Northwestern

Higgins, Dick Edit

Summary

Agent Type
Person

Dates

  • 1938-1998 (Existence)

Name Forms

  • Higgins, Dick

Notes

  • Biography/Historical Note

    Dick Higgins (1938-1998), poet, printer, composer, artist and critical theorist, described the fusion of the arts as “intermedia,” his term for experimental artistic expression which crossed the boundaries of media traditionally divided into poetry, drama, music, and visual arts. Higgins was one of the co-founders of Fluxus and publisher of Something Else Press (1964-1973), Unpublished Editions (1972-1977), and Printed Editions (1978-1985). He wrote notations and scores for performance Happenings which fused theatre and music; created paintings, sculpture, films and large graphics; and participated in symposia to define concepts in the new movement. He was married to Fluxus artist Alison Knowles.

    Born Richard Carter Higgins in Cambridge, England, March 15, 1938, Higgins studied at New York's Columbia University, the Manhattan School of Printing, and the New School of Social Research with John Cage and Henry Cowell (1958-1959). He met George Brecht, Allan Kaprow, Al Hansen and other artists in Cage's composition class. Between 1959 and 1961 Higgins and other students of Cage began producing multi-media Happenings in New York, culminating in the poly-art concept of Fluxus when George Maciunas began his Fluxus press in 1961. Higgins founded Something Else Press to produce his work Jefferson's Birthday/Postface (1964) after collaborating with Maciunas. Higgins continued to publish experimental literature, adding a newsletter and gallery as well. In 1966 the Something Else Gallery displayed the first exhibit of concrete poetry in the United States.

    While living in West Glover, Vermont (1971-1980) and Barrytown, New York (1980-1998), Dick Higgins continued his unconventional publishing of artists' books through Unpublished Editions and Printed Editions imprints. The small press served as an artists' cooperative and members included Higgins and Knowles, John Cage, Philip Corner, Geoffrey Hendricks, Jackson Mac Low, Pauline Oliveros and Jerome Rothenberg.

    Higgins' interests took a scholarly turn after studying for a master of arts degree in English at New York University (1975-1979). He refined his master's thesis on visual poetry, published as George Herbert's Pattern Poems: in their Tradition (1977), into a broader study, Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unknown Literature (1987). He continued his research into the traditions of pattern poetry, becoming a recognized expert in the field. He also pursued his interests in music and published scores including Piano Album and Sonata for Prepared Piano. Generally, his writing became more theoretical in the 1980s and 1990s. He edited an annotated Charles Doria's translation of Giordano Bruno's On the Composition of Images, Signs and Ideas (1991) and wrote Modernism Since Postmodernism (1997). Higgins died on October 26, 1998 while at a conference in Quebec City, Canada.