Exhibition Notes: Ken Friedman – 99 Events

Ken Friedman


Ken Friedman began conducting what he would retrospectively realize were ‘events’ before he was aware of Fluxus. Even at a young age, performing idiosyncratic tasks and realizing small projects was a mode of inquiry into the world for Friedman. Reflecting the naturalness of these inquiries, Friedman says, “I simply built things, realized ideas, or made models of things that interested me. Many of them were acts that I repeated, much as I did after meeting other Fluxus people.”

In 1959, George Brecht conceived of the term ‘event’ to describe simple scripted actions realized by artists and others. Many were inspired by John Cage’s notion of ‘scoring’ notations of actions and interventions into ‘real life’. Artists such as Brecht, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young, Dick Higgins and Ben Vautier pioneered the event score as a means of expanding notions of art and performance. In accord with Dick Higgins’s thesis of the ‘intermedia’ character of Fluxus, these scores interweave the disciplines of visual art, poetry, music and performance.

Fluxus founder George Maciunas initiated Friedman into Fluxus at the age of sixteen, when the Fluxus impresario declared the young student a ‘concept artist’, asking him to join Fluxus after Friedman showed Maciunas his score/object piece Open and Shut Case. Friedman was thus initiated into the avant-garde art world of the 1960s even before he had begun to consider himself an artist.

As Friedman says in his essay “Do It Yourself”, event scores can produce a variable number of ‘artifacts’, both physical and behavioural. As contrasted with Yoko Ono’s whimsical scores that tend to evoke thoughts in the reader’s mind. Friedman’s scores often prompt the reader to physically enact the tasks they enumerate, often creating objects in the process. Yet despite this connection to the physical, the emphasis of Friedman’s scores has to do with what Friedman calls “communities within groups that shape cultures through behaviour, enactment, and shared social patterns.”

Friedman had his first solo exhibition in New York in 1966. He later workes as the General Manager of the Fluxus publishing firm Something Else Press. He would go on to complete graduate degrees at such institutions as San Francisco State University and the United States International University. Throughout his various endeavours and courses of study, the event score continued to be one of Friedman’s preferred modes of exploration.

Friedman has worked across several fields and disciplines including art, design, management, and economics. Rather than conduct an autonomous art practice separate from a career as a designer and scholar, Friedman has integrated his artwork into research in several fields, displaying true Fluxus ingenuity. An expert in several fields with a particular focus on design research, Friedman has spoken and taught at many institutions and conferences around the world. In 1994, he became a professor at the Norwegian School of Management in Oslo. In 2007, he was appointed a Dean at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. He holds several prestigious academic honors for his novel work, including a Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from Loughborough University.

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