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Oral History Interview with Eric Andersen

Date: April 21, 2014
Place: Holly’s Café, Shijō-Muromachi, Kyoto
Interviewer: Kakinuma Toshie

Eric Andersen
Born in Antwerp in 1940. Living in Copenhagen. Eric Anderson started to study music in his childhood, taking composition lessons with renowned Danish composers. From 1959 on, he took an early interest in intermedia art. In November 1962 he became a founding member of Fluxus, taking part in the second Fluxus manifestation–festival held in the Nikolai Church in Copenhagen–and contributing to the first Fluxus publication, The Roll. In 1965, he stayed in New York, performing in various venues. From 1962 to 1966 he worked closely with German artist Arthur Köpcke, and turned in the late 1960s to mail art. In the 1970s, he was keenly concerned with geographical space. In 2014, he visited Japan to participate in ‘Fluxus in Japan 2014’ held at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. His most eminent works include Hidden Paintings, Crying Spaces, Lawns that turn towards the Sun, and Opus XXX for 4 pianists whose Opus number changes every time it is performed. His wife Inge Andersen joined this interview too.


Oral History Interview with Eric Andersen

Kakinuma: You participated in “Fluxus in Japan 2014” this time. What is your impression? What do you think of the festival?

Eric Andersen: I’m so impressed by the festival. Originally, it was six other artists. It was Alison Knowles, but she couldn’t come. And it was Ben Vautier, but he couldn’t come. So, these two persons were substituted by Milan Knizak and Ben Patterson. I would’ve preferred it with Alison and Ben Vautier because I think they are stronger, but that’s okay. People get old and they cannot travel so much anymore, so that is okay.
What I think about the festival, the format is not done so often, it’s done sometimes but not so often, that every artist gets their own evening. I think that is a very strong format, not to only make collective evenings but every artist has the responsibility for each evening. And all this makes a very good festival. And then to end like a kind of finale, then all the artists come together and they decide on the program of people who are not present. So, we’ve become a representation and become the perspective of the Intermedia work.
I think they have made a wonderful festival, and I certainly think that Mihoko [Nishikawa Mihoko, a curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo] made an incredible effort. I’m so impressed about the Mihoko’s attitude and how busy she is and how she can get all the details organized. She never forgets anything. And also, she has very a good crowd around her of volunteers. So, I was entirely impressed. I think it’s one of the best Fluxus festivals ever made.

Kakinuma: Thank you! Yes, I think what is good about the festival is every artist has his own or her own evening or day. But they present other people’s works too, not only their own works but other people—that is very good.

Eric Andersen: No, not only their own work, but they make their own choices out of body of works because you can—there are one million works to choose from. So, you have to make a certain kind of perspective in this huge body of work. And every artist has their own interpretation. So, that’s very good.
Kakinuma: Yes. And so, collaboration is a keyword for Fluxus.

Eric Andersen: You know we only agree about one thing, the Fluxus artists only agree about one thing and that is Fluxus was never a movement, it was never an art movement.

Kakinuma: So, what is Fluxus then? It’s not a group, but it’s not a movement. What is Fluxus?

Eric Andersen: It’s a network—because it was the first time in history when the artists, they made their own network. It is not a critic. It is not a school. It is not somebody who organizes something. It is the artist themselves who built a network—an international global network. And I used to say that Fluxus was the first internet before the computer.

Kakinuma: Wow! That’s very interesting. Yes!

Eric Andersen: And the interesting thing is that the terminology we used in ’62, like globalism, interaction, simultaneity, and stuff like this, all of these words appeared again when they had the first computer in the ’80s with a processor called 86. They used the same terminology as they used in ’62.

Kakinuma: So, it’s kind of collective intelligence?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: It’s a precursor of collective intelligence?

Eric Andersen: Yes, but also our mind was tuned to this kind of global communication in ’62. And then when you have a mind tuned for it, you develop a society, you develop the technology later on. So, you can actually process this kind of understanding.

Kakinuma: Okay, good. And you said in some of the articles, you did your first intermedia work in 1959 which is very early, it’s before Fluxus. What is that work? Could you explain about it?

Eric Andersen: In ’59, it was an 8-mm film where I went on—do you have a piece of paper, then I could draw…

Kakinuma: Yes.

Eric Andersen: It’s a building. It’s a museum called Thorvaldsen. This is a very famous Danish sculptor from the 18th century, Thorvaldsen Museum. There I made an 8-mm film. First I shot this one, then I shot this one, then I shot this one. So, I made all of these sequences of film to cover the whole façade. And then I invited for a performance, people could come and see the performance. And then I projected the same sequence back to the façade. So, it was a film projected on what was photographed, and that is ’59. Then later on, I had another performance inside the museum with a piano piece, and that is in ’60. That is a piano piece and percussion.

Kakinuma: Piano piece and percussion?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: Is that Intermedia work?

Eric Andersen: Intermedia work, yes.

Kakinuma: Why is it—it’s a musical work, I think.

Eric Andersen: The piano was used and percussion was used, but the score is a score that gives a lot of directions, possibilities of how to perform. But nobody will be able to perform it because it’s too complicated. So, nobody can make the right version. You can only make a proximity to the piece. You can never really perform the piece. You can only perform some part of it because it’s much too complicated. You have to think of too many parameters at the same time when you play the piece. So, it’s a score impossible to realize. That’s why it’s an Intermedia piece.

Kakinuma: Okay. May I go back more because I looked at these articles, but I couldn’t find any information about your earlier pre-Fluxus period.

Eric Andersen: Yes. Also in ’61—did you go to the concert on Friday—last Friday…

Kakinuma: Yes.

Eric Andersen: …over there with the piano piece, with the four pianists?

Kakinuma: Yes, yes, of course I saw it.

Eric Andersen: This was 1961.

Kakinuma: Oh, really?!

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: So I’m wondering, what is your background, your background is music?

Eric Andersen: Yes, I’m educated as a musician. I made the first music when I was 14 years old. A musician starts much earlier than visual artists.

Kakinuma: Did you study music?

Eric Andersen: Yes, I studied music and I was educated as a composer. I wrote the first music when I was 14. And my first intermedia work is from ’59 and ’60 and ’61. But I always knew I would never only write music. The whole concert situation with a very passive audience and a very strong hierarchy in the orchestra situation, I was completely against. I would make some kind of interaction with the audience, and I would try to have musicians to relate to each other in a completely different way.

Kakinuma: I was wondering why you put opus to your works, so that’s why…

Eric Andersen: Yes, opus just means work. It is Latin, and it means work.

Kakinuma: Yes, but usually composers put opus to their work, not visual artists, they don’t put opus.

Eric Andersen: I’m from music, so I just used opus. But you know, the numbers I used are completely random; Opus 1 is not the first piece and Opus 2 is not the next piece. I give them a new number every time.

Kakinuma: So Opus number 1 is work you composed when you were 14?

Eric Andersen: No.

Kakinuma: What is Opus 1?

Eric Andersen: I just give them a different number every time I mention the work. Sometimes a work is called Opus 51, next time the same work is called Opus 32. The work I’ve made with the massage and knock the knee, it was called—I don’t remember exactly—1400022…[note: actual number is Opus 135-0022]

Kakinuma: So, there is no Opus number 1?

Eric Andersen: No. I can call this work number one next time. This is the zip code of the museum—the postal zip code of the museum. So, Opus 1440022 [Opus 135-0022], it was for the museum. Tomorrow when I do this work, I can call it Opus 1, it’s okay.

Kakinuma: Good, very interesting! Did you study music at a conservatory or a university or what?

Eric Andersen: Private teachers, yes. My father at that time was very rich, so we made a deal that I could take the best teachers I could find and they would teach me how to compose music. And then I would also take over his business when he wanted to retire. But I never took over his business, I only got the good teachers.

Kakinuma: Who did you study with, your composition?

Eric Andersen: Danish composers like Ib N ø rholm, who is a very famous Danish choir composer.

Kakinuma: Could you write the name?

Eric Andersen: This is a special Danish…. Niels Viggo Bentzon is a very famous composer too. And Herman D. Koppel. These two are dead now. This man [N ø rholm] is now 85 or something like that. And then the pianist, also Anker Blyme is a pianist. He’s a pianist, and the rest are composers. But he’s a pianist and a composer.

Kakinuma: I know a very famous composer, Nielsen…

Eric Andersen: What?

Inge Andersen: Carl Nielsen?

Eric Andersen: Yes, he’s long dead.

Inge Andersen: Yes, he’s famous.

Eric Andersen: But these people were in their 30s and 40s when I started with them in the ’50s. Now most of them are dead or they’re very old now.

Kakinuma: I see. You didn’t mention anything about this—about your musical background in these articles, so I was wondering—but maybe I thought you might…

Eric Andersen: If you look at the people in the network, many of them started music, others started theatre, others came from visual arts. If you look at Dick Higgins, he was a composer, he was never educated as a visual artist. La Monte Young, Terry Riley, I think, or Mieko Shiomi.

Kakinuma: Yes, and Yoko Ono studied music at college.

Eric Andersen: She started music too and Ichiyanagi.

Kakinuma: Ichiyanagi and Kosugi.

Eric Andersen: So, a lot of people come with musical background. In fact I think—and then some people came from literature like Jackson Mc Low, Philip Corner did music too. So, it’s a very mixed group of people who formed the network. And I think that was one the strong elements of it that we came different traditions and from different parts of the world. So, it was really a truly international phenomenon.

Kakinuma: Great! I want to go back to the first Fluxus concert in 1962 at Wiesbaden. Did you participate in it?

Eric Andersen: No.

Kakinuma: I know you didn’t. So, when did you first participate in the Fluxus movement—not movement, but Fluxus network?

Eric Andersen: Just after Wiesbaden, in Copenhagen in November ’62.

Kakinuma: November ’62? Same year?

Eric Andersen: Yes, but the interesting thing is that when people met in Wiesbaden…
In Wiesbaden, it was people who lived in Germany at the time. It was Ben Patterson, Emmett Williams, Nam June Paik, and George Maciunas. And then Alison and Dick Higgins came from the United States, they were the only people who came from outside. And at that time, Fluxus was not used as a terminology.

Kakinuma: What did you call it?

Eric Andersen: We called it intermedia or action or events, or we called it a hundred different things. I called my own work for occurrences. And art total, Ben Vautier called the work “art total.” And we used action art. So, hundreds of different words were used. But then George Maciunas, he always had the dream to make a cultural magazine for exiled Lithuanians and he wanted to call this magazine Fluxus. But he never realized it. There were no sponsors to do this cultural magazine for Lithuanians.
So when he was in Wiesbaden working for the air force, the United States Air Force—and the reason why he was there was because he went bankrupt in New York, so he had to escape from the creditors; he took it out of the country because people wanted to kill him. So, he had a job in the air force in Wiesbaden. It was the headquarters of the American Air Force where he was a graphic designer. And the whole festival in Wiesbaden was paid by the Air Force, but they didn’t know it. It was George Maciunas that took all the material from the U.S. Air Force and used it in the festival.
Then he wanted to call it Fluxus because now we had this word. And the rest of us never heard about this word before, but we have been doing works all of us long time before from ’58 or ’59 or ’60. And then when the first review came about the festival, it was I think four different concerts, and after the first concert they called in the newspaper the headline was Fluxus is a scandal, the crazy people are lunatics. So, it was the press that called it Fluxus because George Maciunas used this word. We never decided to call it Fluxus—never! It was the press who coined the term ‘Fluxus’. So, now we were suddenly Fluxus. Before we were action art, event, occurrences, art total, musical theatre, hundreds and hundreds of things, and now suddenly we were Fluxus.

Kakinuma: So, the press called Wiesbaden festival Fluxus?

Eric Andersen: Yes. So, we were—suddenly we had a name.

Kakinuma: Good! Okay. Then you started your own work, Fluxus activities, right?

Eric Andersen: No, I never use the word Fluxus.

Kakinuma: You never used the word!

Eric Andersen: Absolutely, never used the word Fluxus!

Kakinuma: But anyway…

Eric Andersen: And there was never a manifest. George Maciunas wrote a manifest for Dusseldorf in ’64, but nobody wanted to sign it. And George Maciunas, he never understood Fluxus. George Maciunas wanted to make a movement, an art movement, he wanted to make a brand, he wanted to make a special design. We all disagreed! And if you look at the way…

Kakinuma: So, there was a big conflict between Maciunas and other people?

Eric Andersen: Yes. It was not a conflict, but he had another intention. And we had a very flexible attitude, so if he wanted to do it this way, it was okay, he can do it this way, we’re doing it another way. He published all these old boxes, plastic boxes. And if you look at the way we published own work, we never published small plastic boxes. It was only his way to do it. But it was okay, he could do what he wanted. If he wanted to provide plastic boxes, he could do that. But we never agreed. And if you, for example, look at George Brecht’s work, when he published his own work, it’s completely different from the way George Maciunas published his work. But we had a very open, flexible, tolerant relation to each other—you can do this, you can do that, and so on.
And in fact our basic attitude was that if somebody did something very good, we were so happy because then we didn’t have to do it ourselves and we could do something different. So, we never tried to make a scene or an outline or a special format. We try to go different directions all of us all the time. And it worked very well because we didn’t live together, we weren’t in the same town, so we were able to work more with people that were not a part of the network than with people that were a part of the network. And this is very true because we have more people not here in the network than people who are in the network.

Kakinuma: Yes. To make the network effective, your mail art is very powerful for making network. Could you explain about your mail art? What kind of art is it?

Eric Andersen: The mail artwork was the substitution for the computer. We didn’t have the computer as the internet media, we had mail instead. So, we mailed information to each other all the time, but it was not…

Kakinuma: What kind of mail did you send to people?

Eric Andersen: Postcards.

Kakinuma: What did you write on it?

Eric Andersen: It could, for example, be—I made a piece in ’62 about people sitting in different parts of the world doing the same piece at the same time.

Kakinuma: Did you write…

Eric Andersen: Then I wrote the time.

Kakinuma: …music or word or what?

Eric Andersen: No. Do what you want as a part of this piece at the same time all over the world, so nobody could hear the whole piece, but everybody knew they were in contact by some time schedule from all over the world on a specific day in ’62. The mails, the pieces were not scores that we sent out, it was more reports about something we have done.

Kakinuma: Report?

Eric Andersen: Yes, so what is called scores are most often a report about something we did. It is not something we wanted to do, but it’s something we already did. And then we informed other people about it in the network. And then most of these reports were then used as scores for future performances by different people.

Kakinuma: And when did you start the mail art?

Eric Andersen: I think we started already in ’60.

Kakinuma: In the ’60?

Eric Andersen: In ’60…

Kakinuma: ’60?!

Eric Andersen: Yes, two years before Fluxus…

Kakinuma: 1960?!

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: Wow! If that’s true, it’s very early!

Eric Andersen: And we were in contact with each other before Fluxus. I knew Emmett Williams and La Monte Young before ’62. But then of course we met more people after ’62 because it was becoming a more effective network. And also we started to travel to the different cities where people were living and Fluxus and this was very important because we had no money.
So when I went to New York, I couldn’t go to a hotel. But then I stayed with Dick Higgins or I stayed at George Maciunas. And when Dick Higgins came to Copenhagen, he couldn’t pay the hotel, so he stayed with me, so we became a kind of local platform for each other when you were traveling. And that was a very function in the Fluxus network that we had a kind of facility, local facilities for each other.

Kakinuma: The other day you mentioned that you stayed in Manhattan?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: How long did you stay in New York? Which year?

Eric Andersen: In ’65, I stayed three months.

Kakinuma: ’65?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: Three months?

Eric Andersen: Yes. And I did a number of performances there, one was in Café au Go Go on the corner of Bleeker Street and West Broadway. And in the East End Theatre, George Maciunas organized a whole series of performances in the East End Theatre. And if you look at the poster there, it was Yoko Ono, Shigeko Kubogta, Willem de Ritter, myself and a few other people. We had each an evening there. And I went together with Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles and Al Hansen to Provincetown where we made The First World Congress of Happenings.

Kakinuma: Happenings?

Eric Andersen: Yes, The First World Congress of Happenings. There was never a second world congress or third world congress. And that was Al Hansen, Dick Higgins, Alison, and I. So, it was a small world congress of only four people.

Kakinuma: Allan Kaprow didn’t participate in it? Allan Kaprow? Do you know him?

Eric Andersen: Sure!

Kakinuma: Yes, so he didn’t participate in it?

Eric Andersen: No.

Kakinuma: No. What do you think of Allan Kaprow?

Eric Andersen: I think he’s very important. He made the first happenings in ’58.

Kakinuma: Yes, but he’s not Fluxus.

Eric Andersen: He was a part of the network. But his work is more didactic, more academic than most of the other artists’ work. And also he was a professor all this life.

Kakinuma: Yes. Actually I studied with him in California. I took his class.

Eric Andersen: Yes, but he was a wonderful person and I think…

Kakinuma: Oh, yes, yes, yes!

Eric Andersen: …some of his works were very good.

Kakinuma: When I met him first, he told me I’m a disciple of John Cage, and he went to Zen Center.

Eric Andersen: Yes. He was very nice. But he preferred mostly to work as a solo.

Kakinuma: What?

Eric Andersen: He preferred to work only as a solo.

Kakinuma: Solo?

Eric Andersen: Yes, not to make a whole program with other people or to make an event because he controlled completely from the beginning to the end. But he made it many times anyway both, in Europe and United States, and always had a good relation. It is very interesting that he saw himself as a pupil of John Cage because if you ask Nam June Paik, then he would say, “I love John Cage, he’s like a grandfather to me, but I don’t believe in his philosophy.” So, artistically he was not impressed or influenced by John Cage. But only he liked him as an old figure there, who had done important things in…

Kakinuma: Personally, mentoring he admired John Cage.

Eric Andersen: Yes, but not as a…

Kakinuma: Not as artist.

Eric Andersen: I think that goes for those people in the Fluxus network that we liked John Cage very much for what he achieved. But we don’t see him as an intermedia artist, we see him as a more classical composer. So, he’s not the father of Fluxus or anything, absolutely not. We liked him a lot.

Kakinuma: Okay. In 1996, you did a large event for cultural capital of Europe, and you presented a variety of works including live sheep. Could you explain about it? It’s very interesting!

Eric Andersen: I never had so much money before. I had $1 million to make a three-day event. And the way we started was every evening at 8 o’clock, 2000 people in the audience came in a medieval church and I had organized a concert with a choir and organ music. It took half an hour or something like that.
And then, the audience of 2000 people was divided into 10 groups of 200 people each, and I had invited 10 artists from all over the world. It was Larry Miller, Willem de Ritter, from Italy Nicolini, and so on—10 different artists, to make an event with these 200 people going from the cathedral at the top of the town, through the town, the only medieval capital called Roskilde, and then to go down to the Fjord, old Viking settlement at the Fjord. And there I had ballad with helicopters, five helicopters doing a ballad of the sky. I had 500 singers walking on the Fjord that old problem, how to walk on the water, it was realized [Note: The engineers built a 200 m long and 10 m wide bridge just 3 cm below the surface of the water. The bridge was floating so it would change position in accordance with the tides of the Fjord. The whole thing was balanced, so the bridge could carry 500 singers and still remain 3 cm below the surface of the water. The illusion was created that the singers were standing and walking on the water itself.].
And one of the tours from the cathedral and down to the Fjord was with 200 sheep who were running around—the sheep are controlled by dogs—really good dogs, they can control a group of sheep completely. These dogs took the sheep and toured them around town. So, they visited the squares and the streets and came through the park, and it became very pastoral, pastoral scene. And I remember one day one of the crowds got out of control, so the sheep went into the bank and started eating all the plants in the bank. The bank was not very happy about it.

Kakinuma: But you did it in the daytime or at night—in the evening?

Eric Andersen: From 8 o’clock in the evening to midnight. It was for…

Kakinuma: ___ sheep were touring…

Eric Andersen: Yes, touring.

Kakinuma: …inside the city?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: Amazing!

Eric Andersen: It’s not mentioned in details, but it’s a part of this article, you have it…

Kakinuma: Oh, really! It’s a little bit, yes. Just a little bit, yes. Let’s see, okay. You can participate in if you want.

Inge Andersen: I’m just telling him what he should remember to tell you, but he already told you, so it’s okay.

Kakinuma: Actually, this is the first time I saw your work because this is the first visit to Japan for you, so this is for me the first time to see your work. I don’t know anything about your other works. So, could you explain something about your works like Hidden Painting or Crying Space? What kind of work did you do?

Eric Andersen: The Hidden Painting is a part of work that I did for the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in ’90. And that consists of three parts, this work. It was called Opus 90 because it was in ’90.
In the entrance hall of the museum, there’s a huge hall that is 18 m high and it’s at least 50 m this way and 30 m this way, a huge entrance hall. And in this hall, I hanged boxes that have a cubic meter of 1, so it’s 1 m on each side, and 50 of these boxes were hanging from the ceiling in different heights. And it was impossible for the audience to look inside because it was too high up. So, they had to visit the box with a working lift. When you see people doing façade works and so on, you have a machine called a lift. One or two men stand in and control it, and they come off and can visit different points.
So, they had to get into a lift where a guard from the museum would control it. Then they could only have one choice—you could only choose one box out of the 50 boxes. And then the guard would take the person up to this box and then you could stay there as long as you wanted, you could stay the whole day if you wanted. People would queue up to the lift like in a supermarket waiting for their turn, so they could come into this universe of 50 boxes. This was one element. Another element was there were a number of chairs, 50 chairs with a text written on it, printed on it, a common member of Eric Andersen’s random audience. And they could take these chairs and put them anywhere in the museum. This was a completely free element. The other one was controlled very strictly by rules.
And the third element of Opus 90 was a painting, a huge mural that was 15 m wide and 8 m high. And I didn’t make this painting myself. I asked a woman to do this painting, and she could do what she wanted. But she would know that after the show this painting would be hidden by the very skilled conservators, so it would be protected for all future time. But nobody would be able to see it, it would be a hidden painting—the first hidden painting in any collection of art.
After six weeks or whatever, the boxes were taken down, chairs were spread all over the museum, and the painting was hidden. And now people can go in the kiosk and they could buy a postcard, so they can see how the Hidden Painting looks, but they cannot see the Hidden Painting, they can only see more where it’s hidden inside the wall—the Hidden Painting. And there’s a note on the wall—here’s the Hidden Painting.

Kakinuma: I’d have to see the postcard.

Eric Andersen: They can see the postcard, but they can never see the picture. And it’s very interesting that Mona Lisa, when it was stolen in the 1920s, more people came to Louvre to see the stolen Mona Lisa that was not there anymore than people came before to see the Mona Lisa when it was there. People came more often to see Mona Lisa not there than to see Mona Lisa there.

Kakinuma: Interesting!

Eric Andersen: Yes. We have a lot of people come into the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Copenhagen to see the Hidden Painting.

Kakinuma: It’s still there?!

Eric Andersen: It’s still there, and it’ll be there forever. I have a contract with the museum that this painting can never be revealed again and has to remain hidden for all future time.

Inge Andersen: Yes, I thought we had photos here. You don’t have any?

Eric Andersen: No.

Kakinuma: No? Okay. So, that’s the Hidden Painting.

Eric Andersen: She painted it. The person I chose to paint it had to live up to three criteria. It has to be a woman. Of course there are very few women in the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts. She has to be very well accepted so that her paintings would be sold for high amounts by galleries, so nobody could say this is worthless. Everybody had to agree it has a high value. And the third criterion was that she was not already in the collection.
And this way I decided to put her in the collection without the acceptance of the curators. So, certainly the museum could not decide what they were buying, I decided what they were buying.

Kakinuma: What’s her name? Could you write it down?

Eric Andersen: Yes, Lise Malinovsky.

Inge Andersen: Actually, it’s one of her best things she has ever done, I think.

Kakinuma: You think.

Inge Andersen: Yes. And do you think it’s one of her best things?

Eric Andersen: Yes, absolutely best thing! Lise Malinovsky.

Kakinuma: Is she Russian?

Eric Andersen: No, no, she’s Danish.

Inge Andersen: But I think her parents may be from…

Kakinuma: Russia?

Eric Andersen: Yes, Russia.

Inge Andersen: Way back, yes, her family comes from Russia.

Kakinuma: Very interesting!

Eric Andersen: And the boxes, they’re now controlled by a computer program. So, a computer decides where the boxes should appear in the museum and for how long and what should be the concept.

Kakinuma: Is this a permanent collection?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: So still there?!

Eric Andersen: It’s still there.

Kakinuma: Wow! Great!

Eric Andersen: So, the curators can’t decide about this work. This work decides by itself—where it could show up in the museum, in this room or in this room, and what is in the box and for how long.

Kakinuma: What is this box made of?

Eric Andersen: Wood—it’s a 1 cubic meter wood, and then a completely different kind of content in the box. But the computer decides about the content, the position, and curation.

Kakinuma: There’s no color.

Inge Andersen: Yes, there are colors.

Kakinuma: You put colors?

Eric Andersen: Seven different colors.

Kakinuma: Wow! Beautiful!

Inge Andersen: We’ll send you some photos.

Eric Andersen: I will send you some photos.

Kakinuma: Thank you! Well, would you describe about this or—you know, there are many, so I don’t know how—you know…

Eric Andersen: The Crying Space as I made in Verona in Italy.

Kakinuma: In Italy?

Inge Andersen: Verona?

Kakinuma: Verona is the town of Romeo and Juliet, the Shakespeare…

Inge Andersen: Oh, Romeo and Juliet?

Eric Andersen: Yes—very sad story.

Kakinuma: Yes, I know!

Eric Andersen: And there was a collector, he’s dead now, but there was a very important collector called Francesco Conz.

Kakinuma: Curator?

Eric Andersen: He’s a collector. He asked me, “Do something for me, please, and then I’ll pay everything.” So I said, “Okay, I will make a Crying Stone.” It’s made of marble, a very fine marble called Verona, also. It was red marble, and you can find it in many cathedrals of the Renaissance, a beautiful red marble. For example, in Venice on the floor of the Margaret’s Church, it’s all Verona marble. And you can see it’s a soft marble because you can see there people have walked for hundreds and hundreds of years, there are small changes of the stone.
So, this one is made like this where you can hold it in your arms this piece of marble. Then you can cry and the tears drop down in the two small cavities. So you are sitting with your crying stone, when you want to cry, and then the tears are dropping down. And since this is a very precious object, it goes from generation to generation to generation. And after maybe 400 years, all the tears have changed the shape of the Crying Stone. So, it’s slowly being changed by tears this marble. And it goes together with a very elegant box made of mahogany. So I said to him, “I would like everybody on the globe to have a Crying Stone, so please make six billion.”

Inge Andersen: It is big and very heavy.

Eric Andersen: It’s 12 kilos.

Kakinuma: 12 kilo, wow! Heavy!

Eric Andersen: And so he said, “Eric, six billion is a little bit too much for me, but I’ll make 19”. He made 19 crying stones with very elegant boxes, so you could travel with it. So, like you have your computer and you have your credit cards, also you have the Crying Stone. When you travel, so when you’re in an airplane and you want to cry, take off in Crying Stone and sit and cry.
But I wanted to make it as a public facility. Now that everybody didn’t have their own stone, only 19 stones existed, so I wanted to make a crying space. At first, I made it in galleries. There was a crying space in New York for a few months and in Vienna and in Milano and many, many places. Paris had a crying place for a few months—many, many places.

Kakinuma: Places mean cities, no?

Inge Andersen: No, a space.

Kakinuma: Space?

Inge Andersen: Yes.

Eric Andersen: Space is a situation, a room where you can go and cry—a crying space, a room, like a gallery, yes. So in the gallery, I put six of these stones and also a lot of tools to make you cry. If you cannot cry yourself and maybe a very strong ventilator will make you cry, stand in front of the ventilator for 10 seconds, and then suddenly your tears will run down, or that have chili—very strong chili. And if you don’t like how you look, you can look into a mirror and then start to cry, and—many, many different things, tools to start to cry. And also I had a tape from a—there’s a special tradition in Finland, that People have professional mourners, professional crying songs and so on. And when you listen to these songs, you really feel so sad that you have to cry. So, all different kinds of tools.

Kakinuma: Why did you get interested in crying instead of laughing?

Eric Andersen: Because crying is the only language we have where we don’t know why you cry. There are so many reasons for crying. You can be happy. You can be unhappy. You can be tired. You can have something in your eye. There’s no way we can tell from the body language why you cry. So, it’s the only language we have without a concept, without a code. But if you take the tears and make a chemical analysis of the tear, you can see why the person cries, because the hormones in the tears show if this person was happy or unhappy or tired or a different reason.

Kakinuma: Yes, even if we feel happy, we cry!

Inge Andersen: Yes, exactly.

Kakinuma: Exactly, yes.

Eric Andersen: It is the only language we have without code. Laughing is a very clear code, and the verbal language is a very clear code. But crying is a language without a code.

Kakinuma: AY-O did the laughing piece. You did the crying piece. Interesting!

Eric Andersen: So, I had these crying spaces all over the world, but I wanted a permanent. I tried airports or train stations to have a crying space for people. When they were leaving each other, they could go and cry together. But nobody wanted it. And then finally there was a church in Denmark that has been turned into an art center like Judson Church in New York. And they said in Copenhagen, “Okay, we will make a permanent crying space.” So, there is a permanent crying space in the Nikolaj Church. Now, it’s called Nikolaj Art Center. But it is an old church in Copenhagen.

Kakinuma: Okay.

Eric Andersen: And I can also send you photos of this.

Kakinuma: Great! There are many pieces that I don’t know—could you mention especially about these works?

Eric Andersen: It’s called the Sun Lawn, this lawn that turns towards the sun. You can go on www.thesunlawn.org.

Kakinuma: Okay.

Eric Andersen: Go on the internet, there’s a video with the Sun Lawn.

Kakinuma: Thank you. Okay. In 2012, 50th anniversary of Fluxus was held in Wiesbaden and you participated in it. What did you do in that festival?

Eric Andersen: It was old pieces. It was a museum that wanted to have only the old pieces. They didn’t want new pieces.

Kakinuma: Classical Fluxus pieces.

Eric Andersen: It was 50 years anniversary, so only classical pieces. I had a number of classical pieces. One is that I whisper into the ear of somebody, and then it is used like a loudspeaker, the person shouts out what I whispered into the ear. It’s a piece where everybody has one letter of the alphabet, 26 persons, each with the sound of a letter, and then they pronounce the sound that they wanted, and in this way suddenly words will appear out of this kind of alphabetic soup.
What else did I do then? We all did two- or three-year-old pieces. Alison was there. Ben Vautier was there. Ben Patterson, Willem de Ritter, and so on. So, there were quite old pieces. And it’s really funny that all these works that were never meant to be repertoire that now people are so crazy with them that they have become repertoire. But it was never the intention that they should be a repertoire. You should always make new pieces for new people.

Kakinuma: But this piece you did is—you did it in Wiesbaden too at the 30th anniversary.

Eric Andersen: This was done in Wiesbaden too in ’92, yes.

Kakinuma: So this is kind of classical repertoire?

Eric Andersen: Yes. It is one of the best pieces by George Maciunas. Now he’s dead, so we cannot make new pieces.

Kakinuma: Okay. You involved music in your works as you did this time, like you presented two pieces of your own and you use music for both, right? What do you think is a role of music or sound in the works by Fluxus artists?

Eric Andersen: I don’t think music has a specific position. It goes along with all the other media that is a part of the intermedia. We have sound. We have feature images.

Kakinuma: You said something about music.

Eric Andersen: The interesting thing about music is it is time-based.

Kakinuma: Yes, that’s it.

Eric Andersen: And this is a very important part of intermedia that it has to be time-based, not necessarily to use sound or use music, but the piece itself has to be time-based. So, it never has a fixed form, it can always change and take a new appearance, still being the same piece. It’s a new understanding of art. It’s very interesting actually because it is a new understanding and a very open understanding.
Art before 1750 was not divided into music, painting, sculpture, and so on. It was Baumgarten, the German philosopher, who wrote the book Aesthetica. He was the first person to define the genre of art. And that goes together with the industrial revolution of course because the main dogma of the industrial revolution is the standard. You cannot have an industrial process without a standard. Art had to become a standard too. So, art become this stereotype personal expression of artists for the next 200 years. And then in 1950, a new understanding of art suddenly appeared. I think it had to do with the Second World War. But the Second World War was so terrible, so horrific that people said to themselves, “We cannot go on in the same way. We have to invent the world in a new way, and also art has to be understood in a new way.”
If you went back to the time before 1750 and said art is not objects, art is communication. And communication is always time-based. So, we don’t want to make artifacts, we don’t want to produce art, we want to experience art and communicate art. This is intermedia, the core of intermedia, that art is communication and not production. That’s why it’s time-based. So, it’s not necessarily music, but it could be sound, it could be color, it could be many different things, dance or it could be interactions and participation. I think this is a very important part—you’ve have to have something on the wall that is framed or something that is changed even by looking at it, it takes a new shape. That’s a core thing, the time-based aspect.

Kakinuma: And Fluxus artists often involved time in their works, that is very characteristic.

Eric Andersen: That is very essential. Each work doesn’t have a final shape. Everything is under progress.

Kakinuma: Yes, so that is maybe Fluxus flowing, always changing. So in that sense, Fluxus is a nice word, don’t you think?

Eric Andersen: Fluxus is very nice word.

Mrs Andersen:
Yes, a perfect word.

Kakinuma: Perfect word!

Eric Andersen: Gino Di Maggio is a wonderful Italian curator. He made a Fluxus section in the Biennale in Venice in 1990. It was called Ubi Fluxus Ibi Motus. It’s Latin, and it means where there’s no change there’s no life. And this was found on the wall in Pompeii 2,000 years ago.

Kakinuma: Really?!

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: That’s interesting.

Eric Andersen: Pompeii in the year 100…

Kakinuma: The Book of Changes, the Chinese, says the same thing. John Cage was impressed by that book. Same thing!

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Kakinuma: Wow! That’s very, very interesting!

Eric Andersen: So, Fluxus is 2,000 years old.

Kakinuma: Great! That’s a good story. I would like to ask one thing about European Fluxus Movement. Copenhagen is one of the Fluxus centers in Europe. Do you think there is a difference between Fluxus in Europe and Fluxus in New York?

Eric Andersen: No.

Kakinuma: No difference?

Eric Andersen: No. There’s a difference from each artist. Dick Higgins is completely different from Ben Vautier. Alison Knowles is completely different from Wolf Vostell. Willem de Ritter is completely different from me. And Tomas Schmit is completely different from…

Kakinuma: So, it’s the difference of each artist, not the cities.

Eric Andersen: Yes, from each artist, absolutely. And you cannot say there’s something specific for New York or specific for Berlin or specific for Venice and so on. It is the artists that are completely different. It’s not because it’s accidentally different, it’s because we want to be different. We each want to be different from each other, so we never become a group or a band or a design. That’s very important for us.

Kakinuma: But each [Fluxus] artist kind of throw away their ego.

Eric Andersen: Some artists have a very strong ego.

Kakinuma: Yes, they still keep ego, but through collaboration they throw away their ego too. So, that’s very interesting.

Eric Andersen: Some of us want to throw away the ego and say that the work we’re doing is not really our work. We’re just an instrument in this work, but we have no ego. But then some artists like Ben Vautier, he’s saying art is all about ego, the only work he’s doing is himself. So, he is the ego. Also in this sense, we are very different, somebody doesn’t want the ego and somebody wants the ego.

Kakinuma: Okay. You mentioned about arte strumentale. What does it mean?

Eric Andersen: It was something I started in—actually the first work I made was not called arte strumentale, but it was called “Handy Art,” something you do with your hands.
And then, when I did this work in Italy, I called it arte strumentale because I lived in Italy in the ’90s, so I used this term arte strumentale where art is a kind of instrument you use for different purposes. This was also a work I did in 1961, but I had a big—this is like 6 m x 2 m or something like that. And on this part of this big plate, there were different kinds of things you could use to form wood, different kind of tools, so you could saw them, you could shave them in different shapes, you could polish them, you could cut them into pieces and so on and so on. And then here on a platform, after you’ve treated this piece of wood in a way you preferred, you put it there and then there was a gun there, and then you took the corner and then you could shoot at it. So, you made a workshop and a shooting gallery. This was an interactive piece where audience could do their own work, you just supplied them with instruments and with woods. And so the audience, they had to go and make their own artwork with all these tools and then they could shoot at it afterwards to shape it at a distance. So, this part was with the hand and this part is with the distance.

Kakinuma: What are these?

Eric Andersen: These are shelves with different kind of tools and with woods. But I could send you a photo of it.

Kakinuma: Okay.

Inge Andersen: You know, book shelves.

Kakinuma: Shelves?!

Inge Andersen: Yes.

Eric Andersen: Shelves with different kinds of tools and different kinds of wood, so you could work there like in a workshop, like in a place where you shape wood. And then this is a shooter gallery where you could put the object and then shoot at it.

Kakinuma: This is arte strumentale.

Eric Andersen: Yes. This work is now in the best museum of intermedia in the whole world. It is in a museum in Spain in Malpartida.

Kakinuma: Which city?

Eric Andersen: Malpartida.

Inge Andersen: Extremadura province, not so far away from Madrid.

Eric Andersen: In this museum, Gino Di Maggio from Milano has put the most important work from his collection and deposited it in this museum. So, this is the most important collection of intermedia in the whole world. Everybody should go to Malpartida and see intermedia. It’s in the middle of a desert.

Inge Andersen: Very strange.

Kakinuma: The museum?

Eric Andersen: Yes.

Inge Andersen: This collection is also Wolf Vostell, one of the Fluxus artists.

Kakinuma: Who?

Eric Andersen: From Germany.

Inge Andersen: Wolf Vostell.

Kakinuma: Interesting! This might be the last question. What is your next project?

Eric Andersen: Apart from going to—Centre Pompidou has made a new museum in a town called Metz in France, and I’m going there to make a performance in early June, these kind of things, traveling around like here in Tokyo to do performances and so on. But the first major work is in a gallery in Copenhagen, with the opening on August 22, where I have a marble, it’s called Headrest. It’s a marble that is shaved, so you can put your head inside and then you can rest your head.

Kakinuma: Not for crying, but for sleeping.

Eric Andersen: So, resting. And apart from—you can go to this gallery and rest your head.

Inge Andersen: It’s a huge platform.

Eric Andersen: It’s standing on a huge platform where you can lie down very comfortable and put your head inside. Then the gallery offers you that there will be three beautiful girls like with the massage. But these three girls will make a cast of some part of your body to make a copy. You say “Okay, I want the copy of my hand,” and then this copy will be put in the show. So when you get there and you rest your head, you’ll leave behind a part of your body. So, slowly this whole space will be filled with the parts of the spectators who have visited the place. You have to come to Copenhagen in August.

Kakinuma: I want to visit your city.

Eric Andersen: Yes, sure, you’ll have to come there. Then you also can see the Hidden Painting.

Kakinuma: Yes, I want to see it.

Eric Andersen: Yes. Mihoko came and saw the…

Kakinuma: Oh, really?!

Eric Andersen: Yes, Mihoko came and saw the Hidden Painting. So, you can talk with her about it. It made a very big impression on her.

Kakinuma: Great!

Eric Andersen: But I can send you a few links…

Kakinuma: Yes, thank you.

Eric Andersen: …at the hotel. But the photos I can only send to you from Copenhagen.

Kakinuma: Okay, thank you.

Inge Andersen: Because he left the computer in ___.

Kakinuma: I will transcribe your talk and send it to you, and you can correct if there are mistakes.

Eric Andersen: No, I don’t think you make mistakes.

Kakinuma: I will, yes.

Eric Andersen: But if you have additional questions, just put them to me, especially after you get the photos and the links, and maybe you want something to be elaborated on, anytime.

Kakinuma: I’ve got a research center now starting this month, April. And we will maybe put your interview on the internet. Is that possible?

Eric Andersen: Sure!

Kakinuma: No problem?

Eric Andersen: No. You can do it.

Kakinuma: Because every time we have a problem of copyright. We have to clear the problem sometimes.

Eric Andersen: Yes. In most cases, I don’t care. If it is for research or if it is for paper, it’s okay. If it is for the market, then I’m very expensive.

Kakinuma: No, not like that!

Eric Andersen: When I sell an artwork, I have at least four different kinds of prices. If it’s a friend, it is free.

Inge Andersen: It depends.

Eric Andersen: If it is a friend’s friend, it’s very low cost. If it’s for a collector, it’s a high price. But it’s for a museum, very high price!

Kakinuma: So museum in Copenhagen paid you a lot, maybe.

Eric Andersen: So, there’s no fixed price of the work.

Kakinuma: You don’t have any CD or musical works or?

Eric Andersen: Musical works?

Kakinuma: Yes, or CDs, do you have any CDs or?

Eric Andersen: I have a lot of sounds. I love those sounds. But I’ve never made a CD.

Kakinuma: You’re not selling them?

Eric Andersen: I don’t want to make books and I don’t want to make CD, but I have a lot of video, a lot of sound projects. One of the most famous of my sound pieces is a piece I made in ’64. It consists of this sentence, I have confidence in you, then the alphabet—if you measure the number of letters in the English alphabets, it’s exactly the same number of letters you have in the sentence, I have confidence in you. This was the score, and I gave it to a symphony orchestra, the Danish Royal Symphony orchestra, and they played it for 12 minutes—wonderful piece!

Inge Andersen: Yes, that was the only—there were no notes.

Eric Andersen: 1964.

Kakinuma: Wow! I’d have to hear it.

Eric Andersen: Yes, I have the tape of course. And this piece has been performed many times by different orchestras. I have a wonderful recording from 1990 in Biennale in Venezia, with Mieko Shiomi!

Kakinuma: Oh, really?! What did she do?

Eric Andersen: She was playing electronic piano together with—at the same time in Biennale there was a big symposium with students from conservatories from all over Italy. They came to Venice to have this big symposium. I said to them, “Do you want to play this piece?” And I think 20 students came with electronic instruments and played together with Mieko Shiomi for—I think it was 30 or 40 minutes. I have this tape too.

Kakinuma: Great!

Eric Andersen: Yes! Ask Mieko, she will remember.

Kakinuma: Yes, I’ll ask her. There’s no written score?

Eric Andersen: Only I have confidence in you and the alphabet, these are the scores.

Kakinuma: Amazing!

Eric Andersen: And it sounds wonderful!

Kakinuma: Great!

Eric Andersen: The sound of this piece is producing cannot be composed. Nobody can write down what people have in mind that I have in confidence. Nobody can write this down as a score. It only happens in the minds of the people, and then very wonderful sounds appear automatically out of this piece.

Kakinuma: I wonder how they performed.

Eric Andersen: Yes, you’ll hear it!

Kakinuma: Very interesting!

Eric Andersen: Yes. You can ask Mieko about it how she performed.

Kakinuma: Yes, I’ll ask her. Thank you. Thank you so much!

Eric Andersen: Yes, you’re welcome!

Kakinuma: Very interesting!

Eric Andersen: I will send you some stuff.

Kakinuma: Yes, thank you.

Eric Andersen: But it would take two weeks. Is that okay?

Kakinuma: Yes, it’s okay. Thank you so much.

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