yoshi wada officiates flux-mass, feb. 17, 1970, (with transcription of his – a memoir of the flux-priest)

Susan Ryan, Yoshi Wada officiating a Flux-Mass, Feb. 19,1970, Voorhees Chapel, Douglass College, New Brunswick NJ

Voorhees Chapel, Douglass College, New Brunswick NJ

A Memoir of the Flux-Priest– Yoshi Wada (2002)
I was born in Kyoto-an old capital of Japan and a city with lots of rituals and old tem- ples. ZenBuddhism is different from Christianity, but ceremony exists in all
religions so I was used to religious ceremony from my early childhood.
Basically, it’s hypnotic. I liked listening to monks chanting. Some
people can take a good nap during chanting. I was attending Kyoto
University of Fine Arts-in the sculpture department. It was a good
school. By the end of 1965 I was bored with modern academics. I met the
Hi-Red- Center group [Genpei Akasegawa, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, and Jiro
Takamatsu] at Naika Gal- lery in Tokyo. They told me about George
Maciunas and Fluxus. I thought they were very interesting people. My
idea about art was changing. I could only think about revenge for my
graduation thesis. I did a real street event with a friend in Kyoto. I
changed a traffic sign at a highway entrance and repainted lines on a
street. The next day, a highway police officer showed up at the
university and gave me a summons. I couldn’t figure out how they found
out. I had to appear at the local police department to defend myself and
explain how what I did was “art.” Somehow the officer listened to me and
half- understood. They dismissed my case. But the officer said, “If you
do this again you will be in trouble.” This was my ritual with a touch
of revenge before I left Kyoto. I arrived in New York City in 1967. I
visited the East Village and the Bowery and thought, “Wow.” It was a
great time to be there. In a strange coincidence, I got an apart- ment
at 349 West Broadway, on the top floor. The rent was quite cheap-$59.99
a month. The landlord told me that there was a strange man living in the
apartment on the third floor. I didn’t understand what he meant at the
time. I stayed in the apartment for about a year and then found a big
warehouse-a loft at 15 Greene Street-3,500 square feet for $175.00. It
was a completely empty space and so awesome! There were several cast
iron columns in the middle. The space looked like a Greek temple lower
Manhattan version. It was illegal to live in the area at that time. At
night, the street was dark, deserted, and spooky. This was a quite
amazing bohemia. I met Nam June Paik around then. He lived right around
the corner on Canal Street. Nam June mentioned George Maciunas. So I
called and visited him. It turned out George lived in the same apartment
building where I first lived. His apartment was so neatly organized.
Almost all the Fluxus stuff and his belongings were in boxes on shelves.
He slept on the floor. He looked like a monk and a warrior. He impressed
me. My mother stopped sending me money, so I was broke and looking for
work. The next day, George gave me some work at the Fluxhouse
Cooperative. I met Milan Knízák there. George supplied lunch for the
workers. We ate it the first time, but we couldn’t eat it the second
time. I remember it was a European canned food-“Unox”-from Job Lot on
Church Street. I couldn’t tell what was in it. We didn’t show up the
third time, and George felt offended. His routine was to go to Grand
Union at La Guardia Place or Job Lot on Church Street to shop for food
bargains. He made artwork from empty Grand Union containers. Milan had
just arrived from Prague. He had to leave the country because of the
Communists’ pressure on artists. We became good friends immediately. He told me about…. He was doing interesting work. After he stayed a year and a half in New York, he missed Bohemia so much he went back to Prague (even though he was in trouble there). I understood what he meant when I later visited him in

Prague. George introduced me to La Monte Young. La Monte inspired me to
get into real sound. Through George I met a whole bunch of Fluxus
people. It was such an exciting time in my life. I’m quite amazed that
thirty-two years have passed since the Flux-Mass happened. Flux-Mass was
one of the great experiences of my early New York days. I was a young
and clean-looking boy. (I had no long hair and no beard at that time,
but later on, things changed.) I remember when George was preparing the
mass; he hardly slept at night for weeks. He was doing so much work-from
designing the poster to organizing the mass, even preparing Joe Jones’s
music machine and other devices. He designed an excellent poster. He
organized a rehearsal-like meeting with performers one evening at 80
Wooster Street. I could not understand what the mass was about. February
17, 1970, we went together to Voorhees Chapel in Geoff Hendricks’s Sky
Bus. Joe arrived late. George was quite furious with him already and
began screaming out loud. It was always the same way with George. He did
his hard work with great patience, and when the time came, he needed a
heavy dose of adrenaline before he completed a project. He had a
tendency of flipping out just before an event. Quite often he was not
satisfied with what was going on. It had to do with big expectations of
what would come from his efforts and thinking others should work just as
hard. At this time East met West or West met East for a Flux- Mass. I
was a young priest with a fine arts degree. Holy cow! Flux-Mass began.
Hala Pietkiewicz had prepared a beautiful vestment and miter for me to
wear. As the audience entered the chapel, some performers were spraying
liquids over them. I did not know what the liquids were. Later I found
out they were disinfectants and deodorants. At Antiphon, my chanting as
priest was answered by recorded animal sounds and all kind of sounds. It
was a Flux version of musique concrète. At Water to Wine, under the
chasuble I wore an apron with General Washington’s image printed on it.
I cut an inflated Superman filled with wine.At Canon, I was chanting something in

Japanese. There was a big smoke blast. It’s getting exciting! Gorillas
bring in a big loaf of bread. Joe Jones’s mechanical dove flew over the
bread and dropped something on it. That was a very neat trick. At
Elevation of Chalice, I was supposed to drink a gallon jar of water. But
I don’t think I was able to drink as much as George wanted. At Breaking
of the Bread, a choir read in many languages. Gorillas were breaking the
bread. Sawdust and flour were flying all over as they hit it with clubs.
At Peace Greeting, I was holding dumbbells to show off my muscles. At
Communion, I wore George’s apron with a printed photo of Venus de Milo.
After that, I gave out cookies. I later found out these cookies
contained laxative. At the end, there were twelve different birdcalls
from the choir that I answered with gunshots. Joe Jones’s music machines
were played at the end. That was an elegant ending. It’s been a long
time since the Flux-Mass took place. My memory might not be as accurate
as it could be. When we were performing the mass, I thought it didn’t
make sense. This mass involved many things and had great complexity. It
was well plotted. As I’m looking back, what didn’t make sense starts to
make sense. This Flux-Mass is a masterpiece as an avant-garde multimedia
performance from 1970. Fortunately, it was not a Hollywood production.
There has been nothing like this. George had a serious sense of humor
and loved gags and jokes. But I felt he was not a “joker.” Sometimes he
didn’t laugh at all. Often his seriousness passed the normal limit and
it became dangerous. I learned a lot of things from George that I did
not learn from art school. He had an expensive Olivetti typewriter,
which was his “ax.” When he did things, he expected perfection. George
was a very hard working artist. When he was interested in some- thing,
he went to the library or other sources of information. He meticulously
researched Land carefully studied each project. He had a wide knowledge
of things. What made him distinguished was his capability and endur-
ance to operate his thoughts with a big sense of humor. Often art is so
serious, and so is life. We need a sense of humor to be able to sustain
ourselves. George had training in architecture and design. He had many
projects. One of the projects he showed me was a housing project with
the most minimal material and efficient design, derived from a socialist
idea for people to get equally shared benefit. It has good spirit! It’s
simple and well thought out for the environment. I truly admire his
impossible tasks-his tireless and endless wild vision of all kinds of
activities through- out his lifetime. Salute to George Maciunas’s
empire- Fluxus’ mastermind. George shines back!
Yoshi Wada-San Francisco, May 2002

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