Pop Culture

Aurora Gets into Fluxus with Artist-Designed Membership Cards

Aurora Picture Show is seeking several artists and crafty-minded people for help creating and spreading a grassroots art project across Houston. That project will be the making of several hundred credit card-sized micro works of art to serve as membership cards for the roughly 300 member-donors to the micro cinema. Sounds like a perfect fit, right?

Aurora curator Mary Magsamen said the idea for artist-created membership cards was inspired by the Fluxus movement of the 1960s, a network of people who shunned the commercialism of the contemporary art world. Fluxus practitioners advocated a do-it-yourself approach to art that included small and simple productions featuring a healthy dose of humor. The works were also meant to be easily consumable and easily distributed.

"The movement was all about art being for everyone," Magsamen said. "It was interdisciplinary, and it was a way to get the community involved."

The movement's official founder was George Maciunas, but the movement also featured performance artists and musicians like John Cage and Yoko Ono. Some projects included short films of mundane acts, while one consisted of matchbook-sized boxes filled with fabric or other tchotchkes that could be mailed out and shared easily.

Rachel Blackney, associate director at Aurora, said the idea came about while the micro cinema staff was thinking of ways to improve their membership program.

"Our logos printed on our T-shirts and pint glasses every year are designed by different artists. Everybody has membership cards, but we kind of take them for granted. Fluxus is about everyday people coming together to make art. We literally need artists of all levels. They can even be little kids."

Artists will be given a pack of 20 standard-sized cards, plus some materials they can use if they want. Artists are also encouraged to self-promote, but they don't have to. The only real rules are that the cards must be small enough to fit in a wallet, and must be PG-13. "We're hoping that each card is unique. We thought we'd give it a year and see. We're hoping we have more people pull out their cards and show them off," Blackney said.

The idea isn't totally new. The Fluxus movement has found a new audience of artist-collaborators since the advent of the Internet, and one project is similar to what Aurora envisions. Artist trading cards are standard-sized cards decorated by artists (both professionals and hobbyists) and traded for other artist cards, usually via mail. If Aurora's project is successful, the organization might create an online gallery for some of the cards.

Magsamen said the Fluxus movement shares a lot of similarities with the spirit of Aurora Picture Show.

"We were just thinking about media as interdisciplinary, and we have a really playful way of presenting work."

That includes events like this Friday's Soul Night, a dance party/screening at the historic Eldorado Ballroom featuring videos and music from the 1950s and '60s.

"Aurora was founded in Andrea (Grover's) living room as a grassroots organization," she said. "We've never done anything like this before. It's an experiment. We're just going to see what happens."

Once the first few batches of cards are finished, Aurora plans to start mailing them out as members join or renew. Artists can get their starter cards by either emailing the cinema or stopping by the office at 1524 Sul Ross, Houston, 77006. More information on the program can be found on Aurora Picture Show's Web site.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Shey is an experienced blogger, social media expert and traveler. She studied journalism at Oklahoma State University before working as a full-time reporter for Houston Community Newspapers in 2005. She lived in South Korea for three years, where she worked as a freelancer.
Contact: Brittanie Shey