• Performing Chance: The Art of Alison Knowles In/Out of Fluxus
    Nicole L. Woods

Alison Knowles with Emmett Williams and others at The House of Dust, 1968–72, exterior view. California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. Courtesy of Alison Knowles.

Performing Chance: The Art of Alison Knowles In/Out of Fluxus is the first monograph of American artist, Alison Knowles (b. 1933), the only female member among Fluxus' founding ranks. It charts Knowles's transformative corpus as it evolved from abstract painting in the late 1950s, to silkscreens, print media, and performance in the early 1960s, to groundbreaking works in digital poetry, acoustical art, and large-scale installations in the late 1960s–1970s. In particular, it situates Knowles within the discursive apparatus of earth art projects of the era, comparing her work, for the first time in the historical literature, with the built-environments of, for example, Mary Miss and Alice Aycock. Broadly speaking, the book expands our understanding of the post-WWII cultural landscape by analyzing the rapid proliferation of indeterminate outcomes as a viable mode for interdisciplinarity—not simply and uncritically aping the aleatory activities of the experimental composer John Cage, as is often the charge, but rather, through a proto-feminist dialectic of chance. The manuscript has been significantly broadened and deepened by additional archival research, much of it previously unpublished.

Nicole L. Woods is assistant professor of modern and contemporary art history at the University of Notre Dame. She holds concurrent appointments in the Department of Film, Television, and Theater, and the Program in Gender Studies. In Fall 2017, she held the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Visiting Senior Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC. Woods has written and published widely on Alison Knowles, Fluxus, and other experimental artists of the post-WWII era in peer-reviewed journals. In 2016, she was invited to give a lecture at The Graduate Center at The City University of New York on Knowles's computer-generated environmental poem, “The House of Dust” and will give an expanded lecture on Knowles at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) theater, REDCAT, in 2018. Her monograph positions her as the singular expert on Knowles's practice, and as a result she has been invited to serve as Curatorial-Scholarly Consultant for the first major career retrospective on Knowles's life and art. Among other tasks related to the success of the exhibition, Woods will write the lead essay in the catalogue raisonné, which will for the first time provide an extensive survey of Knowles's critical practice to a wider public. She is currently finishing an essay on the "relational archive" for the Archives of American Art Journal.