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Charlotte Moorman, Tradition Disrupter, Is the Focus of Two Shows

Sep 9, 2016

“Think Crazy” is sound advice for today’s artists, faced with cookie cutter training and art fair sclerosis. And the phrase did once have some practical application. It was emblazoned, like a logo, across a banner at one of the New York Avant Garde Festivals that took place annually in the city between 1963 and 1980, rounding up feral fringe talent from around the world and letting it loose in places like Grand Central Terminal, Shea Stadium and the Staten Island Ferry.

By fringe, I mean people who worked with esoteric art media (air, bullets, spaghetti) and had names you’d never heard of. While a few participants — John Cage, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Karlheinz Stockhausen — were big cultural deals, most were not, and the open-door policy made the festival extra-special. Basically, if you proposed a tradition-crushing idea that had brains, passion or politics behind it, you were in.