Festival of Fantastics

by Marianne Bech

The Festival of Fantastics took place in Roskilde, Denmark, in 1985. Ten international artists all closely associated with Fluxus presented a series of events, performances, concerts and actions all over Roskilde and the surrounding area; on the streets, at the Viking Ship Museum, the library, the law courts, the culture centre, the Roskilde Convention Centre, in taxis, in the town’s parks and on board the ship Skjelskør on Roskilde Fjord. Gallery St. Agnes, the town’s only gallery for experimental art, was the official organizer of the festival and arranged a small exhibition of Fluxus works and installations in the gallery and the nearby Husarstaldene (the hussar stables). 

For 10 days, the festival turned Roskilde upside down, with 21 events and performances as well as an exhibition. Numerous international academics, journalists and visitors observed the festival closely from the arrival of the artists, the press conference, and the many different events until the day the artists left Roskilde and its people in a state of relief and wonder. What had hit Roskilde? And was it really art?

This website provides an insight into the numerous events and performances that took place in Roskilde during the Festival of Fantastics. In order to bring together the vast and dispersed reminiscences of the festival, the organizers decided to present an exhibition of documentation the following year. The exhibition established an archive including video documentation, audio recordings, slides, photographs and a variety of written material: letters, lists of materials, staging sketches, performance scripts, scores, instructions, artist biographies, press releases, interviews, press coverage, etc.

Museet for Samtidskunst (The Museum of Contemporary Art) opened in 1991 and ‘inherited’ the Fluxus archive, which was to lay the foundation for the Museum’s continued preoccupation with documentation and registration of ephemeral art forms. With hindsight, the archive presented a number of the complex conditions in terms of registration, conservation and mediation, which still challenge media art today.

Twenty four years have passed from the festival in 1985 to the launch of this website in 2009. However, many of the festival guests feel that this particular festival never ended; that the festival still resounds in the streets and alleys of Roskilde.

This website seeks to commemorate the Festival of Fantastics through written, visual and aural documentation. Based on the Fluxus archive, the website also tries to grasp the personal memory and attestation of the festival. Artists and audience from the festival have contributed with their recollections of the events, adding layers of memories, anecdotes and personal meditations moulded by the time passed.

Many Fluxus works – like other ephemeral works of art – tend to slip through our fingers. If we are lucky, we are left with careful documentation of the events perpetuated in the form of photographs or video. This documentation helps us to recall what happened, but how do we recall the sensation of the event? Is this experience forever lost? This website gives room to our imperfect memory and the subjective experience of the Festival of Fantastics. The process is open-ended and we encourage everyone who experienced Festival of Fantastics in 1985 to contribute to the never ending story of Fluxus with their imperfect recollections.

Access to the Fluxus archive can be obtained by contacting The Museum of Contemporary Art.


Marianne Bech
Roskilde 2009