the centre of attention
Ken Friedman

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Ken Friedman took part in the Centre of Attention Email Art exhibition.




Mandatory Happening

You will decide to read this score or not to read it. When you have made your decision, the happening is over.

(Ken Friedman 1966)



This event was first scored at midnight on May 1, 1966, in Mt. Carroll, Illinois. It was first performed at the same time. For the first performance, the text was typed on a sheet of paper. I went around Shimer College, knocking my way from door to door. When someone answered, I handed him or her the paper. The Fluxus edition of this event was published in 1966 in New York under the title: A Fluxus Mandatory Happening. The edition used one of George Maciunas's well-known plastic boxes with a label on the cover and the score printed on a simple card of heavy white paper. George designed a label based on the famous US Army recruiting poster from World War I. The label shows Uncle Sam pointing his finger outward at the viewer. Around his finger, Maciunas curled the words, "Fluxus Wants You for a Mandatory Happening." Inside, the card carries the scare: "You will decide to read this score or not to read it. When you have made your decision, the happening is over."

NEW: Click here to download the Fluxus Performance Workbook, edited by Ken Friedman, Owen Smith and Lauren Sawchyn






Ken Friedman is a well-known artist and art theorist associated with Fluxus, the international forum of experimental art, architecture, design, and music. The original Fluxus edition of Friedman's Events was planned in 1966 for publication in the spring of 1967. Edited and designed by George Maciunas, the 1967 Fluxus edition waited on a large-scale printing order that never materialized. While waiting for the Fluxus edition, Friedman began exhibiting his event scores and circulating them in small editions of various kinds. In 1973, the University of California at Davis organized an exhibition exclusively composed of Friedman's events. This exhibition marked the first time that a Fluxus artist presented an exhibition comprised solely of text-based event scores. The exhibition toured the world in the 1970s, with editions of scores appearing in English and in translation. When the premature death of George Maciunas ended the Fluxus publishing program, Friedman continued to work with the event structure, adding to the corpus of events in a continuing series. Show and Tell Editions of Edinburgh gathered a selection of 52 events for a calendar diary developed and designed by Paul Robertson in 2002. The book edition is comprised of 118 pages plus card wrappers and a dust jacket. Nine pages of detailed notes by the artist shed fascinating light on the events and on Fluxus. The digital edition exactly parallels the book edition. Ken Friedman's event scores are a classic example of the subtle, multivalent art form known as intermedia. Friedman's projects began as "things without names, things that jumped over the boundaries between ideas and actions, between the manufacture of objects and books, between philosophy and literature." This project documents Ken Friedman's contribution to the early days of intermedia and conceptual art.

52 events Ken Friedman; Review by S.B. Kelly , Scotland on Sunday January 27, 2002

This book was initially due to appear in Spring 1967, designed by George Maciunas, founder of the Fluxus art movement. Maciunas's untimely death meant the project was effectively mothballed, although it toured as a series of exhibitions during the 1970s. It is therefore a pleasure to possess, 35 years after its conception, Ken Friedman's 52 Events. The book at last exists, and in three formats: as a desk diary, beautifully designed by Paul Robertson; as a free internet version (; and as a 195 deluxe edition in a hand-crafted box, painted by the artist and containing various artefacts required to stage the Events. Fluxus, whose membership famously included Yoko Ono, can be seen in retrospect as one of the key postwar art movements; a continuation of Surrealism and Dadaism, and the launching pad for Conceptual, Installation and Anarcho-dandyist Art. Indeed, Turner Prize-winner Martin Creed's work is barely conceivable outside of the Fluxus perspective; and Tate Modern are currently showing an exhibition of Friedman's work. The pieces of the Fluxus Group were minimal, provocative and witty - famously described as "Zen Vaudeville" - and were preserved as 'scores' that could be re-enacted by others. Most importantly, Fluxus spanned Europe, America and Asia; drawing on traditions as diverse as Norse Sagas and Japanese Noh-plays. That very internationalism goes some way towards explaining the endurance of this genre of avant-garde art. Perhaps the best way to illustrate Fluxus is in their own words, with two of Friedman's Events. "Flow System: Anyone may send an object or a work of any kind to the exhibition. Everything received is displayed. Any visitor to the exhibition may take away an object or work." "Deck: Collect playing cards found in the street until a complete deck of found cards is assembled." Fluxus was, as these examples show, a two-pronged attack; a debunking of the spaces where art is displayed, and a celebration of the possibilities of normal locations. If you could put urinals into galleries, conversely you could find art in the street. Whereas the Situationists, almost exact contemporaries, were railing against everyday life, Fluxus wanted to turn the everyday into an ongoing art-work. Of course, one might level the accusation that it's all rather self-indulgent. Nonetheless, I tried one of the events (sending a postcard a day to a friend, with just one letter on it, until it spelt a phrase; then receiving a reply in like fashion) and the effect was weirdly charming. There is a certain innocence in the sense of participation. Actually following the suggestions each week may be impractical, but I would strongly advise any reader to try one or two. Although with some of the other Fluxus artists, such as Ay-O or Ben Vautier, the mischief teeters over into cruelty - audiences locked in theatres - the overwhelming feel of Friedman's 52 Events is a gentle melancholy. The notes offer not only some valuable insights into the history of the movement, but a delightful sketch of his genuine bewilderment about the separation of 'art' and 'life', musings on publishing, and personal explication of the meaning of the works. Robertson's typography for the diary is beguiling; a non-linear ebb and flow of days, rather than the strict and regimentalised schedule. My only regret about the book is that it doesn't include one of my favourite Events from the previous "30 Events" exhibition: "Explain Fluxus in five minutes or less, using a few simple props." Shoes, ice-cubes and telephones would be my choice. I look forward to the diary for 2003. -- Heart Fine Art Web site -- Scotland on Sunday Web site

Click here to download Friedman's free version of 52 events (PDF File)

With our thanks to Paul Robertson at Heart Fine Art

Ken Friedman's condensed CV here