Grand 70th Birthday Tour
by Ben Patterson
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.
will be my first visit to Japan)
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".
this will be a "tough-stuff" expedition, or maybe I will
be pleasantly surprised.
Grand 70th Birthday Tour : a brief history and overview of current
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.
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
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.
years later, as a 70th birthday present to myself, I am determined
to realize this tour one way or the other - do or die!
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.
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.
now, are the major elements of my current plan.
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
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.
While train and Ship tickets will be self financed, it is anticipated
that local institutions hosting performances will provide accomodations
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
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.
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.
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.
FINALY... AN INVITATION TO MY FRIENDS AN COLLEAGUES.
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.
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!
Patterson, Wiesbaden, 05 january 2004.