2018-11-08 Back to list

The Fluxus Route in Kaunas

George Maciunas, the godfather of Fluxus, was born in 1931. He became an artist in the US, but the legacy of Fluxus can be felt in the air of Kaunas.

Kaunas, much like Fluxus, is an attitude, not a movement or a style. George Maciunas, the founder of Fluxus, was born on November 8, 1931 when Kaunas was the flourishing temporary capital of Lithuania. The period of the First Republic is now a source of inspiration for contemporary Kaunas. Thus, as a UNESCO City of Design, member of the UNESCO Creative Cities network and the European Capital of Culture 2022, Kaunas is inseparable from Fluxus and the legacy of George Maciunas.

Let us celebrate the day that would have been the artist's 87th birthday (he died in Boston on May 9, 1978) by discovering the Fluxus traces in Kaunas. Like the illustrations? They were done by a long-time #kaunastic collaborator Tadas Bujanauskas and are available as a set of postcards at the Kaunas IN Tourism Information Centre (Rotušės a. 15).


The George Maciunas House
Parodos g. 1

On November 8th, 1931, baby Jurgis [George] was born into the Mačiūnas family. His dad Aleksandras was the head engineer of the Telefunken company, while his mother Leokadija was a prima ballerina in the state theatre; Jurgis also had an older sister Nijolė. The boy made his public debut when he was five – he played Mozart live on Lithuanian radio. WW2 made the family move to Germany and then the US. The rest is history. What reminds us of the residents of the house on Parodos st. 1 is a memorial plaque installed on the façade in 1998 (designed by Stasys Žirgulis).


The George Maciunas Square
Intersection of Vytauto, Parodos and K. Donelaičio streets

“I once noticed that the little triangle space inside the junction is a kind of dead space. No one drives or walks there, nothing happens; thus I wanted to put something there. Almost immediately I realised the fit for Mačiūnas, especially having in mind I created the plank with the name of the square in 2000. […] I absolutely love working on such ideas that no one really wants,” Naglis Rytis Baltušnikas, the artist who pitched the idea for a Kaunas municipality contest, won it and opened the Maciunas square in July 2017, once said in an interview. 


The Fluxus Cabinet
Kaunas Picture Gallery, K. Donelaičio g. 16

In 1992, Osvaldas Daugelis, then-assistant manager of M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, bought his first Fluxus item in Japan and brought it home. It all took off from there. The Fluxus cabinet was opened in 1998, 20 years after Maciunas died. If the exhibits could actually be touched, the cabinet would probably become the most popular playground in town. For now, at least your mind gets some playful action while skimming through the jokes drawn, boxed or transmitted in other ways by George Maciunas and his colleagues. It’s best to include visiting the Fluxus cabinet into your monthly routine, just to make sure your brain gets enough fresh air.


The installation “The Black Hole”, Ay-O
Kaunas Picture Gallery, K. Donelaičio g. 16

The revolutionary Japanese artist Ay-O once said meeting George Maciunas in New York was fatal for him. The artist donated this installation – created to commemorate Maciunas in New York – to the M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art in Kaunas, as well as 40 silkscreen prints. You can see the installation during the opening hours of the Kaunas Picture Gallery – it’s right there in the lobby.


Jonas Mekas and George Maciunas on Stilts
Kaunas Picture Gallery, K. Donelaičio g. 16

In 1971, Peter Moore captured Mekas and Maciunas marching through New York on stilts. A Lithuanian artist Kęstutis Grigaliūnas was so inspired by the picture he even taught people to walk on self-made stilts in Japan. Later, when Kazys Venslova and Redas Diržys joined him back home, the trio built the sculptures of Mekas and Maciunas on stilts. The statues were first introduced to the public in Vilnius and, after some impish travelling, settled in the Kaunas Picture Gallery.


A Song for Kaunas Crew
Kaunas Picture Gallery, K. Donelaičio g. 16

Artist Takako Saito was fascinated by the avant-garde atmosphere Ay-O had brought back home to Japan from visiting New York, so that’s where she travelled as well – and then inspired Maciunas with her chess sets. It was the beginning of Saito’s many collaborations in the Fluxus world. One of the artist’s works exhibited at the Fluxus cabinet in Kaunas invites you to become a performer rather than a spectator. Shall we?


Ministry of Fluxus and the Old Wise Man
Jonavos g. 3

The public art project was first implemented in Vilnius and then relocated to a former shoe factory in Kaunas. An inclusive hub for underground artists, the ministry soon became one of the most popular culture spots in the city and then closed its doors before fading away. To commemorate the atmosphere created in the ministry, two local street artists – Tadas Šimkus and Žygimantas Amelynas – painted the Old Wise Man on the façade of the factory in 2013. Ironically enough, the artwork got close to being banned for “promoting smoking”. Today, it is one of the most photographed murals in the city and has already been reproduced as a tote bag, a fridge magnet etc. Mekas and Maciunas would be proud.


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