Fluxus East

Fluxus Networks in Central Eastern Europe

Emmett Williams

1925, born in Greenville, USA
2007, died in Berlin

During the 1950s and 60s, Emmett Williams lived by turns in France, Switzerland and Germany, where he got to know many (later) Fluxus artists. In 1962, he participated in the first Fluxus concerts in Wiesbaden. Typical pieces from this period are the Counting Songs, in which the audience is counted in diverse ways: out loud, silently, singing, on stage, in the auditorium, giving and taking gifts.

In 1966, Williams returned to the USA, and until 1970 he was chief editor of Dick Higgins’ Something Else Press. From 1970, this was followed by frequent travelling and various fellowships enabling him to live abroad. In 1980, Williams was a guest of the DAAD’s Berlin Artists’ Programme, after which he remained in Berlin. From that time onwards, Williams played an active part in numerous exhibitions, performances and symposia in Poland. For example, he exhibited several times in the Galeria Akumulatory 2, in the gallery Riwiera-Remont and in the private gallery Piwna 20/26. In 1987 and 1988, Williams organised – still in the Socialist era – the large-scale meeting of artists, the International Seminar of the Arts (ETC) in Warsaw. In 1990, he was appointed president of the Artists’ Museum in Łódź. In 1996, he received the Hannah Höch Prize in Berlin, followed in 1997 by an honorary doctorate at Nova Scotia University and in 2005 by a doctor honoris causae of the University of Poznań.

Williams also made a vital contribution to the documentation of Fluxus history. In 1991, he published a detailed autobiography, My Life in Flux – and Vice Versa, which mainly reflects the history and reception of his own pieces and performances. In 1996, with the aid of numerous primary sources, Williams and Ann Noel presented Mr. Fluxus. A Collective Portrait of George Maciunas, a first biography-collage of the Fluxus “chairman”. Williams also set out to playfully trace many of the myths surrounding Fluxus in A Flexible History of Fluxus Facts and Fiction (2006).

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