Although not as well-known in America as in Europe, French Fluxus artist Robert Filliou (1926 – 1987) made a career out of questioning “serious” art. Filliou received an M.A. in political economy from the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked for the United Nations program of economic development in South Korea before beginning his artistic career. With his “Principes d’Économie Poétique” Filliou created a new theory of valuation that privileged unproductive and unquantifiable ideas, such as joy, desire, and life, over conventionally profitable commodities. Filliou’s second guiding principle, the “Principe d’Équivalence,” gave equal value to well-made, badly-made, and not-made objects. As a result of his belief that art need not be expressed as well-made objects (or as objects at all), Filliou’s work included interactive happenings and somewhat crude assemblages of string, cardboard, wood, and found objects. His interest in economics would guide his art from 1966 onwards.
Filliou’s greatest contribution to contemporary art is often considered to be his publications and multiples. These items embody his philosophy of art as a playful democratic activity that should be readily available to all. Filliou created hundreds of multiples, many of them games, such as Ample Food for Stupid Thought (1965) which is a meditation game consisting of a box of cards with riddle-like statements and questions. His book Lehren und Lernen als auffuehrungskuenste / Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts (1970) sought to create an open environment for artistic creation. In it, Filliou juxtaposed writing and ideas from well-known artists including John Cage and Joseph Beuys with ideas from non-artists such as his own children. Space in the book is provided for readers to contribute their own ideas.
Filliou frequently collaborated with other Fluxus artists on books. Games at the Cedilla, or the Cedilla Takes Off (1967) is a book of poems by Filliou and his friend and fellow Fluxus artist George Brecht. Early in his career, Filliou also participated in George Maciunas’ Fluxus 1 (1964-5), an important non-traditional publication consisting of 17 manila envelopes bound with metal bolts with pages of text, music, and art by Fluxus artists.
Books by Robert Filliou available from Boreas Fine Art:
Filliou, Robert. 14 Chansons et 1 Charade. Stuttgart: Edition Hansjörg Mayer. 1968.
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