The gallery is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of New York artist Jeff Perkins, a self-taught expert in connections, also known as “the Fluxus underdog”.
He met Yoko Ono and Tony Cox by chance, in 1963, while doing his military service in Japan, through them he was introduced to the Fluxus movement, to which he contributed discreetly though regularly. He created performances, but also Endless Column, a sculpture that is a kind of totemic piece made as a tribute to the artists of the movement, as well as several films with Yoko Ono and Tony Cox for the Anthology Film Archives and the New York Underground Film Festival.
Perkins was also friends with Guy de Cointet and the painter Sam Francis. In contact with Francis, he developed in Los Angeles a pictorial and existential research about “waking dreams”, the unconscious and abstraction. While there, he also founded a psychedelic lightshow band, the Single Wings Turquoise Birds, who performed for many bands, including The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds… He also started a film about Sam Francis, shooting the one and only interview of the artist, which he completed in 2008.
When the West Coast art scene took off, he decided to return to New York for personal reasons and worked as a taxi driver. After an encounter in his cab, once again by chance, with Nam June Paik (who at that time nicknamed him “the Fluxus underdog”), he decided to record his conversations with his passengers, with their agreement. He worked on the project from 1995 to 2002, accumulating a huge collection of audio tapes containing more than 400 hours of interviews with strangers inside his taxi.
That impressively large work is presented here as a sound sculpture. The sound from the recordings moves around the exhibition space, making us feel that these conversations are passing us by, that the passengers are moving, in time and space, “from here to there”.
The title of the exhibition also refers to the parallel journey of the passengers, whom Jeff Perkins drove to their destinations, but whom he also led elsewhere as he interviewed them. A kind of meta-journey, a diversion. A diversion of their attention, of his own gainful activity for the sake of his art, but also an overthrow of the power relationships between the client and the driver. The tapes are also part of the exhibition, revealing the numbering and annotations of the filing system Jeff Perkins created for his archives.
Johanna Viprey met Perkins in 2012 and undertook a research on his discreet and multifaceted work, which was published by the Swiss Institute of Rome. Her analysis addresses his practice, his anchoring in history, the highlighting of peripheral positions, and a practice of the “on the side”
Jeff Perkins still lives in New York, and is now working on a new documentary about George Maciunas, the “father” of the Fluxus movement.