How Citizen Journalism is Like the Fluxus Art Movement

by Isabel Braverman

The Fluxus movement arose in the 1960’s in New York City and was started and named by George Maciunas. The idea of Fluxus, in it’s most simplest terms, is that anything can be art and anyone can do it. It blurred the lines between art and life and artist and citizen. It rejected the traditional notions of fine art- that art is created for the purpose of the artist’s ego and that only the artist would be able to produce such a work because they have a distinct and talented vision. Traditional art also laments the fact that it can be sold (for a high price). Fluxus was a rejection of these ideas. Maciunas and his followers wanted to show that art is a collaborative process, i.e. it moves toward a collective spirit and even anonymity. The artist should be anti-individualist. The artist should also not profit from his art and find another profession to make an income. In fact, Maciunas lists journalism as one of these other professions. Now to my point- citizen journalism follows the same ideological structure as the aforementioned “guidelines” for Fluxus. To prove my point, I’ve copied an explanation that Maciunas wrote below, and replaced “art” with “journalism”.

To establish artist’s (journalist’s) nonprofessional status in society,
he must demonstrate artist’s (journalist’s) dispensability and inclusiveness,
he must demonstrate the selfsufficiency of the audience,
he must demonstrate that anything can be art (journalism) and anyone can do it.

Therefore, art-amusement (journalism) must be simple, amusing, unpretentious,
concerned with insignificances, require no skill or countless
rehersals, have no commodity or institutional value.

The value of art-amusement (journalism) must be lowered by making it unlimited,
massproduced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all.

Fluxus art-amusement (journalism) is the rear-guard without any pretension
or urge to participate in the competition of “one-upmanship” with
the avant-garde (media). It strives for the monostructural and nontheatrical
qualities of simple natural event, a game or a gag. 

Citizen journalism, like Fluxus art, puts a pencil in the hands of everyday people and says “go forth and document!” Of course, this brings about certain criticisms. If art and journalism are considered professions, then those who do it are professionals- they have a trained skill as well as some natural talent or inclination that led them to be called an artist or journalist in the first place. And, if it is one’s job, shouldn’t they get paid for it? Like Mayhill Fowler said in this New York Time’s article, “If you really can write, demand to get paid for it.” The whole point of the Fluxus movement is to totally disagree with Fowler. There is no distinction between who can make art and who cannot, thus rendering payment for it superfluous. Make your art, and then make a living elswehere (it is ironic to my theory, of course, that Maciunas states journalism as a good “elsewhere).

If anyone can be a journalist, then what’s the point of journalism school, media foundations or payment for what they write? Journalism requires a certain set of skills- interviewing, writing, objectivity, honesty etc. (after all, the Society of Professional Journalists exists for a reason). Art may not require “skills”, but, in both journalism and art one can discern what is bad and what is good. And, although there are certainly contradictions, one usually sees the good in a form that needed payment (galleries, museums, newspapers, books etc) and the bad in ametuer productions. Thus, I would contradict Maciunas- art (journalism) should be considered a profession. Of course, anything can be art(journalism) and anyone can do it. But, anyone can do anything really, it just comes down to what anyone will pay for or actively seek out to see.