Fluxus Croak

Frogs & Friends

Ben Patterson and the Frogs

Benjamin Patterson  (*1934 Pittsburgh - 2016 Wiesbaden)
Benjamin Patterson was a musician, artist, and founding member of Fluxus, which emerged in the early 1960s. His highly influential practice, combining music, visual arts and performance, is aligned with the Fluxus ethos, which challenged traditional artmaking modes. Its members pursued a variety of experimental practices, foregrounding the use of everyday materials and gestures, live action and chance. Patterson is well known for his concept of "action as composition," in which sound becomes the result of simple and complex actions that he famously annotated in the format of a musical score. Frogs hopped into his artistic work at a very early stage and have taken their prominent role ever since then. Throughout his career, Patterson has explored the notion of systems in art, music and text. Like many of his Fluxus peers, he has also complicated and enriched the relationship between audience and performer, creating situations that demand direct engagement. Much of Patterson's work is tinged with tongue-in-cheek humor that reveals his Fluxus roots.

When Elephants Fight, It Is The Frogs That Suffer - A Sonic Graffiti

Bernd Schultheis (Realization)

in cooperation with

Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden
E. Gruhn & B. Patterson


A general maxim of Fluxus is the negation of a (museal) product, which characterizes an artistic expression, the path to it is of much greater importance. Thus, the work of art only arises in the head of the recipient, and in the end almost nothing remains visible.

Ben Patterson (Pittsburgh 1934 - 2016 Wiesbaden) was invited by Adam Szymczyk, the artistic director of the documenta 14, before his sudden death he was able to conceive and plan comprehensive parts of his sound installation in Athens and Kassel.

For more detailed information:
Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden  

When Elephants Fight, It Is The Frogs That Suffer - A Sonic Graffiti
Bernd Schultheis (Realisation)
in Kooperation mit
Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden
E. Gruhn & B. Patterson

Inspiriert von der überwältigenden Präsenz der Graffitis im gesamten Stadtraum des vibrierenden und gleichzeitig prekären Athens träumte Ben Patterson von einer Froschsymphonie in der Form eines, wie er es selbst nannte, „Sonic Graffiti“ (Klang-Graffiti), das aus Überlagerungen und Durchmischung von natürlichen Froschtönen, versteckten politischen Botschaften und philosophischen Weisheiten mit Hilfe von Chören entstehen sollte. Ausgehend von Pond, eine seiner sehr frühen eigenen Partituren von 1962, dem Initialjahr von Fluxus, wollte er sich auf zwei weitere künstlerische Quellen beziehen: Der Froschkönig (Gebr. Grimms Kinder und Hausmärchen Nr.1, 1812 herausgegeben) und Aristophanes Komödie Die Frösche (405 v. Chr. im Athener Dionysischen Theater uraufgeführt). Mit dieser implizierten Zeitreise befördert Ben Patterson seine Rezipienten in einen Zeitraffer der westlichen Kulturgeschichte.
Mehr Infos:
Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden

Tubas and Frogs
In their colorful and material mix compilation Pattersons assemblages combine humor and witty wit - while in consequence of Duchamp's Readymade everyday objects have been raised to „works of art“, the Fluxus’ strategy proceeds on step further as the distinction of life (in this context also the frequent reference to medical / humanbiological topics are conspicuous) and art is completely abolished.The tautologies of recurring elements in his work represent nothing else than what they really are. A boomerang is a boomerang, a cube is a cube, a meter is a meter, .... Nevertheless, they point to the inner structure of each individual canvas – like a display chart in school, almost always with inscription they give a humorous and very concrete help to approach the subject.In 1994 numerous works with similar prints of anatomical material can be found. Still, Tuba And Frogs can more easily be classified into a series of works around 2007.

Lachbrunnen
„The well worn steps of a stone stair-case lead down into the dark celler of a former parish house in Wiesbaden Erbenheim. The first perception is a musty odor – a mixture of the smells of a unpleasantly, damp cellar and Indian incense. Then suddenly – light and music! You see in front of you the round, red sandstone walls of a water well with a wooden bucket, hanging from a black-red-gold rope, running over a pully attached to the vaulted ceiling of the cellar. Behind the well is a kind of mural: the upper half is painted, but the lower half is assemblage of objects. Somehow, the overall impression of the painting reminds one of "The Evening Star" by Caspar David Friedrich. However, the objects composing the assamblage come directly from Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".

And then the music: a small mixed chorus (probably drunken) sing a crazy canon with the text (what is written on the well? I love Fluxus...) "I love Fluxus, I love Fluxus, laugh with me, laugh with me, now we go a swimming, now we go a swimming, glup, glup, glup, glup, glup, glup"! And then finally orchestral music from Gabriel Fauré: Pelléas et Mélisande, Op.80 - Prélude. The visitor moves through the space and sees here and there, various kitsch souvenirs and objects, mounted on the brick walls. In the end, perhaps he sits down on a cushioned, stone bench in a corner of the room to ponder, "What is the meaning of all of this?" Well, if you did not immediately start to laugh when the lights came on and music began, then you will probably never find the answer! („Lachbrunnen“ in English means The Laughing Well)“

All you need to know from ‘Once Upon a Time’ to ‘Happily Ever After’ 3. The Hero


Typically nameless, the heroes in fairy tales can take on various manifestations. Masked or enchanted as a frog, the golden booted Prince is enthroned on the image-panel bearing the divine number three.

The hero in fairy tales may be an everyman, as he does not have special powers or wisdom, but rather defeats the peril (usually in the third trial) by luck and magic.

In 1988, Ben Patterson began his return to art, his third attempt. He had previously had significant success as bassist and Fluxus artist, but an overnight success against racial discrimination had failed​​.

Even though his third (real/bourgeoisie) job, as a librarian and cultural manager in New York, had indeed allowed him, through some of his targeted programs, to manipulate and adjust the screws of anti-discrimination.

The central, oversized representation of the frog head within the image panel recalls the prominent role of the frog as the (unrecognized) hero. The choice of the frog as a symbol in the portrait of the hero would not be a crucial indicator, if it were not for Patterson's brilliance.

The legend that Fluxus founder George Maciunas wanted to be reincarnated as a frog was even rendered artistically by Nam June Paik. The is frog not only a symbol of Fluxus Chairman, enthroned above the mundane world, but also refers directly to contemporary history.

Up until 2009, the year by Barack Obama assumed office as the 44th President of The United States of America, none of the Disney heroes and heroines had been black. It was not until this year, that the 49th full-length animated film, The Princess and the Frog, from Walt Disney Studios, would feature an African-American protagonist from New Orleans.

Ben’s Bar - Why People Attend Bars: To Be Heard, To Be Seen, To Be There (Installation View)
The installation was originally constructed in 1990 for a group show at Salvatore Ala Gallery in Soho, NY called "Fluxus Closing In". Almost twelve years later in 2002, the installation would travel from a storage space in New York City and “reincarnate” (BP) into the environment Ben’s Bar, located at the Social Headquarters for the Friends of Fluxus here in Wiesbaden, since 2007 the Bar is insatlled at Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden. Ben’s Bar was an idea Benjamin Patterson conceived as a meeting place for people who were interested in Fluxus. When the piece Why do People Attend Bars arrived from New York, the idea conjoined with the 2002 Fluxus citywide exhibition Forty Years: Fluxus and Followers curated by René Block and Regina Bärthel. Ben Patterson’s installation is located in the entrance of the exhibition space. In aggregate, it is a room that appears to be a reenactment of a once ritzy bar partially done in a rococo style, or so it seems.

Ben’s Bar - Why People Attend Bars: To Be Heard, To Be Seen, To Be There (Detail)

One comes in contact with a golden fountain and an alluring image of Venus adorned in a brassy golden frame. Nevertheless, the whole environment contains numerous symbols that give it’s written words a deeper meaning. Venus, the Roman goddess of love, the mother of all (Roman) people, who also calls the Friday (italian: vernerdi / franz.: vendredi), shines in a baroque frame from the reflection of a golden, with three water-spouting trout fountains.

If the mussel shape is still a common indication of the origin of the goddess from the sea, the three trouts are a clear manipulation of Patterson's well-known iconography, which would usually show dolphins in their place.

Origin: Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden  

Ben’s Bar - Why People Attend Bars: To Be Heard, To Be Seen, To Be There (Detail)

Is it the tragic fate of the lively, freshwater fish swimming in the famous setting of Franz Schubert, reminiscent of the musician Ben Patterson? As in the song, the view into the pure water at the entrance of the bar is at first untroubled.

At the edge of the sand-pit pond also sits a gilded frog. With the ironic quotation of the Rococo language of form, the environment reminds us of the possibilities of a light-footed, subtle feeling of life, coupled with an elegant, delicate sensuality, gallant manners, and a cultivated way of life on the back fin of the swordfish hanging from the ceiling pointing towards the final descent.

Origin: Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden

Pond

Mit seinem 1962 erstmalig aufgeführten Score Pond, bringt Patterson das Spielerische, die Zufallsoperation und musikalische Komponenten zusammen.

Das Stück besteht aus einem 8 Fuß Raster, dass mit Klebeband direkt auf den Boden angebracht wird. Das Score des Künstlers gibt vor, dass acht Performer um dieses Quadrat angeordnet sind und die entsprechende, zuvor gewählte Laute von sich geben, je nachdem in welchen Quadranten ihr Aufziehfrosch hüpft.

„Die Stimmen der Performer wiederholen ihre Klänge nachdem die Frösche in die jeweilige Zone des abgesteckten Bodens eintreten.“

Die Performance eskaliert in eine Klang Kakophonie wenn mehr und mehr Froschtöne beginnen und erwecken den Eindruck eines realen Froschkonzertes am Teich.

50 Jahre später, 2012 entwickelte Ben Patterson ein Up-Date zu dieser Version.

Pond
Mit seinem 1962 erstmalig aufgeführten Score Pond, bringt Patterson das Spielerische, die Zufallsoperation und musikalische Komponenten zusammen.

Das Stück besteht aus einem 8 Fuß Raster, dass mit Klebeband direkt auf den Boden angebracht wird. Das Score des Künstlers gibt vor, dass acht Performer um dieses Quadrat angeordnet sind und die entsprechende, zuvor gewählte Laute von sich geben, je nachdem in welchen Quadranten ihr Aufziehfrosch hüpft.

„Die Stimmen der Performer wiederholen ihre Klänge nachdem die Frösche in die jeweilige Zone des abgesteckten Bodens eintreten.“

Die Performance eskaliert in eine Klang Kakophonie wenn mehr und mehr Froschtöne beginnen und erwecken den Eindruck eines realen Froschkonzertes am Teich.

50 Jahre später, 2012 entwickelte Ben Patterson ein Up-Date zu dieser Version.

Frogs & Friends
Credits: Story

Exhibition by Frogs & Friends
and
Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden


Exhibition curators: Björn Encke (Frogs & Friends) and Elke Gruhn (Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden)

Text by Elke Gruhn (Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden), Ben Patterson (Lachbrunnen)

Content origin:
Barbro Patterson
Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden

Video of installation at documenta 14:
Editor: Björn Encke
Composition: Bernd Schultheis

Photographs:
Hartmut Jahn
Christian Lauer
Janine Drewes
Thorsten Jansen
Barbro Patterson
Horst Ziegenfusz
Bernd Schultheis


With the support of the Interactive Media Foundation gGmbh (IMF)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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