(born 1934, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; lives in Wiesbaden, Germany)
Benjamin Patterson is best known as a key figure in the international experimental artists’ network Fluxus, which was most active in the late 1950s and early 1960s but continues to the present day. His highly influential practice, combining music, visual arts and performance, is aligned with the Fluxus ethos, which challenged traditional artmaking modes. Its members pursued a variety of experimental practices, foregrounding the use of everyday materials and gestures, live action and chance. Active in Fluxus from its earliest beginnings, Patterson presented his performance event Paper Piece—in which participants fold, crumble, tear, and wave paper according to instructions—at the first Fluxus Festival in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1962.
Throughout his career, Patterson has explored the notion of systems in art, music and text. Like many of his Fluxus peers, he has also complicated and enriched the relationship between audience and performer, creating situations that demand direct engagement. With Pond, which he first performed in 1962 and which he will reprise during the present exhibition, Patterson invokes game-playing and engages chance in the composition of music. Following a score devised by the artist, participants equipped with wind-up frog toys stand around a grid divided by intervals of time and phrasings of sound. The frogs are released and move across the grid according to a chance-based system; the performance evolves as a cacophony of sound as each participant’s frog lands and stops in various quadrants.
Benjamin Patterson received his BA from the University of Michigan in 1956 and a Masters of Library Science (MLS) from Columbia University in 1967. He has been an active musician and performer in Europe, participating in the development of the Fluxus movement. His solo exhibitions include Benjamin Patterson: Born in the State of Flux/us, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2010, traveling); Why Do People Attend Bars: To Be Seen, to Be Heard, to Be There, Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden, Germany (2007); Rimedi, ricette e procedure, Part II, Galleria Fioretto Arte, Padua, Italy (2005); Grand 70th Birthday Tour Homecoming, Galerie Schuppenhauer, Cologne (2004); Happenings and Fluxus, Galeria Vostell, Madrid (2003); Lemons Revisited, Museo Vostell, Malpartida, Spain (1998); Trains of Thought and Just in Time, Galerie Fruchtig, Frankfurt, Germany (1997); Blame It on Pittsburgh; or, Why I Became an Artist, Emily Harvey Gallery, New York (1997); Beauty Lurks in the Chaos of the Beholder, Galleria Caterina Gualco, Genoa, Italy (1996); What is on My Mind?, Galerie Schuppenhauer, Cologne, and Aktionsforum Praterinsel, Munich (1992); Fluxus Virus, 1962–92, Contemporary Museum / Kaufhof Parkhaus, Cologne (1992); and Ordinary Life, Emily Harvey Gallery, New York (1988). His performances include Museum of the Subconscious, Houston Annex, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2012); Music at the Edge, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2002); Museum of the Subconscious, Tel Aviv Annex, Jerusalem Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel (1999); Museum of the Subconscious, Okandukaseibe, Namibia (1996); Das Bahnhof Requiem, St. Ignaz Kirche, Mainz, Germany (1995); A Paper Event, Time-Life Building, New York (1967); Third Festival of the Avant-Garde, Judson Hall, New York (1965); Fluxus Concert No. 1 (“Lick”), Canal Street Lofts, New York (1964); Galerie Légitime with Robert Filliou, Paris (1962); Neo Dada Music, Kammerspiele, Dusseldorf, Germany (1962); and Kleines Sommerfest, Galerie Parnass, Wuppertal, Germany (1962). His group exhibitions include Fluxus 50, 1962–2012: Fluxus in Wiesbaden, Museum Wiesbaden, Germany (2012); Sounds and Lights, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2004); Fluxus in Germany, 1962–1994, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (2002, traveling); The Fluxus Constellation, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Villa Croce, Genoa, Italy (2002); Leonardo in Action and Poetry, Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci, Vinci, Italy (2001); Fluxus in Amerika, Galerie Vostell, Berlin (1999); Revolution: Art of the Sixties, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1995); Fluxus in Germany, 1962–1994, Kunstsammlung Gera, Germany (1995); Fluxus and Happenings, Museo Vostell, Malpartida, Spain (1994); The Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism, Fine Arts Gallery, University of California, Irvine (1993–94, traveling); The Seoul of Fluxus, Seoul Art Center (1993); In the Spirit of Fluxus, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1993, traveling); Fluxus Deluxe, Pittsburgh Center of the Arts (1991); Something Else Press, Granary Books Gallery, New York (1991); Fluxus!, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia (1990); Ubi Fluxus ibi Motus, Venice Biennale (1990); Pianofortissimo, Mudima Gallery, Milan (1990); Fluxus & Co., Emily Harvey Gallery, New York (1989); The Theatre of the Object, 1958–1972, Alternative Museum, New York (1989); 17th Bienal de Sao Paulo, Parque Ibirapuera (1983); Fluxus Vaudeville Tournament, Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany (1982); Festrum Fluxform, Museum Wiesbaden, Germany (1982); Fluxus Etc., Cranbrook Museum of Art, Cranbrook, MI (1981); Fluxexhibit, Galerie A, Amsterdam (1976); Fluxshoe Exhibition, Falmouth, England (1972–73); Fluxus Festival, Stadtische Museum, Wiesbaden, Germany (1962); and Fluxus Sneak Preview, Galerie Girardon, Paris (1962).