Benjamin Patterson

Benjamin Patterson, Paper Piece, 1960. Performance view, Hypokriterion Theater, Amsterdam, June 23, 1963.

THE COMPOSER, performer, and visual artist Benjamin Patterson was one of the founding figures of Fluxus, the massively interdisciplinary international art movement that emerged in the early 1960s, encompassing music, text-sound, sculpture, video, Conceptual art, and what later came to be known as performance art. Another cofounder, the artist and entrepreneur George Maciunas, drew the name from a standard dictionary definition for flux: “any substance or mixture . . . used to promote fusion,” or “an excessive discharge, from the bowels or other part.”1

Patterson was a classically trained contrabassist, but his quest to become the first black American to perform with a major American symphony orchestra was (not unexpectedly) thwarted, and he moved to Canada, where he performed in various symphonic formations. The year 1960 found him studying electronic music in Cologne, working

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