Nassauischer Kunstverein

Benjamin Patterson

02 Jun - 23 Sep 2012

Two for One Violin after One for Violins by Nam June Paik, 1991, Photo: Courtesy Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Born in the State of FLUX/us
2 June - 23 September 2012

The artistic work of BENJAMIN PATTERSON (*1934, Pittsburgh USA), double bass player, co-organiser of the “International Fluxus Festival of the Newest Music” in Wiesbaden and initial member of FLUXUS, combines music, composition, performance, objects, found materials, autobiographic and socio-political issues in unique way.

The exhibition in the Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden offers an overview of Patterson’s dense œuvre, which extends to more than 50 years. Interrelating an art-historical review and contemporary art practice, besides early contributions to the Fluxus movement, also new, previously unseen pieces from the artist’s studio as well as the environment BEN’S BAR will be displayed.
The exhibition in the Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden offers an overview of Patterson’s versatile and extensive work, displaying a large number of objects, paper works and boxes, from European collections.

Documenting Benjamin Pattersons eventful Biography, the section NOTES ON AN ORDINARY LIFE leads through the four exhibition levels of the retrospective. After his studies and performances as classical double-bass player, he started to turn emphasis to experimental music in 1961, participated in avant-garde festivals and organized happenings with like-minded. Patterson worked and interlaced among others with George Maciunas, John Cage, Mary Bauermeister, Robert Filliou, Wolf Vostell and Nam June Paik. He lived among other places in Ottawa, Stuttgart, Cologne, New York and Paris, before he made Wiesbaden his domicile, where he lives and works until today.

The largest section of the exhibition is dedicated to the NECESSARY OBJECTS, assembled work from everyday materials and findings, which developed partially from actions and performances, partially in the studio. Based on the Performance VARIATIONS FOR DOUBLE BASS, Patterson transformed a double bass into a FLYING BASS (2010), attaching wooden wings and gas cartridges. Cheap dome lights lighting up alternately sign the personalities of the international Fluxus network within the installation FLUXUS CONSTELLATION (2002). TWO FOR VIOLIN AFTER NAM JUNE PAIK (1991) came into being out of Patterson's performance of Paik's piece ONE FOR VIOLIN SOLO. The parts of the violin destroyed in the performance, are arranged as a classic still life. While the work represents on the one hand the mutual inspiration of the artists in the Fluxus network, Patterson shows mischievously in a "framed" format, how imprecise and in need of interpretation it is to capture the ephemeral nature of Fluxus in a museum presentation.

The section METHODS AND PROCESSES: SCORES, ACTIONS AND HAPPENINGS shows Patterson’s scores and sketches in the form of a library. The BLACK AND WHITE FILE (1999) invites to self-study his lengthy instructions and sketches, which includes actions, performances, opera and music.

How and why did Patterson become an artist is the question of the installation BLAME IT ON PITTSBURGH (1997) in the centre of the exhibition. On large plexiglas panels, the artist combines the protocols of more than 20 psychoanalytic sessions with photographies of his life. In the dark room, visitors have to shed light in the darkness themselves with torches.

A special gallery is dedicated to Patterson's newest artistic output. It displays work from his recent artistic periods, which haven’t yet been on show in Houston and New York. Another special feature within the retrospective is the SPIELRAUM on the second floor which provides space for spontaneous actions, presentations and performances of Patterson and/or artist friends and colleagues. Benjamin Patterson will curate the program within his own retrospective, making the review of his life's work and the actionist intervention face each other as equals.

Following the first Mail-Art-Actions Fluxus moreover becomes not only physical, but also digital as “collective episode” (Patterson) which can be experienced as a public opinion poll on Fluxus on the Internet, with a questionnaire sketched out by Patterson.

In the small cinema on the third floor, a compilation of performance recordings can be experiences on the original folding seats, on which the audience sat during the 1962 International Festival Newest Music. The way there passes through Patterson’s single publicly available environment: BEN'S BAR. TO BE HEARD. TO BE SEEN. TO BE THERE (1992) which is on show as permanent installation at Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden since 2007. The title, the compressed conclusion that many things could be solved more easily with a social visit to the bar than by strife and war, was created by Patterson in New York in the face of the Gulf War. It is the conclusion of a life experienced artist, whose own career was scarred by racial discrimination and political unrest, and co-founder one of the last avant-gardes of the 20th Century.

The exhibition was conceived by Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and is newly arranged by Elke Gruhn and Sara Stehr at Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden in close collaboration with Benjamin Patterson.

Tags: Mary Bauermeister, John Cage, Robert Filliou, George Maciunas, Nam June Paik, Benjamin Patterson, Wolf Vostell