Weissman School of Arts and Sciences

Professor Bernstein's Latest Book Tells Story of FLUXUS Art Movement, SoHo

An array of avant-garde New York artists, filmmakers, and friends and fans of the FLUXUS art movement attended the launch of Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo, a new book by Weissman Journalism Professor Roslyn Bernstein and Shael Shapiro, about the first successful artists' cooperative. The event took place September 21st at the Christopher Fischer shop located at 80 Wooster Street itself.

The authors recounted that the book came about after a serendipitous inquiry from Arturas Zuokas, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Jonas Mekas Foundation when he met with them to discuss an exhibition about SoHo that was being planned in Vilnius, Lithuania. "I cannot think of a more fortuitous meeting. At present in the United States, the words 'illegal living' are associated with Arizona, but if we go back a few decades, we see that 'illegal living' in SoHo allowed artists a place to create and the freedom to do so without constraint," said Mr. Zuokas.

Formerly a manufacturing building, 80 Wooster Street became the headquarters for George Maciunas, Lithuanian-American founder of the FLUXUS avant-garde art movement and an important hub for art world events. Jonas Mekas' Cinematheque was based there, as was Anthology Film Archives. Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Trisha Brown, Philip Glass and Robert Watts performed there.

Legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas was a special Guest of Honor at the book launch and shared colorful reminiscences including constant harassment from New York City agencies. He highlighted an instance when he and George Maciunas surreptitiously planted two trees in front of the building. These were also illegal, but even the police were not heartless enough to uproot them. They remain there to this day.

At the event were FLUXUS movement founders and artists Geoff Hendricks, Larry Miller, Sarah Seagull, George Maciunas' widow Billie Maciunas, Deputy Director of the New Museum John Hatfield, Grey Art Gallery director Lynn Gumbert, Gallery Henoch director George Schectman, curators Jon Hendricks and Barbara Moore, authors Susan Choi, Sigrid Nunez, Richard Kostelanetz, and others.

Comprising original photographs, archival papers, architectural floor plans, and in-depth interviews with artists and activists, Illegal Living vividly illuminates the evolution of SoHo as an arts community.

Illegal Living, published by the Jonas Mekas Foundation, is available at bookstores and Amazon.com.

(Photo pictures from left to right: FLUXUS artist Geoff Hendricks, curator L. Brandon Krall, legendary filmmaker and President of Anthology Film Archives Jonas Mekas, curator Liutauras Psibilskis, Mrs. Billie Maciunas, Jonas Mekas Foundation Chairman of the Board and publisher of Illegal Living, Mr. Arturas Zuokas.)


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