-Reviewed by Charlotte Barnes-
When I began reading this book, I did so completely blindly; by this I mean I lacked any knowledge in regards to the book, what happened within its pages and indeed what the term ‘Fluxus’ meant. The novella, which is David Berridge’s debut in prose, is something of a challenging read; however, when you get to grips with the underlying idea of the publication, things suddenly become clearer.
To allow the summary of this novella a certain level of fluidity, it seems necessary to provide some context for the intricately-woven plot. The novella is set in Copenhagen, during the 2009 COP15, which involved a meeting of minds in the form of the world’s major governments; during this meeting, the ever-growing issue of climate change was discussed, addressing international protocol and the like. Whilst this important gathering of governments takes place, the novella proceeds to follow the behaviour of a group of outcast delegates who appear to be drifting around the city; a city which, may I add, seems full of rare and fascinating obscurities, and is littered with references to the infamous Fluxus President.
While the novella is marketed as an experimental piece of literature, this fails to do justice to just how spectacular the construction of this publication is. By resisting the regimented rules of continuous prose – by this I refer to the need for clear paragraphing and, more often than not, clear chapter headings – and manipulating the form, Berridge has produced an almost poetic piece of prose.
After applying a high level of concentration to the text and, admittedly, doing a fair amount of research, I did finally find myself involved with the plot line. Although, given that the text is only a short 96 pages long, it would certainly benefit from moving at a quicker pace than it actually does.
Having said that, when you find yourself within the text and comprehend what is truly happening, it becomes an interesting read; made more interesting by the frequent references to Fluxus artists, which is a consistent source of intrigue throughout the book. The Fluxus movement, which was supported by experimental artists, was based around several key ideas: the blending of media – artists adopting this attitude were often keen to intertwine things, such as art and texts, to create something entirely new; Fluxus art is typically simple in nature and never particularly long – perhaps this could offer an explanation for the short length of this novella itself; finally, Fluxus art and artists were eager to resist the serious attitude that they believed lay within conventional artwork. This knowledge, coupled with the information readily available online, might just unravel this book that, for the first few pages at least, feels like a mystery.
Alongside the fascinating complexities, we are also given some truly wonderful moments within the text that beautifully capture the involvement a person can experience with literature and indeed, how literature can become entwined with ourselves. One moment in particular that stood out from the text was, ‘After turning my phone off and sleeping for fifteen hours straight, I became fiction.’ Bold as this statement is, it is just one example of Berridge’s ability to explore literature in a chilling way, something that he does repeatedly throughout this novella.
In discussing the experimental ideas of Fluxus, Berridge has succeeded in creating something equally as experimental ultimately making this an incredibly important and worthwhile book for anyone drawn to experimental literature and art. In using such a unique narrative form to discuss a distinctive area of art, Berridge has succeeded in re-creating what he is attempting to explore in his content. The complexities of this book seem to be never-ending however, while it may be a difficult read to begin with, it is undoubtedly worth the effort for anyone looking for something that breaks stereotyped literary boundaries.
The Fluxus President is a fine example of literary art that will inevitably draw attention to itself, for its uniqueness if nothing else. Berridge has succeeded in making a name for himself with this first novella, creating something that is not only an interesting read, but also something that incorporates and explores vital messages about literature and, more importantly, experimental literature, which seems to be becoming increasingly under-rated. For anyone remotely interested in art writing, this book is most definitely for you.
‘If the world must end, let it be whilst reading books like this.’ The Fluxus President.