Letter to Eric

by Anne Tardos

Dear Eric,

Funny you should ask for Jackson’s thoughts and memories of the 1985 Festival of Fantastics in Roskilde, now, two years after he has died. You’re asking me for my impression of Jackson’s impressions. My memory of his memory. This brings home the point that although so much of Jackson has remained, so much of him is still so accessible and palpable in our collective and individual memories that it makes one wonder what death really means.

How indeed could I remember my experience in Roskilde without also remembering Jackson? He was the reason I was invited, well actually it was your friendship for me and generosity, Eric, that was the real reason I made it there.

Jackson and I absolutely loved it there. We loved the Festival of Fantastics, the city of Roskilde (with the silend “d”) and its involvement in the festival, the St. Agnes Gallery, the hotel, and your and Marianne’s ever optimistic and witty presence.

Jackson and I performed in our own, each other’s, and others pieces.

I remember being written up in the local press as a “French Fluxus artist,” primarily because I was born in France, and we thought that was funny, though I’m sure the Danish paper just said that I was a French-born Fluxus artist, which is true. All our friends were there, Alison, Emmett, Ann, Bob, Ben, among others.

I had many conversations with Jackson about Fluxus versus non-Fluxus, and the title of the festival also addressed this question—began the conversation.

Jackson’s ambivalence, as you know, was rooted in his “resignation” from Fluxus on 25 April 1963, in response to George Maciunas’s proposal to block the traffic during rush hour in the Holland Tunnel, which runs under the Hudson, and as you know, connects Manhattan to New Jersey. Tunnels and bridges have a special place in the life of New York. Jackson saw the idea as so counterproductive and so wrong that he wrote his famous letter of resignation to George.

The Festival of Fantastics played with the letter F coquettishly. Fluxus without Fluxus. Very Fluxus indeed.

No, Jackson, we’re not in a Fluxus festival. But all the participants are in some way associated with the movement. How do you explain that? Well, I don’t really know, but it’s good to be together in this wonderful place and work together, make art together with our friends.

So is this a Fluxus event? I don’t know, Jackson, what do you think? Let’s just do the work we do anyway, and not worry about labels. That is Eric’s message, isn’t it? Yes.

I did a piece that involved two slide projectors, which we could not synchronize. I remember that while the performance was going, and the images clearly did not correspond to the text, Bob Watts was heard mumbling “this shouldn’t be happening.” Now Bob is dead too, and, thanks to the out-of-synch slide projectors, he had the opportunity to express his compassion for me, which I cherish and appreciate more than I would have a perfectly coordinated set of projectors.

The other piece I did was easier to realize, the world premiere of my Kinder/Børn/Children. People lined up on stage facing the audience, each inflating their inflatable life vests. Some vests opened, others didn’t—it was simple and beautiful. We finished my segment with a banquet on stage, to which the audience was invited. Everyone seemed very hungry that day, and we were all on stage, enjoying the banquet of great Danish cheeses, breads, fruit and wine.

The hotel had tried heroically to accommodate the crazy American vegetarians. (When we returned to New York, and when Jackson saw that our cat was eating fresh fish, he declarted that we too should eat fish. Later we added chicken, and decided to draw the line at eating mammals. And that’s how it stayed, until Jackson died. Now I eat meat, but I feel like a vegetarian who needs meat.)

I remember doing a word event with Jackson, one of his word events, in which we were given actions to perform in addition to saying words and uttering sounds. Some of Jackson’s actions were so impressive that he was depicted in one Danish newspaper as flying across the stage, his long hair trailing behind him. And although I could not possibly remember his thoughts, I can tell you that he was a fearless performer who didn’t suffer from self doubt or stage fright or self consciousness. It’s rare to see that.

I also remember creating a post card, with my idea that “Rose killed a rose killed a rose killed a rose.” I still have some of them.

I hope this is more or less what you were hoping for.

With very much love to you and Marianne,