Alison Knowles (b. 1933), a visual artist known for her sound, installation, and performance works, graduated with an honors degree in Fine Art from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. For Something Else Press, Knowles collaborated with Marcel Duchamp on a screen reprint of his “Coeurs Volants” and designed and co-edited John Cage’s Notations (1968), a book of visual music scores. In the early ’60s, Knowles began using Cagean compositional devices, like indeterminate performance and chance operations. Among her Fluxus performance scores are “Make a Salad” (1962), “Shoes of Choice” (1963), “The Identical Lunch” (1969), and later sound installations, like “Bean Garden” (1971), enacted in galleries and on radiobroadcasts.
A founding member of the avant-garde group Fluxus, Knowles created one of the earliest book objects. Bean Rolls (1963), a can of text and beans, began her more than 30-year experimentation with the sculptural potential of the book. In 1967, her eight-foot tall installation “The Big Book” (1997) began touring Europe, and she produced one of the first computerized poems after an informal seminar in her home. For her contributions to contemporary artistic practice, Knowles has earned a Guggenheim grant (1967), National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (1981, 1985), and the College Art Association Lifetime Achievement Award (2003), among other honors. Her recent books include Book Symposium (2004) and Tamashi (2003) with Amanda Degener.