Ben Patterson

Date of birth


Country of residence


Country of origin




Benjamin (Ben) Patterson (born 1934 in Pittsburgh, PA.) graduated 1956, University of Michigan, Bachelor of Music. After a brief career as a double-bassist with symphony orchestras in Canada he settled in Cologne in 1960. There, he was active in the contemporary music scene, performing in festivals in Cologne, Paris, Venice, Vienna and elsewhere.

During this pre-Fluxus period he created and performed some of his early seminal works: – “Paper Piece”, “Lemons” and “Variations for Double-Bass”. Late in 1961 Patterson moved to Paris, where he collaborated with Robert Filliou (“puzzle poems”) and where he published his “Methods and Processes”. Commuting between Paris and West Germany, Patterson assisted George Maciunas in organizing the historic 1962 Fluxus Festival in Wiesbaden. His interview with Emmett Williams – for the opening of this festival – became the first article ever about Fluxus. Similarly, the first film documentation of Fluxus – news coverage by German Television – featured Patterson’s performance of his “Variations for Double-Bass.” After Wiesbaden Patterson and his works continued to be an important presence at Fluxus events around the world. In 1963 Patterson moved to New York, where he participated in Fluxus manifestations until the late 1960’s – when he returned to pursue “an ordinary life”.

During the next two decades he successfully pursued a career in arts administration – managing a variety of music, theater and dance companies and serving as administrator or consultant to municipal, state and federal arts funding agencies. Although he remained outside the Fluxus scene during this period, he did occasionally surface with performances and new works for such events as the 20th Anniversary Fluxus Festival in Wiesbaden in 1982 and the 1983 Bienal de Sao Paulo, Brazil, and has been well represented in the various exhibitions throughout the USA of the Silverman Collection.

In September 1988 Patterson returned from retirement with a solo exhibition of new assemblages and constructions at the Emily Harvey Gallery in New York. Since then, he has exhibited or performed widely in major or minor venues from Brisbane, Australia, to Prague, Czechoslovakia and from Winnipeg, Canada to Tusa, Sicily.


Interviewed by Christopher Hewitt in Berlin

Audio interview