Dick Higgins

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Dick Higgins
Dick Higgins
Born (1938-03-15)March 15, 1938
Cambridge, England
Died October 25, 1998(1998-10-25) (aged 60)
Quebec, Canada
Known for Printmaking, Composing, Poetry

Dick Higgins (March 15, 1938 – October 25, 1998) was a composer, poet, printer, and early Fluxus artist. Higgins was born in Cambridge, England, but raised in the United States in various parts of New England, including Worcester, Massachusetts, Putney, Vermont, and Concord, New Hampshire. He was the son of Carter Chapin Higgins and Katherine Huntington Bigelow. His younger brother Mark Huntington Higgins was murdered in the Congo in 1960.

With the poet Jackson Mac Low, another soon-to-be Fluxus artist George Brecht, and the two innovators of Happenings, Allan Kaprow and Al Hansen, Higgins studied composition with John Cage at the New School of Social Research in New York in the late 1950s. During this time Higgins began to produce the first scores for events that rework everyday activities into performances that may or may not incorporate music.[1] He then married fellow artist Alison Knowles in 1960 and both took part in the Wiesbaden, Germany Fluxus festival in 1962 that marked the founding of Fluxus activity. He founded Something Else Press in 1963, which published many important texts including Gertrude Stein, Bern Porter, Marshall McLuhan, Cage, Merce Cunningham, Cage's teacher Henry Cowell, as well as his contemporaries such as artists Kaprow, Hansen, Claes Oldenburg and Ray Johnson as well as leading Fluxus members Brecht, Wolf Vostell, Daniel Spoerri, Emmett Williams, Eric Andersen, Ken Friedman, and others. The Something Else Press series of "Great Bear Pamphlets," documented the earliest Fluxus performances.

Higgins coined the word intermedia[2] to describe his artistic activities, defining it in a 1965 essay by the same name, published in the first number of the Something Else Newsletter. His most notable contributions include Danger Music scores and the Intermedia concept to describe the ineffable inter-disciplinary activities that became prevalent in the 1960s.[3] He was an early and ardent proponent and user of computers as a tool for art making, dating back to the mid-1960s, when Alison Knowles and he created the first computer generated literary texts. His A Book About Love & War & Death, a book-length aleatory poem published in 1972 included one of those. In his introduction, Higgins says, having finished the first three parts of the poem throwing dice, he wrote a FORTRAN IV program to produce part (or Canto) four.[4]

All in all he wrote and edited forty-seven books, including "George Herbert's Pattern Poems: In Their Tradition" and "On the Composition of Signs and Images", his edition of a Giordano Bruno text, which he annotated. He saw Bruno's essay on the art of memory also as an early text on intermedia. A Dialectic of Centuries: Notes towards a Theory of the New Arts collected many of his essays and theoretical works in 1976. In 1972 Higgins founded Unpublished Editions to publish his short novel Amigo, which was later renamed Printed Editions.

The daughter of Higgins and Knowles, Hannah Higgins, is the author of Fluxus Experience, an authoritative volume about the Fluxus movement. Her twin sister, Jessica Higgins, a New York based intermedia artist closely associated with seminal curator Lance Fung, late Fluxus gallerist Emily Harvey and The Artists Museum's and Construction In Process, performed and collaborated as a youth in original Fluxus related events.

Higgins died of a heart attack while attending an event in Quebec, Canada.


  • What are Legends; A Clarification. Bern Porter Books, Calais, ME [Maine], 1960. With Bern Porter (Illustrator).
  • A Book About Love & War & Death. Canto 1, Something Else Press, A Great Bear Pamphlet, New York, 1965.
  • Intermedia. In: Something Else Newsletter, 1966.
  • foew & ombwhnw: a grammar of the mind and a phenomenology of love and a science of the arts as seen by a stalker of the wild mushrooms, Something Else Press, New York, 1969.
  • Towards the 1970's, Abyss Publications, Somerville, MA, 1969.
  • Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell. Pop Architektur, Concept Art. Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf 1969.
  • Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell. Fantastic Architecture. Something Else Press Inc., New York 1969.
  • Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell. Fantastic Architecture. Primary Information, 2015, ISBN 978-0990-6896-07.[5]
  • A Book About Love & War & Death. Nova Broadcast, Pamphlet, Nr. 3, San Francisco, 1969 (Cantos 2, 3).
  • A Book About Love & War & Death. Something Else Press, 1972 (5 Cantos).
  • Amigo; A Sexual Odyssey, Unpublished Editions, 1972.
  • For Eugene in Germany, Unpublished Editions, 1973.
  • Modular Poems, Unpublished Editions, 1974.
  • A Dialectic of Centuries. Notes towards a Theory of the New Arts. Printed Editions, New York, 1978.
  • Of Celebration of Morning; A Polysemantic Fiction. Printed Editions, 1980.
  • Piano Album. Short Piano Pieces, 1962−1984 Printed Editions, 1980.
  • Horizons, The Poetics and Theory of the Intermedia. Carbondale, IL, Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.
  • Pattern Poetry, Guide to an Unknown Literature. State University of New York Press, 1987.
  • Modernism since Postmodernism. Essays on Intermedia. San Diego State University Press, 1997.

Notes and references

  1. Robinson,Julia and Xatrec, Christian, editors. ‘Plus or Minus 1961 – A Chronology 1959-1963’ Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid.
  2. Hannah B Higgins,"The Computational Word Works of Eric Andersen and Dick Higgins" in H. Higgins, & D. Kahn (Eds.), Mainframe experimentalism: Early digital computing in the experimental arts, pp. 27-281
  3. Higgins, D. (2001) ‘Intermedia’, pp. 27–32 in R. Packer and K. Jordan (eds) "Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality". New York: W.W. Norton and Co.
  4. Hannah B Higgins, "The Computational Word Works of Eric Andersen and Dick Higgins" in H. Higgins, & D. Kahn (Eds.), Mainframe experimentalism: Early digital computing in the experimental arts, pp.282-283
  5. Fantastic Architecture. Primary Information, 2015

External links