Dick Higgins, Fluxus Co-Founder, Dies (fwd)

Sandi Kurtz (sandik@slime.atmos.washington.edu)
Sun, 1 Nov 1998 13:35:20 -0800 (PST)

FYI -- please forgive any crosspostings.

sandi kurtz

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 31 Oct 1998 12:40:16 -0500 (EST)
From: Toni Sant <as245@is5.nyu.edu>
Reply-To: perform-l@lists.nyu.edu
To: perform-l@lists.nyu.edu
Subject: Dick Higgins, Fluxus Co-Founder, Dies (fwd)

The New York Times

October 31, 1998

Dick Higgins, 60, Innovator in the 1960s Avant-Garde

By Roberta Smith

Dick Higgins, a writer, poet, artist, composer and
publisher who was a seminal figure in Happenings
and the concrete poetry movement and a co-founder of
the anti-authoritarian Fluxus movement in the early
1960s, died on Sunday while visiting Quebec City. He
was 60 and lived in New York City and in Barrytown,

The cause of death was a heart attack, his family said.
He was staying at a private home in Quebec City while
attending a colloquium on "Art Action, 1958-1998" at a
performance space named Le Lieu.

Higgins, who invented the term "intermedia," had a long
list of achievements, most of which he enumerated in a
carefully maintained curriculum vitae that ran to 47
pages. Its table of contents listed such headings as
Visual Art, Movies and Videotapes, Music and Sound Art
and "Selected Discussions of Dick Higgins," one
category of which was "articles, or interesting

The bibliography reflected a polymorphic involvement
with language, literature and books. It included books
of theoretical essays, plays, poems, word scores,
musical scores, graphic music notions and performance
piece instructions.

Titles could be strange: "foew&ombwhnw," a 1969 book of
essays, is an acronym for "freaked out electronic
wizard and other marvelous bartenders who have no

This volume was a characteristic combination of the
traditional and the iconoclastic: while its pages
featured columns of word scores, visual poetry and
essays that ran vertically from spread to spread, the
volume was bound like a prayer book, in leather, with a

ribbon bookmark.

Most of Higgins' books were published by companies that
he founded, funded and ran himself, the best known
being Something Else Press. During its brief life span
(1964-1975) it published books and pamphlets by
avant-garde writers and artists of several generations,
including Gertrude Stein, Richard Hulsenbeck, Merce
Cunningham, John Cage, Emmett Williams, Claes
Oldenburg, the Futurist painter Luigi Russolo and the
17th-century poet George Herbert, whose pattern poems
Higgins considered a precedent for concrete poetry.

As his books were extremely well made and Higgins was
prone to order reprintings on the slightest excuse,
many Something Else titles are still in print.

Higgins was born in 1938 in Cambridge, England, the son
of a wealthy family that owned Wooster Press Steel in
Wooster, Mass. He was educated at several New England
boarding schools, attended Yale University and received
a bachelor's degree in English from Columbia University
in 1960.

He also studied at the Manhattan School of Printing,
attended John Cage's influential course on music
composition at the New School and studied with the
avant-garde composer Henry Cowell.

By the late 1950s, Higgins was working for a book
manufacturer while immersing himself in the flourishing
New York art scene, where the increasing dissolution of
boundaries between traditional art media fit his
sensibility. He was interested in anything that was new
and within a short time seemed to know nearly everyone
moving in that direction.

With Allan Kaprow and others he planned and performed
in the first Happenings. With George Macunius, he
established the loosely knit group known as Fluxus,
which accepted any activity as art and played fast and
loose with definitions.

Thus Higgins' musical composition "Dangerous Music No.
17" of 1963 consisted of Higgins' wife, the poet Alison
Knowles, shaving his head. "Dangerous Music No. 2,"
which Higgins had performed on Sunday at the colloquium
in Quebec City, involved screaming as loudly as
possible for as long as possible.

In 1966, Higgins' essay "Intermedia" -- published in
the first issue of the Something Else Newsletter --
drew on his experiences with Happenings, Fluxus,
concrete poetry and performance art. It formulated the
concept of works of art that combined different forms
-- film and dance, painting and sculpture -- that are
today often referred to as multimedia installation art.

In addition to Ms. Knowles, whom he married in 1960,
divorced in 1970 and remarried in 1984, Higgins is
survived by their twin daughters, Hannah, of Chicago
and Jessica, of New York; a sister, Lisa Null of
Washington; a granddaughter, and his stepfather,
Nicholas Doman of New York.