George Brecht

George Brecht, The woman of the knots / La donna dei nodi, 1973. Courtesy Maria Teresa Incisetto. In comodato a Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Napoli. Foto © Amedeo Benestante | George Brecht, The woman of the knots, 1973. Courtesy Maria Teresa Incisetto. On loan to Madre · museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, Naples. Photo © Amedeo Benestante

Among the prime movers of Fluxus, George Brecht (New York 1926 – Cologne 2008) passed easily across different fields and complex poetic and linguistic procedures experimented with by the movement, whose history began in 1961, when George Maciunas used the name for the first time in an invitation to the Musica Antiqua et Nova cycle at the A/G Gallery, New York.
Numerous attempts have been made to define the Fluxus experience, which is not easily circumscribed in its rejection of all critical categories of a traditional kind. “Whether you think that concert halls, theaters, and art galleries are the natural places to present music, performances, and objects, or find these places mummifying, preferring streets, homes, and railway stations, or do not find it useful to distinguish between these two aspects of the world theater, there is someone associated with Fluxus who agrees with you,” said Brecht in 1964, after which he suggested proceeding by suggestions and similarities rather than rigid classificatory grids.
His first approach to art, after completing scientific studies and a chemistry degree, came through the courses in experimental composition held by John Cage at the New School for Social Research and his friendship with Jackson Pollock. His early work shaped the dissolution of the boundaries between languages, encroachments, the centrality of action and process, the lack of interest in the work itself, understood as a closed and finished object. It was then natural for him to join Fluxus, a milieu which professed art as a practice of criticism of the system and the lack of distinction between creativity and the flow of life, with events based on randomness, the alogical and ephemeral, forcefully hybridizing actions and languages.
These impulses gave rise to the Events, which Brecht described as “Events are short, uncomplicated theatre pieces with the samealogical qualities as happenings.” So they are everyday actions, often on the boundaries of the imagination and the possible, involving visual, tactile, auditory and motor elements, or happenings, and sometimes even simple lists of written instructions.
The general laws of chance and coincidence, paradox and the banal obviousness of everyday objects are the coordinates out of which Brecht constructs his work, in which the ironic element is often subtly predominant. He also promoted Fluxus magazines, including “cc V TRE” (1964), and the Yam Festival, organized in the United States with Robert Watts in 1963.
From 1965 on Brecht lived in Europe, continuing to experiment with a language which combined the scientific pragmatism of his training and creativity, and dominated by that “illogical automatism,” theorized in 1957 in his essay Chance Imagery.
George Brecht knotted threads with Naples in 1976, presenting at Framart Studio, a venue for important comparisons and experiments by Nicola Incisetto opened in 1975, some works made between 1964 and 1976. In 1990, the artist again presented his work in the Neapolitan gallery on the occasion of the group exhibition Al di là della pittura, with Allan Kaprow and Robert Filliou, and then with a solo show in which La donna dei nodi (“The Woman of the Knots”, 1973) was shown to the public for the second time since its creation and with significant alterations since the previous version of the installation. The sculpture was stripped of the gauze covering it, which hindered its unveiling to the eye.
The genesis of the work coincided, in accordance with the mode of action of the Fluxus poetic, with the work itself. The sculpture was composed in time by tying together various fragments, the fruit of a personal vision but of a collective process: the rope with many knots, made by a person named Deutsch and seen in a Cologne brewery which Brecht visited in 1973 with some Neapolitan friends, a visit to a marble quarry in Carrara some time later, and finally the sudden image that appeared on the road to Milan of a reclining woman clutching a knotted rope in one hand. These elements reassembled shaped the physical substance of the work, turned into a marble sculpture carved by Sauro Ferrari and completed by the knotted rope provided by Deutsch.
The work is, therefore, evidence of the overflowing between art and life professed by Fluxus and the residual element of a process in which Brecht had only the merit of having a vision, later merged in a work that combines multiple elements only apparently distant from each other.