Ben Patterson At Museum Wiesbaden Fluxus Turns 50 With Historic Concert
Ben Patterson is a founding member of Fluxus and has organized the
2012 Celebration, Fluxus 50, in collaboration with Museum Wiesbaden
The city of Wiesbaden, Germany is considered the birthplace of a revolutionary art form which began with the 1962 Fluxus concert in its Festspiele Neuester Musik in the Museum lecture theater. One of the founding Fluxus artists, Dick Higgins, observed that its characteristics are: “Internationalism, experimentalism, iconoclasm, intermedia, impact, playfulness and wit, transience and uniqueness.” Since 1962, Fluxus has made a radical impact on world culture, music, the visual arts, film and theater. From June 2 to September 23, 2012 the Museum Wiesbaden is organizing a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the world’s first Fluxus concert, in collaboration with founding Fluxus artist, and still resident of Wiesbaden, Ben Patterson. While attending the festival as an invited performer I had a chance to meet up with Ben for a brief, but illuminating, interview:
Jessica Higgins: Hello! I’m with Ben Patterson here at Fluxus 50 Wiesbaden (http://fluxus50wiesbaden.de/), at the Museum Wiesbaden, and he is going to answer some questions about Fluxus. We’re so happy that he’s willing to do this interview for us for Artist Organized Art.
JH: Ben, In 1962 Fluxus presented itself in an historic concert, here in Wiesbaden, Germany, as a form of “New Music.” We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the concert with this festival, which you have organized with Dr. Klar and the Museum Wiesbaden. As such, and as one of the participants in the original 1962 concert, what are your thoughts of this originating categorization of Fluxus as “New Music” looking back on 50 years of Fluxus?
Ben Patterson: It’s clearly become something other than what we thought of as new music then. But the core of what I still consider Fluxus is performative, time based, immaterial, so that it’s still.. “music expanded” I guess you could call it?
JH: Yes. That is an excellent way of putting it.
Dr. Alexander Klar, Director of the Museum Wiesbaden, brings to the Museum, years of experience in exhibition design and organization culminating in the
anarchic and successful celebration of 50 years of Fluxus
JH: How do you feel about Mary Bauermeister’s salon in Köln as an alternate to the Darmstadt Festival.
BP: That’s slightly “bending” a bit of history, because the material which was presented there, the artists and so forth, except for Cage, were primarily from the Darmstadt School. Younger composers and so forth.. of course her eventual relationship with Karlheinz Stockhausen comes all from there.
BP: I’ve known Mary many years, I like her and all, but I think that to now suggest that, Mary’s.. even though it was listed as a counter festival to the original International Society Of Contemporary Music Festival .. it was closer to that than to a Fluxus festival. Mary’s boyfriend, at the time that I met her and when she was producing this “counter festival” .. eventually broke up .. and Haro Lauhus moved down the street and opened his own gallery .. which was exactly the opposite of Mary’s .. which was pristine .. pure white. Haro’s was an old building which hadn’t been cleaned since the war and was still black and dusty .. and for my taste that’s where the material that began to look like Fluxus developed .. and so he made the first exhibition with Spoerri .. and the first exhibition with Christo, Mimmo Rotella and Vostell and so forth .. so he was actually I think .. more revolutionary there than Mary.
Founding Fluxus Artist, Alison Knowles (right) performs her work “Loose Pages”
with Jessica Higgins at Museum Wiesbaden’s Fluxus 50,
organized with Ben Patterson
JH: Very interesting.. thank you! The last question is, in terms of your work with the New York Department of Cultural Affairs do you find any points of comparison between New York City and the experience organizing in Wiesbaden?
BP: Yes and no, there’s bureaucracy to deal with .. but the German bureaucracy is much more detailed and specific than the New York bureaucracy at that point .. but the experience of working there .. of course you learn things which can be used in many places.
JH: Do you see similarities?
BP: No, not really, I mean yes and no. Organizations are organizations, they have to have somebody to talk .. and lots of workers, but that’s the same practically everywhere. This experience here is perhaps somewhat different than other situations in Germany because the director, Alexander (Alexander Klar), has moved around a lot. He’s worked in New York and in Venice and so forth .. London. So he’s a more open person than a typical born-raised-never-left-Germany-person.
JH: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions and I hope that you’ll go to Artist Organized Art to see this interview.
BP: Okay, thank you.
In Memoriam to Adriano Olivetti, George Maciunas, 1962. The performance uses
an old adding machine tape as a score and consists of actions
(raising and replacing hat, shaking fist, making faces, etc.)
or sounds (tongue clicks, pops, smacks, lip farts, etc.)
From left to right: Ben Patterson, Geoffery Hendricks, Philip Corner, Willem de Ridder, Eric Andersen, Alison Knowles. Performed in 2012 in
Wiesbaden, Germany for Fluxus 50
George Maciunas (8 November 1931- 9 May 1978) a Lithuanian-born American artist. He was a founding member and the central coordinator of Fluxus, an international community of artists, architects, composers, and designers. Other leading members brought together by this movement included Yoko Ono, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, and Dick Higgins. He is most famous for organising and performing in early Fluxus projects and for assembling a series of highly influential artists’ multiples. To avoid debt collectors, Maciunas took a job as a civilian graphic designer at a U.S. Air Force base in Wiesbaden, Germany in late 1961. It was there that he organized the first Fluxus Festival in September 1962. The festival then travelled to Cologne, Paris, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, The Hague and Nice. These concerts and events were to become integral to the legacy of Fluxus.
Dr. Alexander Klar, Director of the Museum Wiesbaden, brings to the Museum, years of experience in exhibition design and organization culminating in the anarchic and successful celebration of 50 years of Fluxus. With a thesis on the life and work of the architect Friedrich Bürklein (1813-1872), he received his doctorate in 2000 in Erlangen. His museum career includes posts with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Institute in Braubach on the Rhine, Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Kunsthalle in Emden, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Emil Schumacher Museum in Hagen and finally the Museum Wiesbaden in Germany.
Performances at Fluxus 50 Wiesbaden, Museum Wiesbaden, September 2012. One of the most
notorious events performed at Wiesbaden in 1962 was Philip Corner’s Piano Activities,
the score of which asked a group of people to ‘play’, ’scratch or rub’
and ’strike soundboard, pins, lid or drag
various objects across them.’
Eric Andersen Born in Antwerp 1940 is an artist associated with the Fluxus art movement. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. In 1962 Andersen first took part in one of the early concerts given by Fluxus held during the Festum Fluxorum in the Nikolai Kirke (Nicolas Church) in Copenhagen. He soon took an early interest in intermedial art. In his Opus works from the early 1960s, Andersen explored the open interaction between performer and public, developing open self-transforming works, such as arte strumentale. In 1996, the year in which Copenhagen was Europe’s cultural capital, Andersen arranged a three-day inter-media event involving parachute-jumping, helicopters, mountaineering, live sheep and 500 singers walking on water.
Philip Lionel Corner (born April 10, 1933; name sometimes given as Phil Corner) is an American Composer, Trombonist, Alphornist, Vocalist, Pianist, Music Theorist, Music Educator, and Visual Artist. He was a founding participant of Fluxus since 1961, was a resident composer and musician with the Judson Dance Theatre from 1962-1964 and later with the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. He co-founded with Malcolm Goldstein and James Tenney the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in 1963, with Julie Winter Sounds Out of Silent Spaces in 1972 and with Barbara Benary and Daniel Goode, Gamelan Son of Lion in 1976. His principle gallery is UnimediaModern in Genova, whose director Caterina Gualco maintains a large collection. Other important collectors are Hermann Braun in Germany (deceased 2009) and Luigi Bonotto in Bassano who maintains an extensive documentation.
Geoffrey Hendricks (born in 1931 in Littleton, New Hampshire) is an American artist associated with Fluxus since the mid 1960s, and has styled himself as “cloudsmith” for his extensive work with sky imagery in paintings, on objects, in installations and performances. He is professor emeritus of art at Rutgers University, where he taught from 1956 to 2003, and where he was associated with Allan Kaprow, Roy Lichtenstein, and Lucas Samaras during their time there in the 1960s. In 2002, he edited Critical Mass: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance, Intermedia and Rutgers University, 1958-1972 documenting seminal creative activity and experimental work developed by university faculty members of the 1960s such as Bob Watts, Allan Kaprow, George Brecht, Hendricks, and others. He recently performed “Headstands for Peace,” in Washington Square Park, an event organized by Julie Evanoff
Alison Knowles (born 1933) in New York City is an American visual artist known for her soundworks, installations, performances, and publications. Knowles was very active in the Fluxus movement, and continues to create work inspired by her Fluxus experience. In the early 1960s, published by Something Else Press, Knowles composed the Notations book of experimental composition with John Cage and Coeurs Volants and a print with Marcel Duchamp. She also traveled and performed throughout Europe, Asia and North America. In 1963, Knowles produced one of the earliest book objects, a can of texts and beans called the Bean Rolls. In 1967, Knowles and James Tenney produced the computerized poem The House of Dust. A sound installation for a House of Dust public sculpture was produced by Max Neuhaus. The 1983 book Loose Pages, originally produced in collaboration with Coco Gordon, consisted of pages made for each part of the body.
Benjamin Patterson was born in Pittsburgh on May 29, 1934. From 1956 to 1960, he worked as a double bassist at the Halifax Symphony Orchestra (1956–57), the US Army 7th Army Symphony Orchestra (1957–59) and the Ottawa Philharmonic Orchestra (1959–60). In 1960 he moved to Cologne, Germany where he became active on the contemporary music scene of the most radical, focusing its activities at the studio of Mary Bauermeister and “against the festival.” Between 1960 and 1962 he played in Cologne, Paris, Venice, Vienna and other places still participating in the first Fluxus Festival in Wiesbaden (1962). He worked as General Manager in the Symphony of the New World (1970–72) as Assistant Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs for New York City (1972–74) as director of development for the Negro Ensemble Company (1982–84) and as National Director for Pro Musica Foundation Inc. (1984–86). In 1988 he had a solo exhibition of new assemblages and installations at Emily Harvey Gallery in New York and participated in several Fluxus Festivals and exhibitions of the group. Most recently he is the organizer of Fluxus 50 Wiesbaden 2012.
Willem Cornelius de Ridder (14 October 1939 ) is a Dutch radio maker, storyteller, magazine maker, and internationally known Fluxus artist. George Maciunas appointed him chairman of Fluxus (Department of Northern Europe ). In this capacity he organized several concerts and Fluxus Festivals. In the 60s he had a Fluxus mail order company in Amsterdam. Willem de Ridder stands at the cradle of numerous developments in the field of art, culture and recreation. He was closely involved in the creation of alternative youth clubs like Paradiso, Fantasio and the Milky Way. He collaborated with Nam June Paik and Paik presented “Piano For All Senses” in his gallery, Amstel 47, in Amsterdam. Willem de Ridder achieved national fame with famous radio broadcasts in which listeners were invited to participate, taking guided instructions over the radio. Every first Tuesday of the month he tells ancient stories in the auditorium of the Melkweg in Amsterdam.
Dick Higgins (March 15, 1938 – October 25, 1998) was a founding member of Fluxus. He studied composition with John Cage at the New School of Social Research in New York and took part in the Wiesbaden, Germany Fluxus festival in 1962. He founded Something Else Press in 1963, which published many important texts including Gertrude Stein, Marshall McLuhan, artists John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Claes Oldenburg, Ray Johnson, Bern Porter, leading Fluxus members George Brecht, Wolf Vostell, Daniel Spoerri, Emmett Williams, Ken Friedman, and others. He coined the word intermedia 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.
John Cage (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments. In October 1960, Mary Bauermeister’s Cologne studio hosted a joint concert by Cage and the video artist Nam June Paik, who in the course of his Etude for Piano cut off Cage’s tie. Cage’s “Experimental Composition” classes at The New School have become legendary as an American source of Fluxus, an international network of artists, composers, and designers. The majority of his students had little or no background in music. Most were artists. They included Jackson Mac Low, Allan Kaprow, Al Hansen, George Brecht, and Dick Higgins.
Haro Lauhus, gallerist, Cologne, specializing in Pre-Fluxus. According to one Cologne newspaper in 1961 the Gallery Haro Lauhus had the most controversial exhibition Cologne had ever seen. The reference is to the first solo show by now famous art duo Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In 1961 it was also the site of Wolf Vostell’s Dé-coll/age Solo and a group show: Der Koffer, Organized by Daniel Spoerri. Other artists: Arman, César, Gérard Deschamps, François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Robert Rauschenberg, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, and Jacques de la Villeglé. Haro Lauhus was an early organizer of performances at the studio of Mary Bauermeister.
Mary Hilde Ruth Bauermeister (7 September 1934) German artist: Circa 1960, she hosted gatherings with future members of Fluxus in her Cologne studio. She invited artists such as Hans G Helms, David Tudor, John Cage, Christo, Wolf Vostell, George Brecht, and Nam June Paik to concerts of “the newest music,” readings, exhibits, and actions in which non-hierarchical exchanges of information across national, disciplinary and age boundaries contributed to the character of the Fluxus movement. In 1961, she took part in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s composition course at the Internationalen Ferienkursen für Neue Musik in Darmstadt. Later that same year she collaborated with Stockhausen in a theatre piece titled Originale.
Karlheinz Stockhausen (2 August 1928 – 5 December 2007) was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important and controversial of the 20th and early 21st centuries. After lecturing at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik at Darmstadt (1953 -) Stockhausen gave lectures and concerts in Europe, North America, and Asia. He founded and directed the Cologne Courses for New Music from 1963 to 1968, and was appointed Professor of Composition at the Hochschule für Musik Köln in 1971, where he taught until 1977. In 1998, he founded the Stockhausen Courses, which are held annually in Kürten. In the early 1990s, Stockhausen reacquired the licenses to most of the recordings of his music and started his own record company to make this music permanently available on Compact Disc.
Nam June Paik (July 20, 1932 – January 29, 2006) was a Korean American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the first video artist. In the late 1950’s he contacted Dr. Steinecke of the International Music Institute, Darmstadt with two attempts at presenting his “action music” in the context of the yearly summer courses. Though unsuccessful at placing his compositions in the context of the The Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, Darmstadt, in October 1960, Mary Bauermeister’s Cologne studio hosted a joint concert presenting his works with performances by John Cage and Paik himself. While in Germany, he met the composers Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage and contemporary artists Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell. He then permanently entered the field of electronic art.
Christo (born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, June 13, 1935) and Jeanne-Claude (born Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebon, June 13, 1935 – November 18, 2009) were a married couple who created environmental works of art. Their works include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, the 24-mile (39 km)-long artwork called Running Fence in Sonoma and Marin counties in California, and The Gates in New York City’s Central Park. Christo is quoted saying “I am an artist, and I have to have courage … Do you know that I don’t have any artworks that exist? They all go away when they’re finished. Only the preparatory drawings, and collages are left, giving my works an almost legendary character. I think it takes much greater courage to create things to be gone than to create things that will remain. The first Solo Exhibition of Christo and Jean-Claude was at gallery Haro Lauhus in Cologne, 1961″
Daniel Spoerri (born 27 March 1930) is a Swiss artist and writer known for his “snare-pictures,” a type of assemblage in which he captures a group of objects, such as the remains of meals eaten by individuals, including the plates, silverware and glasses, all of which are fixed to the table or board, which is then displayed on a wall. In the 1950s he he met a number of Surrealist artists, including Jean Tinguely, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, and also a number of artists associated with the Fluxus movement, including Robert Filliou, Dieter Roth and Emmett Williams. Spoerri is closely associated with Fluxus whose sensibility is based in spontaneity and humor. It has been said that his Anecdoted Topography of Chance embodies aspects of this spirit.
Domenico “Mimmo” Rotella, (7 October 1918 – 8 January 2006), was an Italian artist and poet best known for his works of décollage and psychogeographics, made from torn advertising posters. He was associated to the Ultra-Lettrists an offshoot of Lettrism and later was a member of the Nouveau Réalisme group, founded by Pierre Restany in 1960, whose other members included Yves Klein, Arman and Jean Tinguely. He exhibited at the I.C.A., London 1957 and at Gallery Haro Lauhus in the early 1960’s. 1961 actions at the gallery Haro Lauhus included Rotella, Cardew, Wewerka, Ben Patterson, Nam June Paik and Vostell.
Wolf Vostell (14 October 1932 – 3 April 1998) was a German painter and sculptor of the second half of the 20th century. He is considered one of the early adopters of Video art, Environment, Installation, Happening and the Fluxus Movement. Techniques such as blurring and Dé-collage are characteristic of his work, as is embedding objects in concrete. He was behind Happenings, in New York, Berlin, Cologne, Wuppertal and Ulm among others. In 1962, he participated in the planning of the Festum Fluxorum, an international event in Wiesbaden together with Nam June Paik, and George Maciunas.
Fluxus is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. It can be conceived as a school within intermedia. The origins of Fluxus lie in John Cage’s series of Experimental Composition classes, run between 1957 and 1959 at the New School for Social Research in New York City which explored notions of indeterminacy in art. Origins also are found in the work of, Marcel Duchamp, orginally active within Dada, and a resident in New York at the time. Also, a number of other contemporary happenings are credited as either anticipating Fluxus, or as proto-fluxus events. The most commonly cited include a series of concerts held in Mary Bauermeister’s studio, Cologne, 1960-61 featuring Nam June Paik and John Cage among others.
The Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, initiated in 1946 by Wolfgang Steinecke, held annually in Darmstadt, Germany, until 1970 and subsequently every two years, encompass both the teaching of composition and interpretation and include premières of new works in Darmstadt, itself a major centre of modern music for German composers. Many distinguished lecturers appeared at Darmstadt including: Theodor W. Adorno, Milton Babbitt, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Hans Werner Henze, Lejaren Hiller, Ernst Krenek, György Ligeti, Bruno Maderna, Olivier Messiaen, Luigi Nono, Henri Pousseur, Karlheinz Stockhausen, David Tudor, Edgard Varèse and Iannis Xenakis. During the late 1950s and early 1960s the courses only followed music matching the views of Pierre Boulez in a clique of orthodoxy. This led to the use of the phrase ‘Darmstadt School’ to describe the serial music being written at that time.
The International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) festival includes cutting edge productions of contemporary classical music. The World Music Days include a congress that serves as a meeting place between members of the organization. Membership in the ISCM is organized through national sections that promote contemporary music in each country. These sections are usually organizations independent from the ISCM that send delegates to the ISCM General Assembly. Each member of the national section is also a member of ISCM. National organizations that promote contemporary music, but have not been designated as the nation section of ISCM, are sometimes given an associate membership status. This status also applies to the members of these organizations. Some individual music professionals receive the “honorary membership” status. ISCM publishes the World New Music Magazine.
Wiesbaden is a city in southwest Germany and the capital of the federal state of Hesse. It has about 280,000 inhabitants. It has long been famous for its thermal springs and spa. Famous visitors to the springs included Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Wagner, and Johannes Brahms. At one time there were more millionaires living in Wiesbaden than in any other city in Germany. In late 1961, while working there, George Maciunas organized the original Wiesbaden 1962 Fluxus Festival.
Darmstadt is a city in the federal state of Hesse in Germany, it was chartered as a city by the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in 1330. Darmstadt’s old city centre was largely destroyed in a British bombing raid on 11 September 1944. The ‘Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt,’ Initiated in 1946, harboring one of the world’s largest collections of post-war sheet music, also hosts the biennial Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, a summer school in contemporary classical music founded by Wolfgang Steinecke.
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