My Grand 70th Birthday Tour

by Ben Patterson

In the merry of may (2004) I will become 70 years old. To celebrate this event, I plan to mix and serve "Ben Cocktails" for all friends, who wish to meet me on the summit of "Fuji-San", Japan, on the 29th of may 2004.

(this will be my first visit to Japan)

Yes, il would be very simple to fly, non-stop from Frankfurt to Tokyo. But, how boring! I will travel with the "Trans-siberian Railroad"... and realize an old dream of George Maciunas... To make a "Grand Fluxus Concert Tour" in various cities along the "Trans-siberian".

Maybe, this will be a "tough-stuff" expedition, or maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.

 

>> Schedule <<

 

 

My Grand 70th Birthday Tour : a brief history and overview of current plans

"There is a good possibility of carrying out a grand fluxus tour in East Europe & URSS through Siberia - for summer 1964 or more likely 1965, in which case I will go there with whoever would wish to join me. I will pass Paris then & you coud join me OK? I have talked with a few officals recently & have interested them with proposal: we get one freight car attached to freight trains, give free concerts in freight yards whenever and whereever trains stops. We travel thus right to Vladivostok & then hop to Japan."

... from a George Maciunas letter to Emmett Williams and other Fluxus Artists, Sept 1963.

 

Thus, with this letter George launched an idea, which like Fluxus, apparently just won't die. Of course, given the realities of that time, this proposal was not realized. However, what it did was to open the dors for a great hoax prerpetrated by Eric Andersen. In the summer 1964, while traveling with his brother by car through Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and some cities in western URSS, he sent numerous postcards to George with fictious reports of the successes and scandals of this "Fluxus Tour", which these postcards falsely suggested included Addi Köpke, Tomas Schmit and Emmett Williams. Needless to say, "Control Freak George" who was sometimes also "Gullible George" was not amused and subsequently issued a press release denouncing and expelling these four "renegades and imposters".

Thirty years later, in preparation for the first major Fluxus Exhibitions and performances in St. Petersburg (1995) and Moscow (1996), I researched and proposed this old Trans-siberian tour idea again, to follow-up the St. Petersburg and Moscow events. Bur, also, again without succes.

Forty years later, as a 70th birthday present to myself, I am determined to realize this tour one way or the other - do or die!

 

My current plan for this tour developed from an innocent conversation with Rene Block last March in Kassel. In response to Rene's question, had I ever visited Japan, I replied, ... "no, but I am considering such a visit as a 70th birthday present to myself". Rene surprised me with his spontaneous offer to help finance this visit by overseeing the sale, to interested collectors, museums, galleries and friends, of a special "Ben Patterson - 70th birthday" graphic edition, which I would create. Of course, as I began thinking about this offer, I, also, began re-thinking that old Trans-siberian project... And, abviously, I concluded - given certain modifications to George's original proposal and placing the Trans-siberian project within the framework of my "birthday visit" to Japan - a representative, Trans-siberian Fluxus Tour could now be realized.

To cite the obvious, many these modifications of the original plan simply reflect developments in political, technological and art history during the intervening 40 years. The "Iron Curtin" is gone, electronic audio-visual equipment is affordable and portable, and Fluxus artists are no longer being burnt at the stake. Thus, my plan considers these developments, as well as, my own 40 years of development in and out Fluxus.

 

Here, now, are the major elements of my current plan.

I. The classic Trans-siberian Railway tour (Moscow to Vladivostok) is now changed to continue after Irkutsk with the Trans-mongolian Railway via Ulan Baatar to Peking. The tour then continues by railway to Shanghi, by ship to Osaka and ending with high-speed railway to Tokyo.

II. As opposed to the original "high-hiking with a freight car" plan, the schedule for this tour will be pre-determined with pre-purchased tickets, appropriate (upper/better class) reservations and pre-arranged accomodations and performance venues.

III. While train and Ship tickets will be self financed, it is anticipated that local institutions hosting performances will provide accomodations and hospitality.

IV. Concerning the performances: ... drawing on 40 years of experience, acces to new technologies and a basic concept, which includes, if necessary, the possibility to realize this tour as a solo performer, ... a set of strong attractive and flexible programs options, featuring old and new Fluxus, "classics", are offered. These options range from a program for a sel-sufficient, solo performer; a program for a small, self-sufficient, touring ensemble; or a program for a larger, locally recruited ensemble of interessed students, artists or others;... and always with the flexibility to "mix and match" among all of the above. In general it is antecipated that the local hosts (institutions or individuals) wil provide an appropriate indoor, performance space. However, the self-sufficiency of the solo performer or the small touring ensemble options could permit an occasional, outdoor, semi-official "Fluxus Quicky" (read "street performance") ... for example in front of a local rail station or museum.

V. The activity listed as "meetings" in the attached tour schedule is considered an important aspect of this tour. Under this rubric activities ranging from informal meetings with local artists, to workshop demonstrations, to rehearsals to wild, all night parties may be scheduled.

VI. The activity listed as "tourism" is also a serious facet for the overall program. At some point, age should reap its rewards. Also, regular "rest & relaxation" breaks will be necessary to sustain good health and spirits throughout this marathon.

VII. At a minimum level... even if travelling solo, I plan to gather audio-visual documentations, as well as maintain a journal of the tour. However, I am hopeful that a more professional solution, now under discussion, will soon become a reality.

AND FINALY... AN INVITATION TO MY FRIENDS AN COLLEAGUES.

VIII. First, as indicated above, I am prepared, if necessary, to do this thing solo. However, I would heartly welcome your company for the whole, or any part of this tour... that is, if you can pay your own ticket and are prepared for a rough and adventerous schedule.

Second, both the literal and symbolic high-point of this tour will be my birthday party on the summit of Fujisan on May 29, 2004. If you can't make the tour, maybe we will meet then and there!

 

Ben Patterson, Wiesbaden, 05 january 2004.