Intermedia, Fluxus and the Something Else Press

Selected Writings

Dick Higgins

Edited by Steve Clay and Ken Friedman

  • Siglio-Higgins-Cover

There are few art-world figures as influential—and as little known—as Dick Higgins (1938-1998), co-founder of Fluxus, “polyartist,” poet, scholar, theorist, composer, performer and, not least, the publisher of the Something Else Press. In 1965 he restored the term “intermedia” to the English language, giving it new dimension to recognize the dissolution of boundaries, the expansion of liminal spaces between traditional modes of art making, and the open field for new forms that cannot be compartmentalized. His own contributions to intermedia are many—as a participant and instigator of Happenings, as writer and composer straddling traditional and vanguard forms, among others—but it was the Something Else Press (1963-1974) that redefined how “the book” could inhabit that energized, in-between space.

Something Else Press was as much a critical statement and radical experiment as it was a collection of books by some of the most luminary artists and writers of the twentieth century: Gertrude Stein, John Cage, Ray Johnson, Dieter Roth, Bern Porter, Emmett Williams, Robert Filliou, George Brecht, among many others. Along with his Great Bear pamphlet series and the Something Else Press newsletter, Higgins exploited and subverted conventional book production and marketing strategies to get unconventional and avant-garde works into the hands of new and often unsuspecting readers.

Edited by Granary Books publisher Steve Clay and Fluxus artist Ken Friedman, this judiciously curated and indispensable compendium of essays, theoretical writings and narrative prose by Higgins dives deep into the ever-influential ideas that he explored in theory and practice. (It also includes a substantial, highly illustrated Something Else Press checklist including Higgins’ jacket and catalog copy about the books he published.) Clay and Friedman have chosen works that illuminate his voracious intellectual appetite, encyclopedic body of knowledge, and playful yet rigorous experimentation in a selection that includes many writings long out-of-print or difficult to find.

 

ABOUT DICK HIGGINS

“It is hard to say where I came from; certainly my parenthood is uncertain, and I’ve always thought of myself as something of a mongrel. I have always belonged to many worlds, and the world we live in now is always suspicious of such divided loyalties. I seem to pass in and out of fashion the way a weaver’s shuttle moves across the loom, always moving from in to out, from warp to woof. In any case, it seems to me that my history does not begin with conception but with perception, whatever the reaction to me may be. I suppose I had a childhood, but it is part of my suspended consciousness, to be recalled as needed, but seldom needed. At some point I was noticed. That’s that.”

—Dick Higgins, from “A [very short] Autobiography of Originality,” 1983

 

Steve Clay is the publisher of Granary Books, as well as an editor, curator, and archivist specializing in literature and art of the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. He is the author or editor of several volumes including A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing with Jerome Rothenberg and A Secret Location on the Lower East Side: Adventures in Writing 1960-1980, with Rodney Phillips.

Ken Friedman is the youngest member of the Fluxus group, the former manager of the Something Else Press, and editor of The Fluxus Reader, the first comprehensive scholarly overview of Fluxus. He is Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies at the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai and also Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the Faculty of Design at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia as well as co-editor of the MIT Press series Design Thinking, Design Theory.