Benjamin Patterson


Ben (Benjamin) Patterson (1934 Pittsburgh – 2016 Wiesbaden) studied double bass, composition and conducting and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan in 1956. Initially the US American played double bass in various orchestras, and in 1960 a concert tour took him to Germany. He traveled to Cologne for the festival of the International Society for New Music and to meet Karlheinz Stockhausen. Instead of this encounter, however, it was the one with John Cage that had a decisive influence on his artistic development. He was invited to the Contre Festival in the studio of Stockhausen’s partner Mary Bauermeister, where events on New Music took place that became the basis of the later Fluxus movement. In 1962, together with George Maciunas and Emmett Williams, he played a leading role in the preparation of the FLUXUS Festival of New Music in Wiesbaden. Among other works, he performed the Variations for Double Bass. In 1963, for political and personal reasons, he returned to New York and worked at the New York Public Library, studying library science and beginning a career in cultural management, while at the same time, in his absence, his scores were performed at various Fluxus Festivals around the world. In 1982, for the 20th anniversary of Fluxus, and in 1983 at the São Paulo Biennial, he had already staged several performances, but it was not until 1988 that he had his first major solo exhibition in the Emily Harvey Gallery in New York with installations and assemblages.

Ben Patterson worked in various media and created a large number of humorously ironic objects and collages. In 2010, the first retrospective of his complete artistic oeuvre followed at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; this exhibition was expanded to include European loans and shown in 2012 during the 50th anniversary of Fluxus at the Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden. His compositions Paper Piece and Variations for Doublebass are among the classic Fluxus pieces. For documenta 14 he prepared When Elephants Fight, It Is The Frogs That Suffer – A Sonic Graffiti, a concept for both locations Athens and Kassel, which was realized posthumously.

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