Fluxus Fetish
Archivio Conz
Nov 03, 2023
Alison Knowles Fetish artisti veri, 1988. Photo by Giorgia Palmisano and Giulia Baresi. Courtesy of Archivio Conz, Berlin.
Alison Knowles Fetish artisti veri, 1988. Photo by Giorgia Palmisano and Giulia Baresi. Courtesy of Archivio Conz, Berlin.

Co-organized by SNSF Activating Fluxus and Archivio Conz, Fluxus Fetish delves into the concept of the fetish through the lens of Archivio Conz's collection of fetish objects. This exploration will encompass the vibrant archival life and the latent potential residing within these objects. We will engage with the notion of fetish as something possessing distinct agency, investigating how certain objects acquire the ability to exert influence over other objects, individuals and practices, and will draw connections between affect and care, bridging the gap between Fluxus fetishes and other emotionally charged objects. Lastly, we will examine the act of collecting artworks as specific objects as a form of fetishism, or how objects become fetishised in the collection through ritual practices of preservation and care.

The term “fetish” encompasses a range of meanings depending on the context in which it is being used. It begins with an object believed to possess magic, protective or assisting powers, often regarded with reverence and intense devotion, marked by preoccupation and emotional attachment. In some cases, the term “fetish” has been used to describe intense devotion or veneration of a specific object or idea within a group or cult-like setting. This can involve rituals, ceremonies, or practices centered around the fetish. It also takes on a modern connotation associated with sexual fetish and gratification, representing an object of fixation - a body part, an object, or activity that goes beyond what is considered typically normative. Finally, and in a broader sense, a fetish can refer to any object, idea, or activity to which a person develops an unusually strong and obsessive attachment or devotion. This can manifest in various ways, such as collecting specific items, fixating on certain topics, or engaging in particular behaviors repeatedly.

Fetishism can be described as the act of redirecting one's desires and fantasies towards substitute objects or specific body parts, like a foot or a shoe, in order to avoid dealing directly with the complex psychological issue of castration. Sigmund Freud, in his essay on "Fetishism," came to realize that individuals with fetishistic tendencies are capable of simultaneously believing in their fantasies while acknowledging them as mere fantasies. Surprisingly, this recognition of the fantasy's unreal nature doesn't diminish its hold over the person. Octave Mannoni expressed this contradictory mindset as “je sais bien, mais quand-même” or “I know very well, but nevertheless.”