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Radical Research: Art History Professor Named Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow

Natilee Harren’s work on Fluxus artists earned her one of ten fellowships.

“Fluxus art presents us with compelling models of how to live ethically and poetically in the world,” says University of Houston Assistant Professor of Art History Natilee Harren, whose research on the avant garde art movement earned her a coveted fellowship from the Getty Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

Harren is one of the first ten scholars awarded the Postdoctoral Fellowship in Art History, developed to encourage cross-disciplinary research, new modes of interpretation and projects that have an impact on the broader field of art history. 

“We believe that research support is essential to maintain art history as a strong and vital discipline in the humanities,” says Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation.

As a fellow, Harren will receive a $60,000 stipend and travel funds to support research for her forthcoming book, “Fluxus Forms: Scores, Multiples, and the Eternal Network,” which examines the role Fluxus artists played in shaping the conceptual practices that define contemporary art of today.

“The aim of my historical work on Fluxus is to illuminate the origins of contemporary art’s radical, intermedia forms for artists and scholars working in the present,” explains Harren.

The Fluxus art movement emerged in the 1960s, with conceptual and performance artists like George Maciunas, Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik and Yoko Ono challenging expectations in a variety of art forms — from visual art to music and literature. Fluxus artists rejected the notion of “high art,” intentionally blurring the boundaries between art and everyday life with levity and, even, irreverence. In order to trace the origin and evolution of the movement, which actively defied definition and genre, Harren’s approach to research is multidisciplinary, rooted in art history, musicology and literary theory.

“By necessity, my research follows the artists’ multidisciplinary trajectory through the fields of visual art, music and poetry. This work has pushed me to engage with the historical and theoretical discourses of disciplines outside of art history — particularly music — and to argue that those conversations are in fact vital to our understanding of the intellectual formation of Fluxus,” she says of her process. “This fellowship will enable me to produce the best possible version of my book and to return to archival materials at the Getty that I first consulted when this project was still a dissertation.”

Harren will also have the chance to participate in a week-long residency at the Getty, designed to foster a community of emerging art history scholars. She is particularly excited about the opportunity to engage with the other fellows, whose work also pushes art history in more interdisciplinary directions.

“Our conversations may help spark my next big project.”