What is the fluxus?

What is the fluxus? How fluxperiments can help revitalize writing + Writers Tips to Encourage a Creative Mindset

FLUXUS was an important international and interdisciplinary community of artists, composers, designers and poets who participated in experimental artistic performances during the 1960s and 1970s. The key was to emphasize the artistic process over any finished product.

Fluxus artists tended to engage in interdisciplinary artistic activities (they used the term “intermedia” to explain these activities — for instance, a combination of drawing and poetry, or a combination of painting and theater). A great example of an interdisciplinary artistic activity could be the Japanese poems known as Haiga which are typically lines of poetry painted alongside images, with the same brush and ink.

Maybe it needs a caption

Simple “comic book” stories combine works of art with lines of dialogue in much the same way. If you were (are) a fan of the Illuminae Archives (by authors Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman) — the 2015 space opera that used photocopied documents, emails, and interview transcripts (as well as diagrams and other non-textual material) — to tell an otherwise fairly straightforward retro space-adventure in a bold and graphic way for novel, then you’ll understand the remarkable oomph that an interdisciplinary approach can bring to fiction. I don’t expect you to be able to produce a graphic novel or illustrate your next story book, but you might be able to add a piece of contextual art to your next poem or a doodle to your short story, huh?

Illuminae

Fluxus is all about interpretation, explication and visualization:

So, if you can:

  • Express your thoughts using some ‘other’ (non text-based) artistic language that helps make sense of ideas (or helps clarify ideas for your audience)… you’ll be using the fluxus!
  • Elaborate your thoughts, making them simple to understand to your audience, with diagrams, maps, spoken word, songs, crafts, or some other non-text-based art form… you’ll be using the fluxus!
  • Summarize your thoughts in an interpretive way that provides a mental picture to your audience of something that is otherwise invisible or abstract to them … you’ll be using the fluxus!

There are (loose) rules for fluxus:

  • Fluxus is an attitude (not a style)
  • Fluxus is about intermedia (seeing how common or everyday objects might intersect with each other to illustrate our work)
  • Fluxus is simple (the work ought to be short, brief, and just a small digression)
  • Fluxus is fun — it’s meant to get your imagination bubbling — it should be a lighthearted pursuit and can be as silly as you like
  • Fluxus works best when it is childlike, so be guileless, be unselfconscious and be playful when you fluxperiment

But how inventive can you be with your fluxperiments?

You don’t have to be totally bonkers or totally avante-garde, or revolutionary or countercultural-transgressive to take on the fluxus. You don’t have to be pretentious or “uppity” to be in this group of free-thinkers either! This isn’t about making arty-farty creations that nobody wants to see or hear (ha ha!). Instead, it’s about blurring boundaries between art forms. And, let’s be clear, we do it every day, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of us! This is the key to understanding the fluxus: remembering that all you’re doing is blurring boundaries between art forms.

Have you ever used an emoji at the end of a sentence? Yes? That’s the fluxus. Have you ever scribbled a doodle on a napkin and pinned it to your cork board? Yes? That’s the fluxus. Have you ever chosen a picture postcard for a mood-board that, in a way, “says” everything you want to say about your protagonist? Yes? That’s the fluxus. Have you ever chosen a pop song that encourages the progress of your main character through the quest? Yes? That’s the fluxus. Have you ever admired the thoughts behind a funny meme and thought it summed-up your opinions?   Yes? that’s the fluxus. These are all examples of using everyday fluxus because they all blur the boundaries between art forms

calligram

concrete poetry / calligram

Tip 1: Try creating concrete poetry. For example, if you are writing a poem about an egg, the words you use will form an oval shape on the page. If you are writing a poem about your heroine, the words could form a set of angel wings on the page. A poem about a villain could form a set of terrifying bat wings! Try experimenting too… perhaps (when you set out) you don’t know what shape your words will create… so just put your words into a “form” (shape) and turn the paper upside-down once you’re done, to alter your perspective! What does the shape remind you of?

Tip 2: Try creating a coloring calligram. Use a phrase that you’ve written before and that you’re quite proud of, or a piece of text (a paragraph you’ve written, perhaps) and then present those words inside a related thematic image. It will be like “coloring in” but instead of crayons or paints, you’ll be using words. For example, if your antagonist is described as a demonic being with horns and hooves, try presenting those words within the image of a fanged werewolf. You can “make” the outline image yourself by sketching it out before you try “filling it in” with words. But please limit yourself to old words (be strict with yourself, you can only use the words from your excerpt … not any new words… this isn’t about writing something new, it’s about blurring boundaries between sketching & writing.) if you can’t sketch, you can find an outline of the image you want to use (search online or get an adult coloring book) and then “fill in” the chosen image with your carefully chosen words.

Found Poem

Tip 3: Create free-form sound art. Grab your smartphone or gadget for this one. Recall a moment (a scene) from the fiction you’re currently writing and press record. Say (out loud) a batch of single words (not sentences, it’s important that these words don’t ‘join up’ to form sentences… or you’ll not get a “free flow” of ideas.) This is not about cohesiveness, grammar or punctuation, but about sounds. If your words have a connectedness and an interdependence, that’s fine… but if they don’t… that’s fine too! This is also about encouraging free thought. What you’re aiming for here is vitality, aliveness and richness of sounds. Don’t record more than twenty seconds though. In fact, keep it shorter if you possibly can. Have a few goes. Allow your subconscious creativity to do all the work! If you feel like it, you can share your sound-art on your socials and explain to your readers that you’ve been doing a bit of fluxus! I’m sure they’ll be very impressed! Ha ha! 

Tip 4: Try finding some publication poetry. I have been doing this once-a-week, every week, since Christmas. I like to use glossy magazines for this fluxus (the brighter and the glossier the better, and I am especially fond of the food & cooking pages.) First, I find a word (or sometimes a phrase) that says something about the work that I am currently doing. You would think it would be impossible to find a word or phrase related to fantasy fiction in a magazine article written about cooking, wouldn’t you? But it’s not… it’s surprisingly easy. Once I have found what I call the “hook” word, maybe the word “angel” from an angel-cake recipe… I pick up a thick pen (a sharpie) or a highlighter (there are two approaches to this) but the general idea is to find the rest of the words that have been “hidden” within the text by the original author (unknown to him or her, of course!) and link them all up to create your own work. So, with your marker-pen you reveal a poem. And it’s a “found poem.” You will either: a) highlight the “correct” words or b) disguise the “incorrect” words or c) a bit of both. But, whichever technique you choose, you will recover a lost poem that has been hidden on the page. (see the illustration below) It is a bit like the archaeology of words. When you do this, I am sure you will discover rewarding and quite extraordinary passages that will magically unfold in front of your very eyes. You will be presented with new thoughts that will help you hone, enable and even facilitate meanings that you had not considered before. Give it a go!

Found Poem

Let me know about your fluxperiments and fluxperiences by tweeting me @neilmach

Words: @neilmach 2021 ©

Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

Ghost In The Mirror

Can we see ghosts in mirrors?

Seeing ghostly images in the mirror is a form of scrying. I’ll get into that shortly…

But let’s begin by agreeing that mirrors are, of course, portals to other dimensions.

Just ponder the rationality of that simple statement for a moment. When you look into a mirror, you don’t see yourself. Not really. You merely see a mirrored version of yourself. The tint, texture, and contour of the glass will slightly modify or manipulate the mirrored version that you observe. Therefore it’s not you. It’s a version of you. Remember this when checking your face in the morning!

Snow White Evil Queen Complex

What’s more (and this is even more difficult to understand, so take a breath): the person in the mirror is not the same person that everyone else sees. Not only is the person in the mirror not you (because it’s a modified version) but it’s not even the “you” everyone else sees! Others see a presented image of yourself. The mirror provides a reflected image of yourself. In short, if you really want to examine your “true self” ditch the mirror and don’t worry about what people think or say; instead look deep into your inner being. Right, that’s the Snow White “evil queen complex” dealt with — but it’s drifting away from the main point… so let’s get back on track —

It is important to stipulate that I am not suggesting (at this stage) that anything supernatural is going on when we look into mirrors. But on the other hand, I also think we should properly appreciate how genuinely weird a mirrored surface is. We take shiny surfaces for granted, probably because we’re staring at them for much of the day. Shiny surfaces have a magical authority over us… and even an absolute control over our existence in certain cases. If you don’t believe me, try taking someone’s phone away or denying them a television screen.

Ghost in the Mirror

But back to common-or-garden mirrors, I think it’s because the symmetrical reality of the “mirror world” we experience (I call it the symmetrylity) seems so compelling and perceptive that we don’t recognize the deep and intrinsic flaws in our thinking. We honestly believe that the mirror world is real. However, it is not. It is another dimension. For example, how strange is it that when two people look into a mirror at the same time, they see different images on the same surface! And when a person looks at himself in a mirror, what he really sees is the front and back reversed! You need to be a mathematics teacher if you want to explain the inter-dimensional aspect of mirrors.

Although we might expect a “standard” mirror (perhaps the mirror in the hall) to behave in a rational way, and to always provide an accurate representation of the world around us (albeit in reverse) it’s not true. It won’t! When a glassy surface is not held completely flat then it will behave like a lens and will distort (magnify) what we see. And a mirror that is tilted even moderately (maybe not flat against a wall) will give seemingly realistic results, but it will skew images. While a mirror that curves even insignificantly will, nonetheless, reduce larger images.

Can't Look At Myself

If you add these factors to the strange ability that mirrors possess (they allow us to “see behind ourselves” without turning around, which is one of the most useful benefits of reflective surfaces, but it’s also a bit like looking into the past) — when all these attributes are put together you can guess why some folks claim to see visions in mirrored surfaces. And it’s why humankind, since prehistoric times, has used reflective surfaces to attempt to perceive future events or “see” outside the perspective space & time they found themselves somewhat limited by.

Halloween Mirror

Mirrored surfaces, such as the still dark waters of a sacred pool, or the waters glimpsed in a baptismal font, or polished stones & jewels, or very shiny goblets, or glass spheres, have been used since prehistoric times — for clairvoyance (seeing into future), augury (interpreting omens), and divination (the gift of prophecy). When a reflective surface is used for these paranormal activities, it is called scrying.

Concentrating on the medium of exploration (the reflective surface) is said to help scrying practitioners “focus attention” and “free their mind” in much the same way that a guru might meditate or a priest might be prayerful before a religious service. Maybe it’s a kind of self-hypnosis. After this approach, a scryer might report “seeing” images in a reflective surface. Some scryers even report hearing voices. The famous French seer of the 16th century, Nostradamus, practiced scrying before making his famous predictions; he’d stare into a bowl of water or use a “magic mirror” to see the future world while in a trance. Mirrors seem to lift the veil between what we consider our physical realm and a glimpsed spiritual realm. And it is true that ancient civilizations (such as the Mayans) thought mirrors functioned as two-way portals between humanity and gods.

nostradamus

To understand how mirrors might act as portals, we need to recognise that luminescent surfaces are regarded by some as representations of liminal space and can therefore be thresholds between natural and spiritual realms. To learn more about the fascinating topic of liminality, you’ll need to listen to episodes 13, then episode 40, and episode 51 of my Myth & Magic podcast. I also cover the subject of liminality in depth, in my non-fiction writer’s manual “So You Want To Write Fantasy?” But I think it’s interesting to note that people tend to approach mirrors to ask important questions about their existence and future opportunities at liminal moments in their life (at any thresholds they might encounter.) For example, on a wedding night, getting ready for a funeral, before a big presentation at work or in the dark waters of a font at the moment of baptism. (Note: a child younger than 18 months cannot “see” a reflected image, but what do the godparents see?)

Through the Looking Glass

In literature (especially in fantasy fiction) there is a tradition of using mirrors to combine thoughts on mythology and cosmology and to describe a method of visiting multiple worlds that are typically outside a character’s limitations. I am sure you can think of a hundred examples. A mirror is a useful device because it allows the protagonist to wander (in mind and spirit) without having to leave a prosaic existence. Sometimes there is even the suggestion of a physical trip to an “otherworld”. Thus, Alice reflects on what it must be like to live on the other side of a mirror’s reflective surface, so she chooses to travel “Through the Looking-Glass” in Lewis Carroll’s much-loved tale. Alice discovers an alternate dimension in which everything is reversed, including logic (so, for example, running takes you nowhere, walking away from something returns you to it). She finds that her mirror world is divided into sections by streams (reflective surfaces too) suggesting there are a myriad more dimensions to choose from. Harry Potter comes across a “mirror of desire” perhaps that he might be tempted to use to turn back time (a mirror of Erised) or that can be used as a scrying tool to see his (dead) parents.

The Crystal Ball John William Waterhouse 1902

So, returning to the central question, can ghosts be seen in mirrors? Some people, notably those who are prone to such things, are almost certain to “see” puzzling images in reflected surfaces. Some reported sightings might be because of sensory deprivation (the darkness of the pool or the glow of the chalice), or skewed images that might prove unreliable because of a less than perfect surface. We must also take the mental state of the seer into account (is she at a threshold in life? Is it a time of stress and change?) And the health and mindfulness of the seer must be examined, plus their use of recreational, religious / mystical substances, medicines or intoxicants, and the seer’s lack of sleep, and a host of other factors.

There is probably a lot of pareidolia going on too. Pareidolia is the disposition of all observers to see recognizable objects, patterns — and even messages — in totally disconnected presentations. So, for example, we all see faces in everyday objects. How often have you looked at an electrical socket and thought it seemed to be a smiling face looking back? We all see visions in clouds. And we all see spooky humanoids in reflections. Pareidolia is not some kind of psychosis: it is a normal human tendency. And it explains many curious things.

pareidolia

We must also consider the subjective nature of experience: sometimes we too easily forget that we perceive our environments in a completely different way from those around us. The “seen and understood” universe that we experience differs entirely from the “seen and understood” universe that everyone else experiences. This is due to our sensory perceptions being unique to us. They say that each of us has a unique pattern: but we ought to remember that each of us also experiences a uniquely different world — and although our worlds overlap and seem to have many things in common with each other — each world is experienced in a totally different way. So anyone, at any point in their life, might experience what psychologists will call a benign hallucination on a mirrored surface. It is likely to happen to all of us!

Yes, ghosts are seen in mirrors. And that’s perhaps the least disconcerting aspect of reflective surfaces!

Give Him Money

Agree? Disagree? Ideas or comments? Tweet me @neilmach

Words: @neilmach 2021 ©

Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

How to authenticate a genuine astral encounter

How to authenticate a genuine astral encounter

or: How to be sure a person genuinely “saw” a ghost

Look into a clear night sky and you will see a million things that are no more. You will see stars that “died” millions of years before we existed, in fact, before this planet was “born.” Life and death, existence and nonexistence is a commonplace spectacle we see for ourselves in the night sky, just above our heads. We are accustomed to seeing the inexplicable!

Some people suggest that “seeing is believing” — but is “seeing” the only way to prove a thing exists? Anyhow, experienced detectives will tell you that there is nothing less trustworthy than an eyewitness. And it’s most likely because we “see” with our brains, not with our eyes! Our brains “put together” the image it wants us to take away from an experience. Later, our rationality attempts to make sense of it.

As primates, our field of vision is remarkably limited — so astral energies only manifest to us within a narrow field of vision. (Many stars, for example, will not be visible to us within our natural range, although they will manifest themselves in other ways.) We must use the same reasoning when we speak of phantasms. (Note: I use the word phantasm because it comes from the root-word phantazein which simply means to “make visible”.)

I prefer not to use the term “ghost” because the word comes with way too much baggage. The word ghost is interrelated with dead people in a way that over-complicates things: for example, wraiths are supposed to be visitations from dead relatives, etc. Let’s not go down that path…

Here I want to concentrate on astral encounters, that is: astral, in the sense that these are things that have a non-physical presence but are perceptible to us (like some of the stars above); and encounter in that it’s a thing that must be defined as an “unexpected experience.”

The 14 interrogative questions listed below are designed to ascertain whether the witness experienced a genuine astral encounter. We are not trying to prove that the witness is a fabulist or a fabricator, since the witness is likely to believe that what he or she “saw” was real but, nonetheless, incredible, and anyway the experience was so strange that it cannot be conveniently put into words. So be nice to your witness and give him or her leeway when they try to explain something that might be just as incomprehensible to them as it is to you.

But the general rule of thumb is: if a witness revealed a close encounter with something that is not astral in nature (in other words, what they witnessed possessed some kind of physical presence, however unlikely) — it can be ruled out. Similarly, if they took part in some experience that had been provoked, foreshadowed, or premeditated in a way that expected a certain outcome … simply put, they went out “looking for something spooky to happen” (so it wasn’t strictly speaking an encounter) — it is most likely fallacious.

Fourteen ways to prove/disprove a genuine astral encounter

  • Was the witness with others, and were they planning to “see” spooky things? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Did the witnesses go to what ghost-hunters call an “active location”? A haunted inn, an abandoned school, a cemetery, etc. Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • How great was the intention or desire of the witnesses to “see” the spectral apparition? For example, was it at a time or place that the witness considered sacred? A holy day? A day of remembrance? A time or a place of special importance? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Had the witness either a) just woken up or b) felt sleepy/drowsy and ready to sleep? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Has the witness ever asserted skills or talents in clairaudience, clairsentience, and clairvoyance? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Had the witness been “playing” with ghost-hunting equipment, perhaps a spirit board, an EMF (electromagnetic field meter) electronic voice recorder, a full spectrum camera, etc. Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Did the witness witness any unusual or unexplained hot or cold spots? Just because we can’t see a power source doesn’t mean it’s not there. Perhaps the sense of thermoreception in your witness detected something abnormal. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness find unexplained odours? There could have been an indefinable, sweet and perfumed scent that the witness had never experienced before. As above, just because we can’t see a power source, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness do anything that might be considered “eccentric” by ordinary folk, before or during the encounter? Phantasms are inquisitive about bizarre or freaky behavior, so they tend to manifest themselves at such times, as if they want to “join in”. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Are toys or children’s play things involved? Phantasms like to play and the simplest and most modest toys fascinate their curiosity. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness hear any inexplicable noise? Have all natural causes of those noises been ruled out? If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness perceive unexplained shadows? Have all the natural causes of such shadows been ruled out? If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness notice any apparent change in the air’s density, i.e. smothering, stifling, clogging, airless? If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Were pets, especially dogs or cats, behaving strangely or abnormally before or during the encounter? Other creatures have an extended field of vision. Dogs and cats hear higher pitched noises than us. They also have an advanced olfactory system (sense of smell) and, like many animals, can sense seismic activity. If yes, then
    Genuine

Words: @neilmach 2020 ©

Please let me know how you get on! Tweet me @neilmach

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

How to give a great podcast interview

Here at Myth & Magic we create a weekly podcast specially developed for fantasy authors and fans of fantasy fiction, and we would like you to join us!

Yes, we welcome writers, artists, poets, bloggers, journalists, illustrators, short story contributors, or any creative person who splashes about in the crazy world of fantasy fiction to join the fun. What’s your story?

Come and do a podcast with us!

No matter if you are a newcomer, an enthusiastic amateur, or a best-selling master novelist, we would like to hear your experiences, anecdotes, ideas, and best practices. Our interviewer is a professional journalist and is eager to take your call and have an pleasant conversation. And this will be a great time to talk about your latest project, reveal your new book, or promote your recent activities.

If this is the first time you have done a a radio-type interview, don’t worry, you are in accomplished and sympathetic hands. Neil is a welcoming and hospitable listener. He will make things very easy for you, so you can deliver a clear and effective message to our many listeners.

Your list of questions will be sent in advance and you will choose the date and time of your conversation, so your podcasting experience will be stress free.

Here are some tips for giving a good podcast interview:

  • find a quiet place in your home and tell everyone you will need silence for 30 minutes
  • turn off noisy machinery, washing machines, electric fans, air conditioning, telephones, alarms
  • have a bottle or mug of water nearby to wash your mouth regularly and keep hydrated
  • your topic is “you” a subject you know well, so smile and be unhurried, this is easy-street
  • you can put oomph and dazzle into a jaded voice by smiling and using hand gestures
  • but if you use hand gestures, try not to hit the table or thump things
  • your answers must be expressed in words, uh-huhs or nods cannot be seen on the show
  • if your day is not going well, ask to postpone or delay the interview till a later time
  • the podcaster will adapt to your needs and solve your concerns, just ask
  • it is normal to be a little nervous, but do not dread it, it is purely a chat
  • the Myth & Magic show host will send questions ahead of time, so you can prepare your answers
  • there will not be any sneaky questions, the podcaster will not try to “catch you out”
  • there will be no unpredictable questions either, it’s just a congenial chat
  • sometimes an answer comes out “wonky” so, if you’d like another run at it, just ask
  • bloopers, gaffs and errors can be edited-out, so if you think you made one, just say so
  • if the podcaster has not asked a question you are eager to discuss, just tell him
  • the podcaster will ask about your new book, so be prepared to plug away!
  • the listeners will want to know where they can get your book, so be prepared to share quick links
  • an interview takes energy, so you will be zapped (albeit in high spirits) right after. We advise you to factor in a little rest-time
  • the interview format is light and easy, to help you relaa-aax
  • prepare for an abrupt start, the podcaster will most likely go “right into it”
  • your first question will be a workaday enquiry — how is the weather? What are you doing?
  • We recommend you use Skype or Duo (or another video link) so you can look the interviewer in the eye and chat happily. Don’t worry, the video image is not shared (only the sound)
  • if you’re new to skyping, don’t worry, the interviewer will be kind and patient
  • Find within yourself answers that might:
    a) expose a little of your inner being
    b) express a creed or philosophy that you appreciate
  • your interview will be produced, so mistakes, bloops and smudges will be engineered out, although your answers will be left intact (unless you asked the interviewer to skip them)
  • If you have questions, misgivings or second thoughts about an answer you gave, contact the podcaster as soon as possible and explain your concerns before the show “goes live”. We will edit any dodgy answers out, if you ask
  • we recommend you share your interview with friends, family, followers on all your social networks

Have a great time! Get involved! Tell your story!

SEND YOUR PITCH HERE: or tweet or DM on Facebook

Come on! Let’s get this done. Contact us today

Check this recent podcast interview on Myth & Magic with Guardians Of The Realm author Amanda Fleet : https://tinyurl.com/y5gfnrlt

About Neil Mach

The busy English novelist Neil Mach writes stories about strong women, independent loners, individualists, and other outsiders whose feats are triggered by loyalties and whose actions are animated by a sense of duty… he lives in Surrey England, with his wife, by the River Thames. He has two grown-up daughters and hosts the Myth & Magic podcast show for fantasy authors