drucken Bookmark and Share

by Hanna B. Hölling

Unpacking the Score: Notes on the Material Legacy of Intermediality

Imagining Events

It is October 1959. I am visiting George Brecht’s just opened exhibition at the Reuben Gallery in New York. Titled toward events: an arrangement and displaying various objects as propositions, the exhibition is difficult to classify—it is neither an “object exhibition” nor can one really see “performances” (Fig. 1).[1]  The “toward” in the title suggests an experiment; the “arrangement”— a musical connotation. In fact, the concepts presented here have been derived from music. The objects are treated like scores. Before putting up his show, Brecht—a chemist by profession and an intriguing personality—had worked for various US companies such as Johnson and Johnson, authoring five U.S. patents and two co-patents, feminine tampons among others. His move towards fine arts coincided with his attendance at John Cage’s classes at the New School for Social Research, known for propagating new approaches to composing sound, music, and noise. As a result of his studies, Brecht conceives of textual notations of varying lengths that allow a great deal of freedom in their execution. These works stand apart from his contemporary Allan Kaprow’s instructions for Happenings that, more prescriptive, constrained room for improvisation (see, for instance, his 18 Happenings in 6 Parts from 1959). In his creative practice, Brecht also differs markedly from Cage, who organizes everyday sounds into musical compositions. Instead, Brecht accepts everyday situations, chance events, and “all occurrences” that might result from an encounter between the participants and the objects as a legitimate outcome. (Here, my use of the word “participants” rather than “viewers” emphasizes the subjects’ engagement over the passive, disembodied viewing.) Brecht wants to ensure that “the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed.”[2] To present these details, constellations, or occurrences in the context of a creative, authorial project, Brecht writes scores for them—an important aspect of my present contestation with the material legacy of Fluxus.

Fig. 1 George Brecht, toward events: an arrangement, 1959, announcement and instructions ©DACS 2021

Fig. 1 George Brecht, toward events: an arrangement, 1959, announcement and instructions ©DACS 2021


I am walking around in the [Reuben] gallery, observing visitors—not too many—engaging with Brecht’s work that invites haptic manipulation and thematizes time. Tactile gestures calibrated to an expanded sensorium are encouraged; textures, sounds, and smells are becoming a part of this art’s experience. Brecht defines his scores against the reification of the object world. He urges the subject to experience and notice “the ever-unfolding syntax of the given.”[3] Introducing such a novel mode of engagement with art, these works challenge not only visitors but also critics who struggle with the understanding of what this art is—an issue reflected later in slightly awkward exhibition announcements.

A work titled The Case draws my attention (Fig. 2). It invites me to inspect its contents—toys, artifacts of everyday use, curious objects, and perhaps even debris—and utilize them in the way which the artist purports as “appropriate to their nature.” A text printed on a paper bag that accompanies the exhibition reads:

THE CASE is found on a table. It is approached by one to several people and opened. The contents are removed and used in ways appropriate to their nature. The case is repacked and closed. The event (which lasts possibly 10-30 minutes) comprises all sensible occurrences between approach and abandonment of the case.[4] (See also fig.1.)

I follow the instructions. The Case draws me to its clumsy physicality, to its chaotic conglomeration of different kinds of artifact, a picnic box that lacks edible contents, whose system is difficult to grasp. The dominance of vision recedes, the sensorium comes forward: I am finding myself touching the metal, leather, rubber and plastic objects and paper clippings;[5] I am smelling candle wax inside The Case; time brackets my experience as I am exploring the case’s two compartments; I have to remove one of them to inspect the case’s lower level; I am pulling out and putting back the items, subjecting them to sensory examination. My body and eyesight work together to reach the object beyond its surface.[6] What is happening here? I am asking myself. Almost without conscious realization, I find myself performing The Case, and the event unfolds.


Fig. 2 George Brecht, The Case, 1959 ©DACS 2021

Fig. 2 George Brecht, The Case, 1959 ©DACS 2021


In the mid-twentieth century, a case was not a new subject but a motif known at least since Marcel Duchamp (e.g., Box in a Valise,1935-41, which perpetuates Duchamp’s oeuvre by assembling the miniature reproductions of his works), Joseph Cornell (surrealist boxed assemblages incorporating fragments of once appealing and then cast-off artifacts), and Robert Rauschenberg (including a participatory element in his combine Black Market from 1961). Although lacking fetishistic or psychic pursuits, The Case also recalls forms of Dada and Surrealistic objects. But importantly, The Case—as a case—later morphs into the Fluxkit, a prototypical Fluxus ensemble of objects designed by George Maciunas, the self-nominated leader and impresario of the loosely organized Fluxus group. Maciunas was fascinated by Brecht and integrated many of his ideas into what became the Fluxus canon. For instance, Fluxkit (A or B copy, 1965) and Flux Year Box 2 (1968, edition announced 1965) display a similar objecthood to Brecht’s case, but they differ by what might be seen as a varying dimension of eventhood.[7]  

Time travel. It is May 2020, and I am visiting a newly opened exhibition of Fluxus materials displayed in one of the well-known museums of contemporary art. The Case greets me from behind a glass, presented on an elevated platform, still, if not silenced, patinated but proud of its traces of aging and evidence of former use. I start to imagine what damages handling of The Case by viewers would cause. Trained as a conservator, I somewhat automatically sympathize with this solution—conservators would be the first to impose restrictions on use. And yet there is something that saddens me in this still, encapsulated, deactivated ensemble. I feel that these objects are not simply representing something, designed to be just seen, but rather, they are conceived as means to an action authored by each individual participant separately and uniquely—aspects which seem to have been irretrievably lost in this sterile, silent museum presentation. Why am I troubled by this presentation, and why does the activation by the visitor, or rather its conspicuous absence, matter here?

The main “problem” of The Case, which somewhat unwillingly invites such frozen explications, seems to be its apparent alignment with the object world, and how, at first glimpse, and against Brecht’s initial desire to offer the participant an interactive multisensorial encounter, the musealized case reifies this world. Addressing the similar logic of Fluxkits which extend from Brecht’s case, Fluxus scholar Hannah B. Higgins comments: “At least until they enter the museum, these boxed items remain accessible for sensory examination [...] These are sensory games calibrated to an ever-expanding sensorium.”[8] Since there is so much objecthood to be “vitrinized” and physically cared for, The Case’s existence as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end, together with its performative quality as a three-dimensional score, remains overshadowed. While the significance of the object’s (frozen) material history including its patina and traces of use takes primacy over the relevance of the experiential interactive encounter, the carrier of meaning remains a shell and a surface unavailable to empirical evaluation, lacking a structural and metaphysical depth. The work, encased in a vitrine, misses a diachrony of now and then, and the synchrony of the present.

The idea underpinning The Case connotes the process of packing and unpacking. Whereas packing, or packaging, is often associated with concealment, introversion, and organization, unpacking is experiential, exploratory, and outward-facing (the relationship between packing and unpacking might be brought down to the opposition of “into” and “out of”). Here, packing becomes boxing, or “blackboxing,” a technique known from Science and Technology Studies (and from Actor-Network Theory) in which the work, whether scientific or technical, becomes invisible by its own success. Blackboxing happens when a device runs efficiently, its internal complexity is concealed, and when attention is paid to its superficial functionality. In other words, the more successful a device, the more obscure and opaque its function. Because The Case, once musealized and protected by the established policies of care, too easily aligns with a passive receptacle or a staging device, it easily satisfies its status as the object of aesthetic interests activated by the disembodied gaze. In the musealized presentation, in which The Case remains unavailable to the visitors for multisensory examination, the “performative enactment, one where the object and subject would suddenly appear as equal actors” as described by art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh,[9] is absent. And when the work is “unpacked” conceptually by a curious beholder or a researcher, it “ceases functioning” as an aesthetic compilation of surfaces and planes and reveals the mechanics and the logics of its inner apparatus: It becomes a performative thing which foregrounds a performative enactment.

But what does it mean that a work of art is score- or notation-based?[10] How does a score-based work challenge the established categories of a self-contained artwork, existent in one defined materiality that changes as it decays in line with the progressive models of linear time? How does a score-based artwork fit within the categories of visual artifacts, often conceived to be lasting in their finished, intended, or authentic states? How does such work behave when collected by museums, institutions, or galleries?

This essay seeks to build a theory of score-based works different from traditional approaches in which the score becomes a function of the performance’s archive. At its core, there lies a deep interest in the ontology of the work, its materiality and ontogenesis regulated by indeterminacy and openness. How can we conceive of a score-based work as an incipient, rather than preordained, form, always already on the verge between the virtual and the actual? What implications does a score-based work have on the pursuit and the ethics of care?

This slow labor of looking and unpacking the score is inspired by the question concerning the ongoing material and conceptual life of things—a certain complicity with materials—and attention paid to the artwork’s multifarious transitions. The following essay offers a brief meditation on the concept of the score as a condition of possibility (a necessary condition) for an intermedial work to exist. Slowly unpacking the score, the essay glimpses at the way in which scores are scripted and rescripted, how they live on through changes, are archived and musealized. It also asks whether a score itself can be conceptualized as an intermedial form (rather than giving rise to it) and ends by probing the score’s potential as a subject of agential realism.

Brecht’s Event Cards

Brecht’s three-dimensional scores such as The Case challenge our understanding of what a score is, or can be, less so because of their aleatoric, chance-based character, but mainly due to their object-based form. But early in his artistic career, Brecht also created textual scores printed on paper in the form of simple cards with a few lines of text—linguistic propositions designed to mediate a moment of the spectator’s experience. As reported by Kaprow, his scores were first intended to be mailed to his friends,[11] and only later did they become encased in boxes, such as the Water Yam (1963, fig. 3).


Fig. 3 George Brecht, Water Yam (events), 1959-1966 ©DACS 2021

Fig. 3 George Brecht, Water Yam (events), 1959-1966 ©DACS 2021


Created in the aftermath of an eponymous festival organized by Brecht in collaboration with Robert Watts at Rutgers University in 1962, Brecht regarded the cards as suggestions for realizing a concrete, real (rather than ideal) work of art. Water Yam has been reprinted/repackaged many times. Protean and constantly mutating, Water Yam generated perhaps one of the richest archives of material variants and formal variations of Brecht’s textual propositions amongst his works.  Despite its associations with the artist book, Water Yam remains a complex amalgamation of textual cards-scores (the contents of the box) and a three-dimensional object-score (the box). The layered character of Water Yam’s proposition awaits completion by a participant who, by opening it and inspecting the cards, activates the sensorium and acquires a cognitive experience. She or he can, but does not necessarily have to, decide on a realization of the card events. As publisher and gallery owner Harry Ruhé notes in conjunction with music, some of these events are musical performances, some are not; sometimes instruments are rendered mute, sometimes non-instruments are made sounding.[12]

But Brecht cannot claim the exclusivity of the creation of scores for himself. Rather, many artists in- and outside the Fluxus circle—La Monte Young and Yoko Ono, to name but a few—created a similar, albeit derived from different than Cagean inspiration, type of linguistic proposition. The Korean-American artist, Nam June Paik, too, generated an astounding variety of score-based works—a surprising fact due to his canonization as a progenitor of video art and multimedia installation.


The Intermedial Character of Paik’s Scores

Paik, whose involvement with Fluxus can be traced back to the Proto-Fluxus in Germany in the early 1960s, must have acquired a profound understanding of scores through his musical education. Paik’s musical accomplishments date back to the early 1950s; later, as a fol­lower of John Cage and a participant in Fluxus, both in Europe and in the United States, he became “le grand expérimentateur” in the field of new music. During his early education in Tokyo, Munich, and Freiburg in the 1950s, Paik devoted himself to the study of music—and seemed destined for a career as a classical pianist. He moved from Korea to Hong Kong and then to Japan, where he studied aesthetics, music, and art history and eventually wrote his undergraduate thesis on the composer Arnold Schoen­berg known for his contribution to serialism. His further studies with Wolfgang Fortner in Freiburg and his activities in the electronic studio of the West German radio station WDR in Cologne, an important center for contemporary music that attracted such composers as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Mauricio Kagel, and György Ligeti further evidence his musical connections. Paik’s musical background permeated not only the variety of his forms of expression but also had a crucial impact on his creative process and the afterlives of his works.

Although he created short, often abstract scores for events in the Fluxus tradition, he was reluctant to notate his works or to provide any strict instructions. This applied not only to works that lend themselves to notation prima facie but also to his multimedia works, whose instruction is often necessary to ensure the works’ future reinstallation. The reason for this state of affairs was that, in musical performances, Paik disliked repetition (which might have been enabled by a score). According to his experience as a pianist, repetition makes a performance bad (and boring): “I have always thought that variability and intensity agreed with each other. Now I know: variability is a necessary consequence of intensity.”[13] In his per­formances of “action music,” he combined musical elements with rapid physical actions, followed by very slow gestures. Such acts of “rigid expressivity”[14] existed only as singular events; no subsequent performance duplicated a previous one. This variability was a precondition for the successive audiences’ intense experience of Paik’s work. In a performance of his Hommage à John Cage: Music for Tape Recorder and Piano (1959-60) at the Atelier Mary Bauermeister in Cologne, Paik performed several movements which he concluded by destroying and overturning the piano—an action that earned him the epithet “destruction artist.”  

The Nam June Paik Papers at the Smithsonian American Art Museum include several scores created sometime in the 1960s-70s.[15] Unlike Brecht’s printed Event scores discussed earlier, Paik’s scores, or compilations thereof, found in the archive seem provisionally drafted, unfinished, as if in the process of making and unmaking. His scores demonstrate proximity to music not only in their titular allusion to musical forms, genres or instruments (“etude..,” “suite for..,” “composition..,” “music..,” a trait similar to Brecht’s scores) but also in the way they merge musical notation with language (Figs. 4, 5, 6).

Fig. 4 – 6 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,  Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 4 – 6 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,  Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 4 – 6 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,  Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 4 – 6 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,
Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.


We may also find textual scores, whether handwritten or typed, that carry the marks and errors of his creative process (Figs. 7, 8, 9, 10). In an intermedial way, Paik works himself through the materiality of scores combining the written word and notational system as carriers of meaning. To decipher these scores, and to enact them, one has to master reading and interpreting both symbolic systems—the inscribed text and notated music.[16]

Fig. 7 – 8 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,  Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 7 – 8 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,  Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 7 – 8 Excerpt from untitled performance score, n.d. Blue ink on paper (16 pages), 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,
Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 19); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.


Fig. 9 Copy of “a sketch performed specially for radio,” n.d. 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 9 Copy of “a sketch performed specially for radio,” n.d. 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 10 Copy of “drop one cent coin,” n.d 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 10 Copy of “drop one cent coin,” n.d 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

From the point of view of their materiality, Paik’s scores move between the frangible material of paper with loosely notated words or musical symbols, to more organized, typewritten, or printed instructions. Struck through and modified, cut out and edited, they appear in print as his contributions to Fluxus newspapers (e.g., V Tree), books, and other media. Their journey does not stop there. An envelope (Fig. 11) preserved in one of the archival folders among his other papers uncovers a work of editioning—or re-“arranging” as in Brechtian exhibition— and pasting together the existent scores excavated from published sources (Figs. 12, 13). What did Paik want to achieve here, what was he getting at?

Fig. 11 Housing for untitled writing fragments, n.d. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 11 Housing for untitled writing fragments, n.d. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Whether taken from scores or from other textual sources, these fragments laid bare and liberated from the linear constraints of the printed page become mobile building blocks for new content and meanings, for a re-scoring of the already scored, for a redrafting of an instruction. Often with the use of sticky tape, Paik could have adhered them to a temporary support, perhaps a piece of cardboard, in order to xerocopy them. Such authorial, material remediations achieved through replication perpetuate certain arrangements and cancel out others.

Fig. 12 – 13 Untitled writing fragments, n.d. Typescript and printed materials (6 pieces), largest: 5 7/8 x 8 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2);  Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 12 – 13 Untitled writing fragments, n.d. Typescript and printed materials (6 pieces), largest: 5 7/8 x 8 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2);  Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 12 – 13 Untitled writing fragments, n.d. Typescript and printed materials (6 pieces), largest: 5 7/8 x 8 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.


They also allow for a certain recursion of their textual motif, elevating the infinite potential involved in their machinic multiplication. Here, recursion is an act that involves embedding an action or an object within another, related instance of itself and may involve hierarchic orders (unlike iteration, which, similar to reproduction, repeats an action or object an arbitrary number of times with each repetition being a separate act that may exist apart from the others). Leaving the authorial domain, this recursion in Paik’s scores is further observed when the scores become xerocopied again by an archivist upon the researcher’s request (Figs. 14, 15).

Fig. 14 – 15 Copy of “etude plationique no i.” n.d. photocopy of untitled writing fragments, 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 14 – 15 Copy of “etude plationique no i.” n.d. photocopy of untitled writing fragments, 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 14 – 15 Copy of “etude plationique no i.” n.d. photocopy of untitled writing fragments, 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 20); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.


The visibility of remaking these arrangements carries its own aesthetic appeal. In the examples of scores discussed above, the adhesive tape adheres to the surface, rendering undisturbed reading difficult (Fig. 16); sentences and words repeat and get lost, the variability of these arrangements leaves the researcher with a potentially infinite number of combinatory creations. But more importantly, these creations offer yet another dimension of the score-based work’s openness, dictated less by the openness involved in the score’s potential to generate manifold enactments, but by the very changeability of the score itself. In aleatoric, that is, indeterminate music, such openness of the score signifies the highest degree of changeability of a musical work—whereas the first degree involves a random procedure to generate a fixed score (Cage’s use of I Ching being an example), the second degree employs a mobile form where chance elements involve the performance (e.g., Karlheinz Stockhausen Klavierstuck XI, 1956), and the third degree—an indeterminate graphic and/or text notation. (One has to stay conscious of the difference between Fluxus scores and musical scores: while the former have tended toward self-sufficiency and/or are object-like or archival entities, the latter do not usually manifest autonomously, and independently of their musical realization, as sovereign works.[17]) But if parallels could nonetheless be drawn between the forms of indeterminate music and Paik’s scores, it might be said that his scores classify as an aleatoric work of the third degree, leaving both the score and its performance highly indeterminate.[18]

Fig. 16 Untitled writing fragment, n.d. Typescript, 6 1/2 x 7 7/8 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum,  Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.

Fig. 16 Untitled writing fragment, n.d. Typescript, 6 1/2 x 7 7/8 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Nam June Paik Archive (Box 13, Folder 2); Gift of the Nam June Paik Estate.



But there is yet another aspect of these works worthy of attention: just as Brecht’s three-dimensional scores confound the score’s spatial relations (as something expected to be written on paper, thus in the most common sense two-dimensional), Paik’s scores certainly confound, and complicate, the established structures, orders, and interdependencies between the museum and the archive. As a rule, museum collections house art objects and artifacts of material culture, while museum archives preserve paper documents related to the artistic oeuvre. Here, a twofold artwork, that is, a work which consists of a score, whether notated or expressed in three-dimensional artifacts, and of its actualization, that is, its realized performance, confuses this logic.

Twofoldness is often associated with Richard Wollheim’s thesis that considers two aspects of the experience of pictures: The surface and their representational contents. I employ the notion of twofoldness in relation to a score-based work: unlike a musical work, in which a score usually serves the purpose of scripting a musical performance and as such is not self-sufficient or autonomous, Fluxus scores consist in a score and a performance, each of which might be seen as equivalent manifestations of the work. This is due to two reasons: firstly, Fluxus material scores often acquire self-sufficiency in the course of Fluxus’s institutionalization and musealization in which the scores are objectified (not to say fetishized); secondly, a realization of the score in the imagination might render the material score the only physical manifestation of such work. To imagine a work is to enter another system of reference, thought, and experience. To project the written into the sphere of the imaginary is to put imagination into action, to realize an invention. But it is the former aspect that is of particular importance to the curatorial, archival, and conservation interests underpinning this essay. Although the pure objectuality (object-based qualities of works) might have eluded the early appearances of Fluxus, the materiality of the score became increasingly important in the course of various Fluxus publications, distribution (mailing scores to friends by Brecht, for instance), and displays. One can say that curation had its stake in the perpetuation of the score’s objectuality and that traditional conservation, by caring for the score as material, further reinforces it.


Score Between the Museum and the Archive

There is no doubt that the score seems to present more “collectable” qualities than the event that it generates. In the absence of the event, which in the simplest of senses remains uncollectable, the score acquires a status of what in the tradition of collectible arts is equivalent to a “singular original.” But where, indeed, to place such a unique score? Archival artworks may provoke an ongoing reevaluation of the organizational categories of the institution.[19] Although it would be wrong to assume that archival materials are solely constrained to historical records, source documents, artworks’ documentation, and printed or handwritten materials such as reports, instructions, scores, contracts, correspondence, and manuals, there is a sense that, unlike archives, art collections predominantly house unique and original artifacts of relatively high value. And what if a document involves a work of art—an original score, existing uniquely within a letter? (The Silverman Fluxus collection at MoMA involves several examples of such scores contained in letters: for instance, George Maciunas’s describing Paik’s One for Violin Solo or Benjamin Patterson’s Paper Piece.[20]) And what problems may arise when such a document is shifted to the status of an artwork? No doubt, museum holdings are more visible than archives.[21] Nonetheless, the consequences of such reclassification might be significant: a loss of archival integrity of materials, their relationality, interdependence, and contextuality, to name but a few.[22] Flagship examples are Mail Art, which relies on the principle of postal exchange, with a letter, or a postcard, as a primary carrier of information, or Hanne Darboven’s handwritten numerical recordings which probe, among others, structures of representational time. Similarly, Fluxus scores previously discussed fit par excellence between the domains of art collections and archives.[23] While The Case, in its singular materialization, is an object housed in a (private) collection, Water Yam, which has been generated in multiple, often divergent editions, has been treated as both—a collection and an archival item (for the former, see, for instance, the collection of the Harvard University Art Museums, and for the latter, The Lilla and Gilbert Silverman Fluxus Collection Archives at the MoMA and the Jean Brown Papers at the Getty Research Institute). In the case of Paik’s previously discussed aleatory score-based works, the scores’ paper form and dimensionality might predestine them for archival folders, but their unique formal “arrangement” instead qualifies them as autonomous works that might one day enter art collections.

Among the non-unique scores that appear to sit comfortably within both the archival vaults and collections is Paik’s Liberation Sonata for Fish, 1969 (Fig. 17).  The work, which was distributed free to attendees at Charlotte Moorman's 7th Annual NY Festival of Avant-Garde, Wards Island, New York, in 1969, involves the following instruction “please, return the fish (INSIDE) to the water. Nam June PAIK.” Although the instruction materialized multiple times, it has since acquired a certain form of material uniqueness due to its decomposition. The stains, watermarks, the impressions of the once alive fish body on the paper, and, not least, traces of use, render each of these editions an “original” uniquely marked by the long performance of various processes of decay. For instance, when I viewed Liberation Sonata for Fish in the Nam June Paik Archives at the Smithsonian, I was struck by how heavily disintegrated the fish was, whereas an edition of the work displayed a few years ago in the Fluxus exhibition at the Ostwall Museum in Dortmund, Germany, presented a roughly intact structure.

Fig. 17 Liberation Sonata for Fish, 1969, 3 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift to the Nam June Paik Archive from Timothy Anglin Burgard in memory of Ralph Burgard. (NJP.2.EPH.12).

Fig. 17 Liberation Sonata for Fish, 1969, 3 1/2 x 6 1/2 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift to the Nam June Paik Archive from Timothy Anglin Burgard in memory of Ralph Burgard. (NJP.2.EPH.12).


A Priori, A Posteriori; Primary, Secondary

The view that scores can emerge prior to their actualizing event, scripting its futurity as it were, is accurate, yet not entirely exhaustive. Fluxus scores were often effectuated from completed events, an immortalizing gesture of sorts that guaranteed their repeatability. Brecht generated scores “which would arise out of the creation of the object, while, at times, objects were discovered, and Brecht subsequently wrote a score for them.” [24] I refer to these fundamentally different processes of scoring as a priori and a posteriori. A priori scores signify a conceptual work that goes into the score without having the experience of its realization (the work is imagined and theorized, as it were). A posteriori instead is based on experience and observation of the realization of the work before it becomes scripted.[25] These scores which emerged from the events as a fait accompli (either of object creation or its “discovery”) would thus be created a posteriori, whereas those scores which preceded the experience of their realization, a priori.  

Intriguing examples of a posteriori scored artworks are Yoko Ono’s Instruction Paintings and Instruction for Paintings. Involved in New York City's downtown art scene, which included Fluxus artists, Ono had a fruitful working relationship with Maciunas, exhibiting her work in his short-lived AG Gallery in Manhattan. Ono’s Instruction Paintings, exhibited on Maciunas’s invitation at the AG Gallery in July 1961, and her Instructions for Paintings shown at the Sogetsu Art Center, Tokyo, in May 1962 are both performance-based works whose instructions summarize the painting-events in a way that makes them repeatable. Although the first appearance of these artworks was object-based—Ono created the instructions in order to stop explaining them to visitors[26]—the later, slightly modified realizations presented only instructions: first handwritten, then transcribed by her husband Toshi Ichiyanagi, and finally published in her book Grapefruit (a significant piece of conceptual art whose first edition was printed in Tokyo in 1964).[27]

But the logic of the precedence—either of the execution existing prior to the instructions or the instructions prior to the execution—refuses any stability. On the occasion of Ono’s exhibition One Woman Show at MoMA in 2015, the artist sanctioned a side-by-side presentation of both the scores and their (contemporary) realizations. Collapsing the temporal twofoldness of score-based works into a synchronic co-existence of scores and their effects, in which the potential of the score is not open to the infinity of imagined realizations but becomes exemplified by a sole concrete material proposition, this presentation posed intriguing questions as to the status of these works after the exhibition finished. Have they become archived and safeguarded as artworks or rather removed from the museum and discarded?

Another form of scoring a work a posteriori is a curatorial or a conservation narrative. In contrast to primary score, which arises in conjunction with the creative act regardless of whether it is conducted after or before the event, a secondary score entails instructions for the execution of the work—the number of performers, requisites, the duration, and the spatial requirements. Here, by creating and sharing the instructions and documentation of a piece, curators and conservators play an important role. If a work’s execution is based on memory,  the creation of its documentation means a writing and rewiring of the work. In other words, in the course of the work’s socialization,[28] verbal, memorized instructions are reformulated into a written narrative.

Maciunas’s instructions for performing Fluxus events exemplify yet another form of instruction formulated secondarily (or a secondary score). For instance, before the concerts at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Maciunas wrote a letter to Joseph Beuys requesting various equipment for the performance of Brecht’s event Drip Music (Drip Event, 1959-62), including a ladder, bucket, and a can.[29] The instructive character of his writing takes the form of a secondary score which complements Brecht’s otherwise enigmatic Event score (especially its second version, which simply states “Dripping”), potentially also serving as a basis for the work’s future re-performance. Maciunas’s activity presents an intervention into the authorial sphere of the primary score—an operation similar to his realizations of the collective Fluxkits or Fluxfilm Anthologies (which were historicized, if not canonized, as linked primarily with Maciunas’s creative vision and authorship).


A Glimpse into the History of Notation

The score, at least in its traditional form, can be viewed as a notation that uses a symbolic system that, by accepted convention, usually represents musical composition. Although so far, I have treated scores and instructions interchangeably, as any score might involve an instruction of how to perform a piece, a difference should be drawn between a notation and a score. While both textual and graphical scores involve some form of notation, not all notation becomes a score.[30] Etymologically, the word “score” stems from Old English scoru meaning “twenty” or Old Norse skor meaning mark, notch, or incision—which probably served for both counting numbers and keeping records. The prehistoric sense of this Germanic word was a mark, a scratch, or line drawn by a sharp instrument.[31] In English, the word “score” began to mean keeping a record of a customer’s drinks in the tavern and, in the 17th century, to record a point in a game or a match. The use of a score as a printed piece of music (meaning to connect related staves by scores of lines) was first recorded in 1701. But records of non-Western musical notation precede the use of parchment or paper for the purposes of writing music. For instance, a cuneiform tablet that recorded instructions for performing music was created at Nippur, Sumer (currently Iraq) in 2,000 BC. There is also evidence of notational practices, however rudimentary, in Ancient Greece. Concrete forms of notation which paved the way for modern notation developed in medieval monasteries in Europe. Although sheet music is often generally called a score, in the course of history, varying codes of signs and symbols, written and drawn graphemes defined what became musical notation. It is interesting to note that the relationship between these visual notations and invisible sound were recurrent themes over many centuries and pertained to the relation between aural perception and visual representation.[32]

Anthropologists suggest that the separation of musical notation from literary notation required a different form of literacy which prompted separate treatment of scores and scriptural instructions. Again, the former involves a symbolic language of notations that relate to a musical work which can be realized following a set of conventions; the latter involves written language. However, scripts (writing) and scores (music) are forms of notation that share common origins: in fact, the history of writing is a more comprehensive history of notation.[33] (Can a painting, in this sense, be also seen as a visual form of notation of a human creative effort?) According to British anthropologist Tim Ingold, scripts imply meaning and cognition, and “taking in,” while scores imply sound and performance, thus “acting out”—these are the distinctions between language and music, speech and song.[34] Performance might be regarded as something issued from a score. This renders a work a two-stage process and provides it with a possibility of multiple, rather than singular, existence. Ingold leans on British analytic philosopher Nelson Goodman, who maintains that, unlike a literary work where the text is equivalent with the essence of the work, musical notation is a score that defines the work but is not equivalent with it (a composer does not write a musical work, but rather he writes a score that specifies performances compliant with it).[35] For instance, drawing, for Goodman, is a work which does not employ any kind of notation, whereas script and score do.[36] For Ingold, however, a drawn line is clearly a part of a notation. He posits that writing and musical notation became separated in the modern era when music became devoid of its verbal component and language of its component of sound. Could we, following this logic, regard all works as notated and thus transgress the division between multiple and singular arts? Could all works become effects of an accomplished act of notation or serve as a notational record for subsequent performances? (A painting or a sculpture could be regarded as an accomplished act of notating color and form which could potentially serve as a basis for the enactment of a replica, pastiche, or a copy.) What consequences might this thinking bear for the ethics of care? These inquiries need to be explored in depth beyond the bounds of possibility of this essay.


Score as Relationship[37]

Significantly indebted to music, Fluxus textual scores such as those by Brecht, Paik, or Ono seem to unite these two traditions again: the literary text and musical notation. But these scores neither grew on an empty terrain nor in isolation from the developments in avant-garde music and other disciplines.

At least since the mid-twentieth century, conventional Western notation was insufficient to grasp the intention of the musician. Visual art, performance, theatre, and writing were embraced to expand its grounds. Graphical scores with their greater emphasis on audiovisual interpretation or explorations into an alternative way of notating music were paralleled by the developments at the intersection of visual arts and performance. Here, Fluxus Event scores altered the relation between composer and performer, allowing the former a greater, more lateral interpretation of the piece, and increased freedom to enter the realm of collaboration by the latter. The score ceased to be viewed as a solely notational system, or as an instructional device primarily existing to communicate between composer and performer. A score, just like a sound, or like the action that it produced, became communicative and contextual—it was an articulation of a spatiotemporal relationship between the performance, the realm of the visual, and everyone involved.[38]

According to Peter Osborne, the score or set of instructions is a significant contribu­tion of Modernist music to conceptual art.[39] In my view, this contribution was realized via Fluxus activities which propagated Event scores and instructions as one of its significant modes of expression. Osborne maintains that Cage extended the idea of the score to include elements of performance beyond musical notation. This expanded definition was essential to Brecht’s Event scores, which Osborne calls “generalized” instructions “transposed into the medium of language.”[40] The notational tendencies and impacts of music were also reinforced through the events in Cologne, Wiesbaden, and Darmstadt (think Paik). Moreover, artists such as Ono and La Monte Young began to create scores independently of Cagean influences.

Fluxus textual scores evolved between 1959 and 1962, until they took the shape of a white card with a few typed lines which suggested an object, thought, or action.[41] The first scores were descriptive and implicative (somewhat close to Kaprow’s instruction for Happenings). After their publication in An Anthology of Chance Operations edited by La Monte Young, co-published with Jackson Mac Low, and designed by George Maciunas, in 1963, Fluxus scores become shorter and more abstract, resembling Japanese haiku, a very short form of Japanese poetry which relied on a suggestive power of a very limited number of lines, often reduced to a fixed, three-line structure. These short scores, unlike their long siblings, might be further conceptualized as “cool media” that, following communication theorist Marshall McLuhan’s term, demand active interpretation and active engagement on the part of the receiver/interpreter to fill the gaps (hot media are, in turn, highly informative, and allow for the more passive engagement of viewers).[42] Different from prescriptive happenings or performance instructions, these short scores permitted a wide range of interpretations, and imaginative responses.


The Temporality of Score-Based Work

Works that are score-based expand through time and space in multiple ways. I disagree with the view that a written score is spatial, while its execution is temporal. Spatial and temporal characteristics are inherent to both the score and its execution. Such differentiation leads back to the Enlightenment philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s essay written in 1766 outlining the strengths and weaknesses of art, in which he chose space and time as generic distinctions between the arts: painting and visual art as spatial art was distinguished from poetry and literature as time-art.[43] Although the execution of a score might at first appear exclusively temporal, here such execution seems to possess equally spatial dimensions manifest in the room it occupies, and the objects and subjects it employs. A written score not only occupies space, but it also extends and endures in time.

It would be simplistic to state that a score in a material form lives only as an object, aging and decaying, following time’s linear progress. It would not suffice to simply contend that score-based works produce multiple, perhaps even cyclical, temporalities in the instances of their subsequent or simultaneous actualizations. As demonstrated in the case of Paik’s remediated scores and Ono’s Instruction Paintings, the score can transition from one form to another, from a handwritten note to a printed and rearranged form (Paik), from objects to script (Ono), or simply present multiple instances of itself on a similar physical carrier (Brecht’s differing editions of Water Yam). The variation of the score is thus not only contingent on the possibility of its many actualizations (multiple performances issued from an instruction), which would cause a shift from the authentic, historical material of the score to the iterant, expressive authenticity of the performance. Rather, the variation of the score including its different temporal modalities exists within the material proposition of the score itself. In other words, the intermediality of the score, and its heterotemporality, is implied in the very ability of the score to occur in materially and durationally similar, but elementally distinct, variations.

Conceiving of artworks in terms of duration may come in handy here. In philosophy, objects which occur continually, that is, enduring in certain material form, are called “continuants.” These phenomena which occur in a short time and/or lack a defined, enduring material form, are called “occurrents.”[44] Simply put, continuants continue and occurrents occur. Sound is an occurrent, while stone is a continuant. Certain art forms are akin to continuants—traditional painting, sculpture, or drawing—while performance and events might be classified as occurrents.[45] Whether three-dimensional or object-based, Fluxus scores might be conceived of as continuants capable of generating occurrent events. This status quo recalls again the slippage of categories that subverts dualistic thinking by pointing to the interconnectedness of seemingly two separate aspects. Here, becoming as an affirmation of being takes over.[46]  

Works-occurrents produce more documentary trace and leftovers than those works which continue in a material form. Bearing witness to a disappearing work, scripts, scores, and notations stand in for the absence of the event (remembering here Brecht scripting events a posteriori or Ono exhibiting instructions). Multiple scores do not only assure the work’s distribution but also prevent its forgetting, since the simple act of imagining the action does not allow us to transfer knowledge (not even in an embodied way as is the case with “traditional” performance).


The Virtual and the Actual

The Deleuzian concepts of virtuality and actuality might be helpful to think further the potential of the score.[47] The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze conceived of the virtual-actual binary under the influence of Henri Bergson. Named differential ontology (which approaches the nature of identity by explicitly formulating a concept of difference as foundational and constitutive, rather than thinking of difference as merely an observable relation between entities[48]), Deleuze designates the actual as the material instances of things, whereas the virtual becomes everything which is not presently here. Both virtual and actual states are real states. Virtuality, for Deleuze, lacks pre-existence in any possible form; it exists in a state of potentiality located in the sphere of the unknowable. He opposes potentiality to possibility, which refers to the somehow-already-known physical state of before, whose realization presupposes a certain form. For Deleuze, the virtual is a part of the object, it is real. The virtual must be actualized following the rules of difference and creation (rather than of limitation and resemblance inherent to the process of realization). Deleuze points to another consequence of the division between the virtual and the real: the actual does not resemble the embodied virtual (unlike the real which resembles the possible that it realizes). The communication between the virtual and the actual enables an event of becoming different— differentiation and creation.

Accordingly, it might be claimed that the potential of a score-based work lies in the very possibility of its actualization, of passing from the virtual to the actual state. The passage from the virtual to the actual brings about modifications and difference, in that no one actualization of a score, whether in the material or mental world, resembles another. The actors involved in the actualization of such a work are of necessity creatively invested in it.

The transfer between the virtual and the actual resembles aspects of the Fluxus artist and writer Dick Higgins’ theory of exemplativism. In his “Exemplativist Manifesto” from 1976, Higgins sees the artist, the notation, and the audience as separate settings or complexes that rarely converge.[49] According to him, the audience creates, by means of notation and work, an image of the set possibilities intended by the artist. Thus, the realization of such a work can only be arbitrary, an example rather than fixity. The work becomes “an example of,” rather than a precise realization. For example, what matters, for Higgins, in a performance is not its single realization but “the dialectics between its single realization and its alternates” in which a single performance implies the essence of all potential interpretations of this performance (Higgins goes so far as to say “or even of all [performances]”). This essence is directly related to the possibility involved in the work’s virtual existence, as argued above, in which any of the work’s actualizations, that is, the transfer from the virtual to the actual, never exhaust the potential of the virtual. Moreover, in such constellation, the format, method, and process of notation, which becomes their form, is more significant than in traditional works. In addition, and relating to my former point (a priori, a posteriori), any notation is a prescription for or from action.

Finally, all work’s actualizations enter the archive, its virtual and physical sphere, and allow, on its basis, for new actualizations to take place. The virtual archive involves tacit knowledge, memory, and skill related to the work’s past manifestations, whereas the physical archive consists of all material remains, documentation, explicated narratives about the work along with its props, relics, and leftovers. The changeability of such a score-based artwork inheres in the artwork’s virtual quality ready to unfold on the basis of the archive, that is, in the potential to exemplify itself. In other words, such changeability rests in the work’s potential to become different in its transformation from the virtual to the actual.

But the archive is not merely a conglomeration of inactive historical matter and facts; rather it points in two directions: toward the already actualized, and toward the many virtual potentialities. The work, therefore, is never finished but always a becoming—a life which is, in Ingolt’s sense, “not an emanation but a generation of being.” The work, thus, is a process, not preordained but incipient, lacking certain ends and always on the verge of the actual.[50]


Intermediality Reconsidered

Having set out the conditions for score-based works to exist within the virtual-actual, I now want to consider how they fit within the category of intermedia. Another of Higgins’ writings, “Statement on Intermedia” (1966), describes his immediate surroundings in which artistic expression fell between and outside the established genres of art. Artworks create a way of operating which is an alternative to the fixed categories of media, combining music and theatre, painting and poetry, and art and life (for instance, according to Higgins, happening falls between collage, music, and theatre). The Event score—Fluxus “invention” par excellence—seems to fit impeccably this intermedial bill: the intermediality of the score consists in the aesthetic function and instructional form. But there is more to intermediality, and this excess of meaning can be conveyed on a materially construed arena: firstly, scores may transgress the media’s formal expectations by leaving the two-dimensional realm in order to assume a three-dimensional form (think again of Brecht’s The Case). In other words, the apparent flatness of the score is morphed into the explicit three-dimensionality of an object. To put it differently yet, scores might undergo a transformation from textual communication devices to aesthetic objects that expand spatially. Here, intermedia means thinking outside the assumed mediality—but “inside the box,” as if within Brecht’s Case— and allow the score to take place in space. There is a sense that such a score takes “space,” somewhere between the communicative function of language and the aesthetic function of the object, creating new materialities as well as inter-, and intra-actions—the latter to be addressed shortly.

Secondly, the material transferability of works such as Water Yam or Paik’s scores observed at the SAAM archive elicits yet another dimension of intermediality that allows the score to be transposed between various carriers. Here, intermediality equals material multiplicity—of forms and carriers. But unlike the sheer existence of multiple copies of a score, this multiplicity does not eliminate the material uniqueness of the scores’ physical materializations. As I suggested earlier, the multiplicity of scores results in materially and durationally similar, but elementally distinct, variations.

Thirdly, Event scores are intermedial in that they perform. But their performance is not only limited to the result of their realization as an action or as a performance (in this case, we would simply say: “scores are performed”). Event scores themselves perform—or are performances of— textual or structural matter and support— examples are physical disintegration, alteration and decay, traces of use, and all processes that took them away from their physical origin. Rather than being just a first stage in the process of a realization of a two-stage event or performance that would render them a means to an end, they are ends in themselves; they fold into themselves by performing material finiteness, and time. This finiteness stands in an inverse relationship to their potential to give rise to—and to unfold as— an infinite number of performances. This is not to say, of course, that scores are just this—we would move in circles and conform to the “objectification” of The Case or other scores, for that matter. No, the works such as The Case, Paik’s scores, or Ono’s instructions are twofold, in that they exist in two equally important spatiotemporal aspects.

Finally, intermediality, understood in its initial sense as an observation of movement between the established categories prompts a question about exteriority and interiority. While intermediality seems to operate externally to a given work in that it strives to impose terminology, a language always foreign to the very matter of the work, would an intra-mediality allow us to zoom inwards? Would it allow us to assign more significance to the matter, rather than to language and culture that mattered for so long?

Intra- in Latin means “inside,” or “occurring within.” Accordingly, intra-mediality glimpses inwards and reveals the permanent movement of matter, its continuous changes—an agency that affirms the “mattering of matter.” Here, the interactions between different actors inherent to the nature of the score, whether The Case, Instructions Paintings, or Paik’s scores (their worlding, their becoming in the world), could potentially be used as a prompt to move to a reversed level of observation of, say, “deep materiality.” Intra-actions, in the sense of Karen Barad’s agential realism account, which seeks to depart from both humanist and anthropocentric perspectives, would allow us to account for these works as having internal exchanges, permitting them to transition and decay, and move on. Not only Brecht’s wish from the beginning of this paper that “the details, the random constellations [...] that surround us, stop going unnoticed” would be realized, but such a view of things would also, in line with Barad, grant us a possibility “to contest and rework what matters and what is excluded from mattering.”[51]

Acknowledgements: The research for this essay has been made possible by a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. My sincerest thanks to Amelia Goerlitz, Christine Hennessey, Hannah Pacious and Saisha Grayson for their invaluable support of my research. Special thanks also to Stacy Weiland, Lynn Putney, Dan Fin, Ann Edwards and my colleagues at the Fellows Office.

Hanna B. Hölling is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art, University College London where she co-convenes the BA degree History of Art, Materials and Technology. She is also Research Professor at the Bern University of the Arts. Before joining UCL in 2016, she was Andrew W. Mellon Visiting Professor, Cultures of Conservation, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York (2013-15), Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam (2009-13), and Head of Conservation at the Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany (2007-9). Hanna’s research, teaching, and advising address subjects in art history and theory, media and material (culture) studies, museology, conservation, and American and European art since the 1960s. Hanna’s publications include six books; her other writings have appeared in peer-reviewed journals, edited volumes, and catalogs. Hanna’s research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, Terra Foundation for American Art, the Getty Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Dutch Research Council, and several UCL grants. She serves as an advisor on international research projects and academic programs and acts as a reviewer for funding bodies, scholarly journals, and book series.



[1] toward events: an arrangement was Brecht’s first solo show in the newly opened Reuben Gallery in New York. Among objects displayed were The Case, The Dome, The Cabinet, and Solitaire—all arrangements of ready-mades that mark his transition from chance painting to events.

[2] Brecht quoted in Mari Dumett, Corporate Imaginations: Fluxus Strategies for Living (Oakland: University of California press, 2017), 30.

[3] Julia Robinson in George Brecht Events: A Heterospective (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, 2005), 61.

[4] Flyer for toward events: an arrangement, reprinted in George Brecht Events: A Heterospective (Cologne: Walther König, 2005), 42.

[5] The list of objects contained in The Case included, among others, a candle, a ball game, rubber balls, puzzle piece, thread, photographs, pieces of domino, a noisemaker, a glove and a score.

[6] Here, surface stands metonymically for a superficial, visual encounter with objects. But as cultural critic and theorist Giuliana Bruno convinces us, surface investigations might also stand for a profound encounter with materiality as a substance of material relations. See Giuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).

[7] Although it is formally similar by encompassing varying objects in a case, The Case differs from Fluxkits in that it offers a direct immersion into the experience with objects. Fluxkits, staring from the first book-based Fluxus I (1965), compile works such as Fluxus scores, instructions, games, puzzles, beats, stuck of cards, films, among others, authored by Fluxus artists. They are, in that sense, sensory and experiential worlds within a case, rather than a compilation of objects. For an interesting contestation with Fluxus event-hood, object-hood and subject-hood, see Natasha Lushetich, Fluxus: The Practice of Non-Duality (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2014), 105-143.

[8] Hannah Higgins, “Reading Art and Objecthood While Thinking about Containers,” Nonsite 25 (October 2018).

[9] Buchloh commented on Robert Watts’ works. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, “Robert Watts: Animate Objects, Inanimate Subjects,” in Neo-Avant-Garde and Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000), 538.

[10] Although differences can be drawn between these notions, I use “score,” “instruction” and “notation” interchangeably in this essay.

[11] “George Brecht currently arranges an event by sending small cards to his friends with a few words neatly printed on them [...].” Allan Kaprow, text (circa 1961) for Assemblage, Environments & Happenings (New York: Abrams, 1966). See also Liz Kotz, “Post-Cagean Aesthetics and the ‘Event’ Score,” October 95 (Winter 2001):55–89.

[12] Hary Ruhé, Fluxus: The Most Radical and Experimental Art Movement of the Sixties (Amsterdam: “A”, 1976) n.p.

[13] “Ich dachte bis jetzt: Variabilität und Intensität lassen sich vereinbaren. Jetzt weiss ich: Variabilität ist eine notwendige Folge aus Intensität.” Paik, quoted in Wulf Herzogenrath, Nam June Paik: Fluxus-Video (Munich: Silke Schreiber Verlag, 1983), 10.

[14] According to Edith Decker-Phillips in Paik Video (Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press, 1997), 29-30.

[15] The Nam June Paik Archive, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.

[16] A recent argument that Fluxus scores were too exclusively theorized within the rise of language in the art of the 1960s and should instead be acknowledged for their visuality and indebtedness to diagrammatic visualization and experiments in graphic notation in the 1950s was put forward by Natilee Harren in Fluxus Forms: Scores, Multiples, and the Eternal Network (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020), 70.

[17] The relationship between a musical score and the music we hear is one of the major problematizations in Western music. While a score is strictly linked with the musical realization, it is often deemed incidental to the production of Western music; a score represents spatially only some elements of the temporal form of music, which comes into existence by the interpretation of the performer, independently of its score.

[18] For an engaging account of a score as productively unstable—a valid manifestation of creative practice—in which she tests the limits of unpredictability involved in artistic practices concerned with organization and transmission of actions, see Alison D’Amato, “Mutable and Durable: The Performance Score after 1960,” in Event—Performance—Process: Art, Materiality and Continuity since the 1960s, ed. Hanna B. Hölling (New York: Bard Graduate Center, forthcoming).

[19] See Zanna Gilbert, “Approaches to the Archive: Fictional Histories?” Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art around the Globe, February 15, 2013, accessed May 15, 2020, https://post.at.moma.org/themes/6-approaches-to-the-archive-fictional-histories.

[20] Jon Hendricks, “Watch Out! All Is Not What It Seems to Be,” Post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art around the Globe, February 15, 2013, accessed May 20, 2020, https://post.at.moma.org/content_items/156-watch-out-all-is-not-what-it-seems-to-be.

[21] Although only a small percentage of museum collections are put on display, which has led some scholars to claim that the heart of the museum is its vault, there is a validity to the statement that archives are, perhaps with exception of archival contextualization of some collection materials and archives which are accessible upon request (such as at the Smithsonian), usually inaccessible to the eyes of the beholder.

[22] Contextuality and relationality refer here to the original group of materials of which a particular object is an inextricable part. See Michelle Elligott, et al., “Archival Workshop at MoMA,” Post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art around the Globe, February 15, 2013, accessed May 20, 2020, https://post.at.moma.org/content_items/153-archival-workshop-at-moma.

[23] On the topic of the archival tensions in relation to the status of documents and artworks, see “Document or Artwork? A Panel Discussion on Archives in the Art World” panel discussion, Dedalus Foundation, New York (September 11, 2018), accessed June 13, 2020, https://vimeo.com/294166087.

[24] Julia Robinson, http://members.chello.nl/j.seegers1/flux_files/brecht.html

[25] I have adapted the meaning of these two contrasting notions, a priori and a posteriori, from philosophy. There, a posteriori often relates to knowledge which is derived from experience or personal observation; a priori instead comes from self-evident truths.

[26] According to Ono’s oral account in the MoMA podcast: https://www.moma.org/audio/playlist/15/370. See also the description of these paintings at AG Gallery on the Fluxus Foundation webpage.

[27] Kotz, “Post-Cagean Aesthetics,” 102. For an account of Fluxus as an underappreciated contributor to the development of conceptualism, see Julia Robinson, “From Abstraction to Model: George Brecht's Events and the Conceptual Turn in Art of the 1960s,” October 127 (Winter 2009): 77-108.

[28] Taking inspiration from Jean-Marc Poinsot, Ariane Noël de Tilly maintains that video and film installation are highly social artworks which evolve in a larger network and in which socialization takes place during the events of their exhibition, distribution, and preservation.  See de Tilly, “Scripting Artworks: Studying the Socialization of Editioned Video and Film Installations” (Ph.D diss., Uni­versity of Amsterdam, 2011), 12.

[29] George Maciunas in a letter to Joseph Beuys (1963) published in Emmett Williams, My Life in Flux -- And Vice Versa (Stuttgart: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 191), 73.

[30] Encyclopedia Britannica equates score with notation, which it associates with a manuscript or a printed form Encyclopedia Britannica, “Score,” accessed Dec 6, 2019, https://www.britannica.com/art/score-music.

[31] Online Etymology Dictionary, “Score,” accessed December 7, 2019, https://www.etymonline.com/word/score.

[32] This paragraph sources the history of notation from Paulo de Assis, “Prelude,” in Essays on Sound, Score and Notation, eds. Paolo De Assis, William Brooks, Kathleen Coesysens (Ghent: Orpheus Institute, 2013), 5-6.

[33] Tim Ingold, Lines (London; New York: Routledge, 2016), 10.

[34] Ibid., 6, 18.

[35] Ibid., 11. See also Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), 210.

[36] Ibid., 11. See table.

[37] Title inspired by Yolande Harris, “Score as Relationship: From Scores to Score Spaces to Scorescapes,” in Sound and Score,195.

[38] In the context of sound studies, sound became to be thought of as energy, as a complex of forces.

[39] Osborne, see Hölling, Paik’s Virtual Archive: Time, Change, and Materiality in Media Art (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017), 156-58.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Julia Robinson, http://members.chello.nl/j.seegers1/flux_files/brecht.html.

[42] McLuhan puts forward these notions in relation to communication media in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964).

[43] Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Laocoön: An Essay upon the Limits of Painting and Poetry, trans. E. C. Breasley (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1853). On the occasion of the proto-Fluxus Concert “Kleines Sommerfest—Après John Cage” at the Gallery Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany, on June 9, 1962, the time-space division of arts was featured in a diagrammatic manner on Maciunas’s chart serving as a background for, among others, Arthus C. Caspari reading of Maciunas’s manifesto “Neo-Dada in Music, Theater, Poetry, Art.”

[44] The distinction between continuants and occurrents was first introduced by W. E. Johnson. See Rowland Stout, “The Category of Occurrent Continuants,” Mind 125, no. 497 (2016): 41.

[45] We seem to measure the degree of inherent inborn perpetuity of these forms only at our own, human scale. However, there seems to be no border that one could draw between occurrents and continuants, rendering these terms only partially useful. Instead, understanding the works in terms of their relative duration, which I pursue in my other writings, adds a more critical note to the temporal discourse.

[46] For the notion of “becoming” in the Deleuzian sense, see Todd May, “When is a Deleuzian Becoming?” Continental Philosophy Review 36 (2003): 139-153. I thank Martin Patrick for pointed suggestions.

[47] I discussed the notions of the virtual and the actual in relation to multimedia installations in my book Paik’s Virtual Archive, 156-58.

[48] “Differential Ontology,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, accessed May 22, 2020, https://www.iep.utm.edu/diff-ont/.

[49] Dick Higgins, A Dialectic of Centuries—Notes Towards a Theory of the New Arts (New York: Printed Editions, 1978), 156.

[50] Evoking animic ontology, Ingold’s incipient state refers to life and world. Here, I borrowed his thoughts to think about artworks. Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill (London: Routledge, 2000), 113.

[51] Karen Barad and Adam Kleinman, “Intra-actions: Karen Barad in conservation with Adam Kleinman,” Mousse Magazine 34 (Summer 2012): 76.

Go back

Issue 51


by Martin Patrick and Dorothee Richter

by Natilee Harren

by Ann Noël

by Ken Friedman

by Peter van der Meijden