These two ambitious prints by artist Dick Higgins (1938–1998) are part of a larger 1988 suite that included various other artists and was commissioned by Francesco Conz from Asolo, Italy, a great supporter of the Fluxus art movement. Fluxus—which comes from the Latin word “to flow”—comprised an open-ended group of artists who, beginning in the early 1960s, worked in various disciplines—performance, music, poetry, publishing, sculpture—and whose interest was in closing the cultural and conceptual gap between art and everyday life. Their work was often ephemeral and non-institutional in spirit, and carried with it a good dose of the absurd.
Dick Higgins attended John Cage’s classes at the New School for Social Research in New York City and was a co-founder of Fluxus. He also coined the term “intermedia” which came to be used internationally to denote multidisciplinary activities, and was the namesake of an important organization devoted to experimental art in Vancouver from 1967 to 1970. In 1964 Higgins founded Something Else Press, which published books, records, posters, and prints by celebrated avant-garde artists.
In 1988, Higgins produced an extensive series of map paintings that played with the idea of historical geographical representations of the world based on the then-current historical explorations of the universe. They are, however, loaded with misinformation and emerge as a curious mixture of fact and fiction: They look plausible but closer inspection puts that all into question.
Each map is highlighted with dynamic arrows applied by chance but with an uncanny resemblance to those used to denote population shifts, military campaigns, or weather patterns. They are both engaging and confusing and resonate today in respect to current migratory patterns related to both animals and humans as a result of contemporary political and ecological crises.
Dick Higgins: Europa is a collaboration of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and the Walter C. Koerner Library at the University of British Columbia, and is made possible by the generous support of the Audain Foundation. The Art in the Library project was initiated in 2008 as a means to offer new perspectives on contemporary art by presenting work that challenges and questions our current perceptions.
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