A Chain of Events

by Eric Andersen

In early 1982 Marianne Bech, an art history student at The University of Copenhagen, approached me about a paper on Fluxus. We kept in touch and soon  after Bech told me that a small gallery in Roskilde, Denmark’s medieval capital close to Copenhagen, was dreaming of organising a festival with the heroes from 1962. Despite being run by an elderly woman, Valborg Nørby, the gallery was the only avant-garde gallery in the entire country. However, the gallery had never handled such a large event before and did not have sufficient funds.

I was asked to be the artistic director of the festival, selecting artists and developing the festival format. Collaborating with Bech, Nørby and her incredible crowd of peers were to handle the artists’ productions, and a local art collector and publisher, Bent Petersen, was to secure funding and sponsorships. Regrettably he made an entire mess of it.

The festival was named Festival of Fantastics because Fantastics was the title of the most successful Broadway musical at the time, but also because this musical had its office and small museum at MacDougal Street in New York, where I spend most of my time in those years. The term Fluxus was avoided as it had gradually turned into a nonsense word mostly used by people with ambitious career plans but without any affiliation to the events in 1962.

Two fundamental principles were established: the entire medieval city should come alive with activities, and the same venue could not be used as a performance platform more than once. These principles were more or less enforced. Due to the size of the city, Nørby’s local roots, Bech’s exceptional work and the two local newspapers’ scrupulous front-page coverage of every detail, the festival became the city’s pivotal point for ten days. Especially the journalist Birgit Brunsted was instrumental in terms of achieving total sympathy from the city and its institutions, services and businesses. I believe that the festival was the only subject discussed by the citizens during those days.

After Emmett Williams’ brilliant finale, gently blowing out candles in the Culture House, a longing arose among the city’s bereaved. The best men and women could not allow for InterMedia’s ephemeral being to slip through their fingers, and a site of remembrance was created, insisting on another appearance than the former.

Thankfully director of Roskilde’s historical museum and head of The Danish Museum Council Frank Birkebæk was around. The outcome of it all was the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museet for Samtidskunst) residing in the old bishop’s palace with Bech as director and Birkebæk as head of the board – and in addition this website.

Eric Andersen                                                                                       

Read Eric Andersen’s text “What is…?” on Fluxus and Festival of Fantastics