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Kalmar Art Museum

Ken Friedman: 92 Events

92 Events presents works of art from six decades by the Fluxus artist Ken Friedman. Born in the USA, Friedman now lives in Sweden. This exhibition is conceptual and language based. It draws on everyday life to challenge the notion of the artwork as a unique object.

92 Events is a series of texts that function as ideas for sculptures, absurd actions and concrete poetry. Like a director or orchestra conductor, Friedman instructs the observer who receives the message to act. The term “event” stems from the idea of the “event score” – a concept originally coined in philosophy of music. It was adopted by Fluxus artists who studied or worked with John Cage as a term to describe short performance scores.

Friedman’s events are consciously playful, even absurd. They describe a series of actions that break with traditional conceptions of art by leaving the performance to the observer. As a music score allows anyone to perform the music, Friedman’s written notes let anyone perform the artwork to create something more than simple repetitions. Unlike playing a recording, the score leaves room for interpretation and each performance is unique. Moreover, everyday objects stand out as potential art materials. Ordinary items such as shoes, clocks, and crockery are accessible to most people. They allow almost everyone to be co-artists in Friedman’s instructions, regardless of where they are in the world.

An interest in the common object and expressing oneself through words is something that Friedman has in common with other Fluxus artists. The global Fluxus group had its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. It is better described as an attitude or life philosophy than a style. Humor, collaboration, intermedia and ideas are important elements – more important than end results. Fluxus is an eclectic group of individualists, often from completely different backgrounds to the traditional artists of the academy. Fluxus unites musicians, poets, dancers, composers, chemists, folklorists, and many others.

Ken Friedman joined Fluxus as the youngest member in 1966. But his first events started to take shape as ideas in his mind long before he considered them art, or himself an artist. Ken Friedman planned to become a Unitarian minister before he came into contact with Fluxus through the artist Dick Higgins. During a visit in New York, he met Higgins and Fluxus impresario George Maciunas. Maciunas liked Friedman’s ideas and invited him to join Fluxus. In an interview with Torrance Art Museum Friedman says:

“A short while later, George asked me what kind of artist I was. Until that moment, I had never thought of myself as an artist. George thought about this for a minute, and said, ‘You’re a concept artist.’ 

“I like the fact that I became part of Fluxus before I became an artist.”

The name “Fluxus” stems from the Latin word flux meaning “flow” or “continuous movement.” It reflects the free flow of ideas crucial to the artists and their work. Fluxus artworks are often made for dissemination, adapted to the specific conditions of situation and place, and adapted to media. An event can be published in a catalogue, gifted to a friend, nailed to a public noticeboard, or perhaps printed in boxes like the objects called Fluxkits.

Friedman’s scores are living documents. By working through language as instructions, descriptions and documents, they slide between past, present and future. They work in a condition of possibility with limitless potential for variation and interpretation. They are perfect examples of art working as mental amusement in realms where our imagination can travel even when our bodies can’t.

The exhibition space at Kalmar konstmuseum invites visitors as well as professional musicians, dancers and actors to be co-artists in Ken Friedman’s exhibition, taking and interpreting one or more of the scores in their own way. Just as a piece of music comes to life when musicians interpret the notes, Friedman’s events are only fully realized when the instructions become actions – even if only in the mind.

Ken Friedman (born 1949 in New London, Connecticut) joined Fluxus in 1966 as the youngest member of the group. He has collaborated closely with other artists and composers within Fluxus, among them Dick Higgins, Nam June Paik and John Cage. Friedman was key in establishing Fluxus West, a node for Fluxus activities in the western states of the USA. During the 1960s and 1970s, Fluxus West expanded to include Germany and Great Britain.

In 1976, Friedman finished a PhD in behavioral science, while also working as an artist. In the 1990s, Friedman worked as a management consultant and designer. This led to a career in academia: first as Professor of Leadership and Strategic Design at Norwegian School of Management in Oslo, later as Dean of the Design Faculty at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne where he is now Professor Emeritus. Since then, Friedman became Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies at Tongji University in Shanghai.

Kalmar Konstmuseum invites you to visit the exhibition in person or online at URL:





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