oldenburg’s Store Days (1961), and editing the outstanding Anthology of Concrete Poetry (1967). In 1982, while living in Berlin with his wife Ann Nöel, Williams had an exhibition at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, titled Schemes and Variations, which was attended by Francesco Conz and members of Fluxus. The relationship of sincere friendship and mutual esteem between Williams and Conz resulted in unique works produced in Asolo and Verona over the course of almost thirty years of collaboration. Williams' works have been exhibited in numerous international museums, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1983), the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin (1996), and the Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (2005). Emmett Williams’s archive is currently part of the Getty Research Institute.