JEMA’s Tea Makipaa compresses reality in ‘We Will Win 2014’ (07-14-14)

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JEMA retrospective leaves Bob Rauschenberg Gallery bound for University of Florida (07-26-14)

JEMA Sean MillerAfter 77 days on view at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery,ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective is leaving Fort Myers bound for Gainesville. From September 16, 2014 through January 4, 2015, the exhibition will be on view at the University of Florida’sHarn Museum of Art. The opening represents a homecoming of sorts, since JEMA founder and curator Sean Miller is on the UF art faculty.

Miller founded JEMA eleven years ago today with an “unauthorized” guerilla-style grand opening in the lobby of the Seattle Art Museum. Befitting its diminutive architectural scale (each JEMA gallery is only slightly larger than a shoebox), the entire celebratory event was Sean Miller 01clocked from start to finish at two-minutes in length. Conceived in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp’s “Boite en Valise” (his mini-retrospective in a suitcase) and Robert Filliou’s “Galerie Légitime” (an exhibition space in the artist’s hat), the portable JEMA galleries (most now safely housed in 16”x12”x9” aluminum carrying cases) have played host to site-specific and solo projects by a wide-array of well-established and emerging international artists. Through JEMA, Miller both reinvents the museum as a portable object while affording individual artists with miniature and mobile museums that occupy new realms of critical and literal space for site-specific sculpture, installations and performance pieces.

John Kieltyka 2At the Harn Museum of Art, ELEVEN will present an array of 21 portable JEMA galleries that will each highlight a different artist. Individual JEMA’s have been on display internationally in places such as Miami Beach, Dublin, Germany and Italy. As they did at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, the museums will come together again in one location for the Harn Museum exhibition.

Derrick Buisch 2Dedicated to promoting the power of the arts to inspire and educate people and enrich their lives, the Harn Museum of Art holds more than 8,000 works in its various collections, which include photography and Asian, African, modern and contemporary art. The museum also displays numerous traveling exhibitions throughout the year. As an accredited museum, the Harn has been recognized as a leader in its field by the American Association of Museums.

Leila and sonOne of the largest university-affiliated art museums in the United States, the Harn Museum has an 86,800-square-foot facility, which includes 32,800 square feet of exhibition space, a 250-seat auditorium, study center, museum store, café, spacious areas for art storage and staff offices for work and research. In 2012, the museum opened the David A. Cofrin Asian Art Wing, a new 26,000-square-foot addition, which is dedicated to the exhibition, storage and conservation of the museum’s extensive collection of Asian art. The museum is located at 3259 Hull Road in Gainesville, Florida, and is part of the University of Florida Cultural Plaza.

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Sean Miller ‘Art Museum Dust Collection’ reason for seeing ‘ELEVEN’ before exhibit closes July 25 (07-23-14)

Dust Collection 3The collection includes dust from more than 90 museums from around the planet. JEMA founder and chief curator Sean Miller got the idea for viewing museum dust as an art object while working as an exhibition technician at the Seattle Museum of Art. There, Miller was tasked with removing dust from the art displays. “Performing this tedious, solitary, and meditative task in such an aesthetically charged environment made me consider this material in a special way,” says Miller. “One day when I noticed a minute fiber had fallen from an African mask, I realized the art had dropped into, and joined, the dust.”

Collection KitMiller pitched the idea to his co-worker at the Seattle Art Museum, Phil Stoiber, and the two of them began contacting museum employees around the U.S. to request dust samples and dusty white gloves for their collection.

In 2002, Miller began to photograph the dust specimens using microscopy. “When I began using Dust Collection Photos 4microscopy as a way to photographically document the dust, I was immediately amazed at the aesthetics of the dust – the fibers, colors, textures and even the creatures that existed in a small pinch of dust,” Miller relates. “The resulting photographic documentation was inspiring to me.

Miller found that imagery shared dialogue with Modernist-style abstraction in many ways. “Dust Collection Photos 2Art museum dust is amazing because it is a hybrid of decaying art, the art institution, the art audience, artists themselves, and art administrators,” Sean adds. “Due to this synthesis, it may be the most pure and significant material present in many museums.”

At the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, viewers will not only find a huge ball of museum dust and the Dust Collection Photos 1white gloves and collecting kits that Miller and Stoiber evolved in order to pursue their craft, but wearable art, multiples, dust sculptures, collages and photographs of dust samples from, inter alia:

  • Musee Du Louvre, Paris, France;
  • Tate Modern, London, England;
  • London National Gallery, London, England;
  • Magnifying Glass and CoasterBarcelona Contemporary Art Museum, Barcelona, Spain;
  • Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden;
  • Nelimarkka Museum, Alajarvi, Finland;
  • Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, Berlin, Germany;
  • Martin Gropius Museum, Berlin, Germany;
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia; and
  • Museum of Jurassic Technology, Culver City, California.

White GlovesCollaborators in the project include Kelly Cobb, Connie Hwang and LuLu LoLo. But the true takeaway from this part of the retrospective is the common thread shared by Miller and gallery namesake Bob Rauschenberg. Just as RR saw art and aesthetics in found objects and junk, Miller sees beauty in art museum dust. Both men delighted in the discovery and display of objects the rest of us seek to discard and destroy. Which is something to ponder the next time you pull an old rag and a can of Pledge.

Chronicling a decade of highly innovative art projects and often unconventional installations by invited artists,ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective will mark its final day at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (and elucidate the enigmatic/numeric exhibition title) by closing to the public on JEMA’s ELEVENth anniversary on July 25, 2014. For more information, please visit http://www.RauschenbergGallery.com or telephone 239-489-9313.

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JEMA’s Tea Makipaa compresses reality in ‘We Will Win 2014′ (07-14-14)

Tea Makipaa We Will Win 2014 BChronicling a decade of highly innovative art projects and often unconventional installations by invited artists, ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective will mark its final day at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (and elucidate the enigmatic/numeric exhibition title) by closing to the public on July 25, JEMA’s ELEVENth anniversary. So it’s not too late to make way to the Lee campus of Florida Southwestern State College to take in the show. One of the exhibitions within the exhibition that warrants closer inspection is Tea Makipaa’s We Will Win 2014.

AtlantisFinnish-born Makipaa uses art to confront the prospect of impending ecological disaster. Anyone who has seen her large-scale Atlantis installations in Budapest or Reykjavik can attest to her arresting imagery. Created with Halldor Ulfarsson), Atlantis features a precariously-tilted red cabin bobbing in the middle of a river or lake. Soft light emanates from the white-trimmed windows. Sounds of a normal family life are emitted from the home’s occupants, who are seemingly unaware of their fate – an apt simile for those of us who occupy land masses on planet Earth, blissfully unaware that we, too, are about to be swallowed by the waters surrounding us and lapping at our shores.

Asked if anyone has ever become alarmed after seeing one of her pieces out of context, Makipaa tersely replied, “My method is that I try to compress reality, therefore confusion is welcome.”

Tea Makipaa We Will Win 2014 AAnd compressing reality is precisely what Makipaa does in We Will Win 2014,whichstands at the polar opposite ofAtlantis. Housed in a standard-issue 16”x12”x9” JEMA aluminum carrying case, We Will Win depicts an inundated New Orleans with an Atlantis type house tilted on edge in the upper left corner of the gallery. In spite of climate change naysayers, many climatologists and other scientists view Hurricane Katrina as a wake-up call to the catastrophic repercussions mankind will face in the years and decades ahead as a direct and proximate result of global warming.

tea makipaa1“The common defining feature in Mäkipää‘s works is a laconic notion of the physical order of reality, referring to the structural elements that shape our lives,” notes one critic. “They deal with the infrastructure we take for granted, the fabric that makes the world go around – trivia such as buses creeping from one stop to the next, trucks delivering your favourite buns to the bakery around the corner ….” In the vast body of her work, Makipaa reveals an obsession with these all-pervading yet JEMA Sean Millerstrangely invisible structures of everyday life – structures we fail to notice until they become dysfunctional. Structures such as the place where you wake up, eat dinner, make love, and try to get some sleep while counting the pills you swallowed. Structures made of pipes, panels, and metal sheeting. Structures that cater to our needs. But in We Will Win 2014, Tea Mäkipää ups the ante, forcing us to ponder the infrastructure we take for granted on a global plane, saying in essence, that the tides, weather and the very ground we build on may no longer be safe, secure or assured in a changing climatology characterized by brutally hot summers, colder than normal winters, drought, floods, wildfires and superstorms such as Katrina and Sandy. Entire cities or regions of the world could be lost or become dysfunctional in a life-altering manner.

JEMA boxTea Mäkipää (born 1973) is a Finnish artist known for her installations, architectural works and videos. She earned a BA in Fine Art, from the Academy of Fine Arts (Finland)Helsinki and an MA from the Royal College of Art in London. Her works are in the collections of Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki; the Collection Pentti Kouri; City of Helsinki, the State of Finland Central Archive of Art, Kiasma; Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart (Germany); Sammlung Federkiel, Leipzig (Germany).

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Making sense of Ben Patterson’s ‘Fluxus in the Swamp’ performance (06-30-14)

Gastronomic Procession 04To the Fluxus newbie, what transpired in the Rush Auditorium at Florida Southwestern State College last Tuesday evening may have seemed like unadulterated nonsense masquerading as art. Fluxus pioneer Ben Patterson certainly did everything within his power to foster that belief from the outset of his lecture and performances. But Fluxus in the Swampserved as a delectable object lesson in the principles espoused by Patterson and the diverse group of visual artists, musicians, writers and performers who came to be associated with the movement that celebrated its silver anniversary in September of 2011.

The Orchestra 2It all started with a “simple” opera that contained “no profound messages, no great emotions, no heroes or heroines,” and “intellectually … very little” of anything else. In fact, the musical instruments consisted of little more than rubber alligators struck against crushed aluminum cans. Then after admitting that if you can define it, it’s probably not Fluxus anyway, Patterson shared a number of anecdotes about the points that he and his colleagues were trying to make. But it wasn’t long before Patterson cut to the chase, maintaining that “the best way to learn about Fluxus is to experience it.” With that said, led those assembled in the Rush Auditorium through an illustrative action poem.

Meistro 1“Think of the number 6,” he instructed. “Bark like a dog. Think of the number 6 twice. Stand. Don’t think of the number 6. Sit down. Think of the number 6. Bark again.” And for all intents and purposes, the audience did as told.

Meanwhile, stage left sat four plastic bottles filled with water reprising Yoko Ono’s Invitation to Participate in a Water Event, in which she invited people to bring containers to her 1971 exhibition, filled the vessels with water, and displayed them in the show as collaborative works of art.

Patterson then launched into a brand new Fluxus score, one he prepared especially for Fort Myers. “Cover shapely female with whipped cream. Lick. Nuts and cherries optional,” he said before disappearing behind the movie screen that dominated the center of the stage, leaving the tittering audience to indulge their imaginations about what would happen next.

Wrestling the Gator 03After several minutes, the house lights dimmed and the screen disappeared, revealing an empty black-bottomed banquet table. Patterson (undoubtedly with tongue planted firmly in cheek) pulled out a bicycle pump, attached it to a plastic alligator and began rhythmically inflating the salamander green blow-up pool toy in tune with excerpts from Tristan and Isolde by Wagner with Karajan and Jessye Norman on Deutsche Gramophone playing on the Rush Auditorium sound system. Once the shapely female (“you can tell from the fingernails”) had Wrestling the Gator 05assumed her full fecundity on the crisp white tablecloth in front of him, Patterson unceremoniously (but with some degree of theatrical flair) covered the gator with three cans of whipped cream, cherries and chopped nuts before inviting the audience on stage to dip a salsa chip into the sumptuous feast he had prepared for the occasion.

Making Sense of It All

Terry Tincher Takes in the Show 2Patterson would beam with pride at the allegation that Fluxus in the Swamp was not real art. After all, he and his fellow Fluxus artists characterized what they did as anti-art. They flatly rejected the notion that museums and art institutions should  serve as fine art’s gatekeepers, with the correlative authority, whether actual or perceived, to determine what constitutes art and who qualifies for recognition as artists. They did not just dismiss the elitist world of “high art.” They mocked it. And in keeping with the social climate of the 1960s, they sought out ways in which to bring art to the masses just as Patterson brought art to the Rush Auditorium crowd last Tuesday night.

Events, Happenings and Performance Scores Involved Simple Ideas and Objects

Taking in the ShowBeginning around 1961, Fluxus artists like Patterson, Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik began creating events, happenings and performances in the United States, Europe and Japan. The “scores” for these events, happenings and performances typically involved simple ideas (like “think of the number 6, bark, stand, don’t think of the number 6”) that could be performed by anyone at any time in any place.

As Patterson noted during the lecture portion of the evening, some scores utilized simple objects you could find anywhere. For example, George Brecht’s Water Yam (1972) used printed cards, which were packaged into plastic boxes. For Fluxus in the Swamp, Patterson used a blow up pool toy that he found in a Fort Myers Beach gift shop. Anything at all can be art. Fluxus artists pioneered the concept popularized by Warhol, Pollock and Damien Hirst that art is whatever an artist says it is.

Playfulness and Humor Key Component

Gastronomic Procession 03Playfulness and humor have always been a key component of a Fluxus score, and Patterson has a long tradition of using musical instruments and toys in his pieces. One of his most visually arresting works is Two for Violins (After One for Violin by Nam June Paik). The work is composed of two shattered violins and a wooden backing, and it balances exacting arrangement with chaotic shattering. “The work refers to Fluxus visionary Nam June Paik, whom many consider the first video artist,” writes art critic Joseph Campana inculturemap Houston. Paik’s 1962 performance One for Violin consisted of a performer smashing a violin on a podium. “Patterson pays homage while sculpting elegance from the violence of Paik’s iconoclasm.”

JEMA Fluxus in the Swamp 1During the lecture, of course, Patterson referenced the most famous (or perhaps infamous) example of humor and playfulness gone awry, namely the time when he, George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell and Emmett Williams dismantled a piano with saws, hammers and sledgehammers while performing Philip Corner’s Piano Activities at Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik in Weisbaden in 1962. (Photograph by Hartmut, right.) “We weren’t very popular in Wiesbaden,” Patterson quipped last Tuesday night, although he noted that the town went overboard in commemorating Fluxus’ 50th anniversary “with every museum and art institution doing something Fluxus related.”

Audience Participation

Gastronomic Procession 08jpgFluxus events almost always included audience participation like the Fluxus in the Swamp chips-and-whipped-cream processional. For example, in the 1970 Fluxfest presentation of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Fluxus father George Maciunas made paper masks of John and Yoko for the audience to wear in order to shift the role of the viewer from observer to performer. The use of the audience as the focus of the piece was a logical extension of his idea that, “anything can substitute for art and anyone can do it…the value of art-amusement must be lowered by making it unlimited, mass-produced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all.”

Rejection of Commodity Status and Monetization of Art

Gastronomic Procession 09jpgFluxus artists reacted against the commodity status of art, its commercialization in the gallery system, and its static presentation in traditional institutions. Nevertheless, sometimes a document or artifact from a Fluxus event became a work of art, a material presence that referred to an absent action or previous performance. For example, Alison Knowles’ Journal of the Identical Lunch (1971) documents her ritual noontime performances at a New York diner with various artists and friends, and Dick Higgins’ ongoing series, The Thousand Symphonies, consisted of musical scores he composed with bullet holes and paint on sheet music. Both now have value in the secondary art market. It remains to be seen whether Patterson’s plastic alligator becomes an artifact that takes on a value far beyond the few dollars he paid for the toy because it now relates back to and therefor represents his seminal Fluxus work, Licking Piece.

Intermedia

Gastronomic Procession 10jpgJust as Patterson performed Fluxus in the Swamp to classical music, other Fluxus performers regularly incorporated musical compositions, concrete poetry, visual art, and writing, thereby embodying Higgins’ idea of “intermedia”- a dialogue between two or more media to create a third, entirely new art form. Fluxus performances also incorporated actions and objects, artists and non-artists, art and everyday life in an attempt to find something “significant in the insignificant.” The influence of this highly experimental, spontaneous, often humorous form of performance art prevailed throughout the 1970s and is being rediscovered by a younger generation of artists working today.

Alternative View of Music and Musicality

Gastronomic Procession 11jpgBecause of his classical music training and experience, Patterson made his most significant contributions to Fluxus by offering alternative views of music and musicality. After a brief encounter with John Cage in 1960, Patterson began experimenting with new musical compositions and instruments. For example, in his iconic Paper Piece (which was barely mentioned during Fluxus in the Swamp), Patterson created a symphony of sounds produced by performers waving, shaking, ripping, wadding and crumpling newspaper and magazine pages. At Fluxus in the Swamp, by contrast, Patterson’s “spectacle of music” was an operetta in which three student volunteer performers created the accompaniment by rhythmically beating and scraping toy rubber alligators on, over and across semi-crushed aluminum cans.

Fluxus and Yoko Ono

Gastronomic Procession 13jpgDuring the Q&A, Patterson was asked by Bob Rauschenberg Director Jade Dellinger to discuss Yoko Ono’s contribution to Fluxus. Patterson recalled that Fluxus father George Maciunas often asked her to help him launch various projects. One of those was the first International Festival of New Music which debuted in 1961 at the Staatsmuseum in Wiesbaden, Germany. Widely regarded today as the first official Fluxus event, it featured an all-star cast of Fluxus luminaries including John Cage, Philip Corner, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, George Macuinas, Nam June Paik, David Tudor, Emmett Williams, among others. Patterson not only co-organized the event, he is one of its last surviving participants.

Play It By Trust 03Although Patterson did not specifically address it, Yoko’s Play It By Trust (pictured right from her recent Rauschenberg Gallery solo show Yoko Ono Imagine Peace)has deep Fluxus roots, tracing itself back to Robert Filliou’s Optimistic Box #3, which featured a fold-up chess board and identically-looking pieces distinguishable only by the sounds they made when shaken. Ono employed Play It By Trust to make a political statement, using all-white pieces to illustrate how, in politics and war, absurdity and chance replace strategy and reason thereby echoing the central Fluxus idea that art (or life) is a game in which the artist reconfigures the rules.

Wish TreeLike Patterson’s own scores, Yoko’s Play It By Trust, Wish TreeMap Piece and other works belie scores that can be carried out and performed by anyone, any time and any place – like perhaps her most famous pre-Lennon score, Breath Piece, in which she printed the word “Breathe” on the wall punctuated with a period to evoke Marcel Duchamp’s claim that he had given up art to become a “respirator” because, as he said, “each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere.”

Fluxus Died with George Maciunas …. Not

Gastronomic Procession 15jpgThe New York Times maintained on the 50th anniversary of the International Festival of New Music at the Staatsmuseum in Wiesbaden, Germany that “Fluxus arguably came to an end with the death of Maciunas in 1978. A ‘Fluxfuneral’ was held, as had been requested by Maciunas, and put together by Geoffrey Hendricks, where several Fluxus artists performed. Afterwards there was a ‘Fluxfeast and Wake,’ where, in typical Fluxus fashion, all food was black, white or purple. This was the last major Fluxus event, although smaller episodes are occasionally held, even today.”

Jade and Sean Intro 1But as Fluxus in the Swamp demonstrates, the Fluxus message is still alive and well. The influence of Fluxus resonates throughout the arts particularly with present-day incarnations of performance art, land art, and Graffiti/Street art, and those artists, like Banksy, who deliberately work outside established museum systems. And Yoko Ono Imagine Peace continues to set attendance records in each venue the show visits.

JEMA Sean MillerPatterson’s Paper Piece and Bollywood: Object of Desire are part of ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective on view now inside Bob Rauschenberg Gallery. Chronicling a decade of highly innovative art projects and often unconventional installations by invited artists, ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective will mark its final day at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (and elucidate the enigmatic/numeric exhibition title) by closing to the public on JEMA’s ELEVENth anniversary on July 25, 2014. For more information, please visithttp://www.RauschenbergGallery.com or telephone 239-489-9313.

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Bollywood, object of Ben Patterson’s desire or derision? (06-22-14)

Ben Patterson Bollywood Love 2On Tuesday, June 24, influential and affable artist Ben Patterson comes to Edison State College to discuss the origin and history of the Fluxus movement, his current work, and his ongoing involvement with Sean Miller and the John Erickson Museum of Art, which is enjoying a 10-year retrospective inside the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery now through JEMA’s 11th anniversary on July 25, 2014. The lecture and special performance begin at 6 p.m.

Saree 7Among the many exhibitions that JEMA has on display at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery is Ben Patterson’s Bollywood: Object of Desire. He created the travelling non-motion picture installation for JEMA in 2010. The works in the installation were inspired by Patterson’s long interest (since 1954, more or less)  in the music and people of India, and informed in particular by his first visit to India in 2008.Saree 9Contained within the installation are 12 sequential drawings illustrating how to put on a saree. Beneath each depiction, Patterson has included simple and straightforward instructions, beginning with “Hold inner end of the saree with your left hand. Making sure that the saree [is] at floor level, tuck the top border of the inner end into the petticoat.” and ending with “Drape on your left shoulder allowing the end piece to fall casually.”

Saree 11Bollywood is the nickname for the Indian film industry located in Bombay (now known as Mumbai, though Mollywood hasn’t quite caught on.) Fourteen million Indians go to the movies on a daily basis (about 1.4% of the population of 1 billion) and pay the equivalent of an entire day’s wages for admission. Bollywood churns out more than 800 films each year, more than double the number of feature films produced in the United States.

Ben Patterson Bollywood Love 3Most Bollywood films are formulaic. They adhere to a format called Masala (the Hindi word for a collection of spices). Movies are three to four hours long, have an intermission, and feature a mish-mash of genres such as action, comedy, and melodrama punctuated by approximately six song and dance numbers consisting of as many as a hundred or more choreographed dancers. The plots are typically Cole Porter-esque. Boy meets girl (without any kissing or sexual contact), boy loses girl, and boy gets girl back for a satisfying, happy ending – although greater attention is being paid of late to character development and dramatic tension.

Ben Patterson Paper Piece 3“I want people to forget their misery. I want to take them into a dream world where there is no poverty, where there are no beggars, where fate is kind and god is busy looking after his flock,” says Bollywood director Manmohan Desai, considered by many to be the father of the Masala film. But Masala and Bollywood also have their detractors. The industry has come under fire for its portrayal of women as objects of desire. Be it Sonam Kapoor, Deapika Padukone, Bupasha Basu or even Aishwarya Rai, women are characteristically objectified, and there is a recent YouTube video that excoriates the industry for “indecently influencing” public perception about what is right and wrong when it comes to how Indian men treat women.

Opening 02Aside perhaps from the exhibition’s title, Patterson does not give any clues about his own views regarding the role of women in Hindi society – although he did say at the time he installed the exhibition that he would learn the Hindi language within three years. But like most artists, Patterson may be content to leave the interpretation of the exhibition to those who visit JEMA to see it.

Ben Patterson is known internationally for his affiliation with Fluxus and his diverse multidisciplinary experimental work in the realms of music, sound poetry, collage, performance and installation. His works ariations for Double Bass and Paper Piece, among others, are strong contributions to the early Fluxus era as well as notable contributions to the dialogue of contemporary multidisciplinary art.

Sean Miller 01Patterson first became affiliated with the John Erickson Museum of Art in 2010. “I started with Ben Patterson several years ago after being introduced by curator Caterina Gualco,” JEMA founder and curator Sean Miller told Bob Rauschenberg Gallery Director Jade Dellinger in an interview for ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective. “She invited me to Genoa, Italy to do some projects with museums there. Ben helped with some of Fillou’s ‘Galerie Legitime’ performances. Ben has his own ‘Museum of the Subconscious’ which is also an amazing institution. Working and collaborating with Ben has been a pivotal experience for me. Discussions with Ben are always rich, full of laughs, and creative possibilities. I feel in my element with Fluxus or at least it makes sense to me.”

JEMA Sean MillerAlthough Tuesday’s lecture and performance may represent Patterson’s first trip to Southwest Florida, Patterson is otherwise well travelled. Other venues in which he has exhibited and performed include Brisbane, Australia, Argentina, Delhi, India, Prague, Czechoslovakia, Winnipeg, Canada, Tusa, Sicily and Genoa, Italy.

Ben Patterson’s lecture and performance at Edison State College begins at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24. Chronicling a decade of highly innovative art projects and often unconventional installations by invited artists, ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective will mark its final day at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (and elucidate the enigmatic/numeric exhibition title) by closing to the public on JEMA’s ELEVENth anniversary on July 25, 2014. For more information, please visithttp://www.RauschenbergGallery.com or telephone 239-489-9313.

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Patterson’s ‘Paper Piece’ is part art, part music and totally participatory performance (06-21-14)

Ben Patterson Paper Piece 3On Tuesday, June 24, influential and affable artist Ben Patterson comes to Edison State College to discuss the origin and history of the Fluxus movement, his current work, and his ongoing involvement with Sean Miller and the John Erickson Museum of Art, which is enjoying a 10-year retrospective inside the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery now through JEMA’s 11th anniversary on July 25, 2014. The lecture and special performance begin at 6 p.m.Ben Patterson Paper Piece 1

As a matter of art history, Patterson is commonly grouped with seminal Fluxus artists Dick Higgins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, George Maciunas and George Brecht. He was not only one of the original core members of Fluxus, but the movement’s sole African American member. But unlike many African American modern artists, Patterson is considered a Fluxus artist first and a black artist second.

But Patterson’s classification as a Fluxus artist is also problematic. While his work clearly conforms to many accepted Fluxus ideologies and practices, it also differs from them in important ways as well. Ben Patterson Paper Piece 4Like many other Fluxus artists, Patterson engaged in different types of work which at their core were experimental and performance-based, but he was uniquely multidisciplinary, choosing to operate in the uncharted seam or vacuum that exists between art, music and literature.

Patterson’s most famous and enduring work, Paper Piece, is an object lesson in Patterson’s overlapping, overarching multidisciplinary approach, which reflects his education as a musician at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, from which he matriculated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1956. After working as a musician with various orchestras in the United States and Canada, Patterson moved to Cologne, Germany in 1960, where he instantly became active in the radical contemporary music scene.

Opening 01At that time, composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was a leader in avant-garde music and performance. Patterson enrolled in classes with Stockhausen and began creating compositions that he would perform later on at Fluxus festivals. But it was a chance encounter John Cage that led to the creation of Paper Piece.

Opening 02“This work cut the umbilical cord to all of my previous classical and contemporary musical training and experience,” Patterson relates. “The process had begun during my first encounter with John Cage at Mary Bauermeister’s ‘contre festival’ in Cologne in May of 1960. Three months later, my reaction to the first performance of Stockhausen’s Kontakte made the completion of this process an urgent necessary.”

Opening 03Patterson debuted Paper Piece at Cologne’s Galerie Lauhus on May 14 , 1961. The “musical” performance began with two performers exiting the wings of the stage and entering the concert hall floor. Holding a long sheet of paper over the very front row, they began shredding and crumpling pieces of paper. Soon after, holes appeared in a large paper screen onstage, after which other performers threw wadded paper balls and confetti into the audience together with printed sheets of letter-sized paper that contained George Maciunas’Next Chapter 01Fluxus manifesto, which stated, ““Purge the world of bourgeois sickness, intellectual, professional and commercialized culture, PURGE the world of dead art, imitation and artificial art, abstract art, illusionistic art, PURGE THE WORLD OF EUROPEANISM…PROMOTE A REVOLUTIONARY FLOOD AND TIDE IN ART, Promote living art, anti-art, PROMOTE NON-ART REALITY to be grasped by all peoples, not only critics, dilettantes and professionals…FUSE the cadres of cultural, social & political revolutionaries into united front & action.”

Paper Piece was originally conceived by Patterson to introduce the notion that paper could serve as a musical instrument. Patterson reasoned that paper is cheap, readily available and may be “played” by anyone in a wide variety of ways, with the performance ending when the supply of paper is exhausted.

Jack Massing 1But what Patterson didn’t anticipate was the way in which Paper Piece directly involved and implicated the audience. It turned passive spectators into co-producers of the work, a result the artist never anticipated. This surprising yet welcome participatory component was integrated into subsequent performances and became a prominent aspect of the Fluxus agenda, causing Patterson himself to later quip that “[d]espite my reasonably precise instructions, beginning with the first Fluxus festival concerts in 1962, Paper Piece grew a life of its own. It literally began enveloping and involving entire audiences in a wonderfully messy happening.”

Sean Talks with Security about Escaping EmissionsPaper Piece celebrated its Golden Anniversary on June 4, 2010 as part of the larger JEMA exhibition, Museum All-Over/Museo Ovunque, directly outside and next door to the Raccolte Frugone Museum in Genoa, Italy. The exhibition was curated by Maria Flora Giubilei (Raccolte Frugone Museum), Caterina Gualco, and Sean Miller. For the event, Miller designed a special JEMA gallery with thick walls made of removable sheets of paper. Patterson Roeder and Roesprovided a small crane to assist in the renovation, along with the “Golden Paper Shredder,” a paper moon and a copy of Flash Art Magazine. To assist with this important renovation procedure, the JEMA Annex was open and present thanks to the assistance of Alessandra Gagliano Candela, who organized the student performers (Genoa JEMA Annex) from Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti. [Click here to watch an 8:31 minute video of the Genoa performance.]

The festival he is referring to, of course, was the Fluxus – Internationale Festpiele Neuester Musik (Fluxus – International Festival of the Newest Music held at the Städtischen Museum WiesbadeninAnica, Jade, John Losciutoin September of 1962, which is widely considered the first official Fluxus festival. And after that festival, Patterson participated actively in Fluxus events until the early 1970s, when he decided to retire from art-making. Fortunately for the rest of us, Patterson came out of retirement in 1988 with his exhibition,Ordinary Life, at Emily Harvey Gallery. Since then, Patterson has actively exhibited internationally and additionally continues to exhibit with Fluxus artists.

JEMA Sean MillerThe JEMA piece was performed a second time on June 9 at Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The question now is whether Paper Piece will be reprised on June 24 and, if so, what form the performance will take. Of course, “it wouldn’t be make believe if you believed in me.” Patterson’s lecture and performance on the Lee campus of Edison State College (soon to be Florida SouthWestern State College) begin at 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 24.

Chronicling a decade of highly innovative art projects and often unconventional installations by invited artists,ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective will mark its final day at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (and elucidate the enigmatic/numeric exhibition title) by closing to the public on JEMA’s ELEVENth anniversary on July 25, 2014. For more information, please visit http://www.RauschenbergGallery.com or telephone 239-489-9313.

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Ben Patterson to discuss Fluxus movement in Edison State College lecture and performance on June 24 (06-17-14)

Ben Patterson Paper Piece 3Presented in conjunction with ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective (May 9 – July 25, 2014) and represented in the exhibition at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Edison State College (soon to be Florida SouthWestern State College) by his two solo projects, Paper Piece (1960/2014) andBollywood Love: Object of Desire (2010), the influential and affable artist Ben Patterson will discuss the origin and history of the Fluxus movement, his current work, and his ongoing involvement with Sean Miller and the John Erickson Museum of Art in a special lecture and performance at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24.

Ben Patterson Paper Piece 4Patterson is a founding member of Fluxus, the international collective of artists known for infusing avant-garde practices with anarchic spirit and humor. As such, he helped revolutionize the artistic landscape at the advent of the 1960s and was on the forefront of ushering in a new and  often controversial era of experimental music and visual art. Now in his eighties and residing in Germany, Mr. Patterson has been the recent subject of a major traveling retrospective organized by the Contemporary Art Museum/Houston, and has had the distinction of having his work acquired by numerous institutions, including the permanent collections of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Ben Patterson Paper Piece 1A classically-trained musician and composer whose most significant contribution to Fluxus was exploring the connection between action and music, Ben Patterson has spent more than five decades creating compositions for both the body in action (“action as composition”) and the unconventional playing of his instrument, the contra bass, through ordinary gestures. After a brief encounter with John Cage in 1960, Patterson became a fixture in the experimental music scene in Germany, where he co-organized and performed at the first International Festival of New Music with George Maciunas at the Staatsmuseum in Wiesbaden in 1961, which was later recognized as the first official Fluxus event.

Ben Patterson Bollywood Love 3In the tradition of Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and Bob Rauschenberg, with tongue-in-cheek, often provocative humor, Ben Patterson’s work is a celebration of “ordinary life.” Employed for some years as a reference librarian, an arts administrator and as an entrepreneur with his own music management company, Patterson took a hiatus and withdrew from his career as an artist for nearly two decades. JEMA Sean MillerReemerging in the 1980’s and returning to Europe to live, Ben Patterson has spent the last twenty-five years prolifically creating visual art, scores and performing his work.

Chronicling a decade of highly innovative art projects and often unconventional installations by invited artists,ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective will mark its final day at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery (and elucidate the enigmatic/numeric exhibition title) by closing to the public on JEMA’s ELEVENth anniversary on July 25, 2014. For more information, please visit http://www.RauschenbergGallery.com or telephone 239-489-9313.

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Jack Massing JEMA gallery in a bottle bound for unknown and unknowable maritime destination (05-21-14)

JEMA Sean MillerOn view now through July 25 at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery is ELEVEN: The John Erickson Museum of Art (JEMA) 10-Year Retrospective. Most of JEMA’s galleries are housed in a series of sturdy but stylish 16″x12″x9″ aluminum carrying cases. However, there are several innovative “project spaces” that have escaped their crates. Bethany Taylor’s Emissions & Remissions is climbing the walls, heading down the hallway outside the gallery, and making a break for the exterior door. Yoko Ono Imagine Peace has spouted roots and given birth to a bonsai-like Wish Tree whose shipping tag messages bound for the Imagine Peace Tower on Videy Island in Reykjavik, Iceland’s Kollafjörður Bay. And Art Guy Jack Massing intends for his JEMA gallery to be carried by the Gulf Stream across the open seas for a destination unknown and unknowable.

DuckArtists draw inspiration from many sources. During the JEMA Retrospective’s opening on May 9, Massing confessed to being influenced by Friendly Floatees in his decision to put a JEMA gallery inside a seaworthy glass bottle.

In 1992, a shipping crate containing 28,000 plastic bath toys was lost at sea when it fell overboard on its way from Hong Kong to the United States. Jack Massing 02The bright yellow rubber ducks are still turning up on the shores of Hawaii, Alaska, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest. Several have been found frozen in Arctic ice. Still others have somehow made their way as far as Newfoundland, Scotland and even the shores of Spain. But more than a thousand have become trapped in the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex of currents that stretches between Japan, southeast Alaska, Kodiak and the Aleutian Islands that the wayward duckies actually helped identify. (The North Pacific Gyre is home to the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a massive island of floating debris, mostly plastic, that the gyre stirs like a giant cauldron of flotsam, jetsam and chemical sludge.)

JEMA in a Bottle 1Although plans have yet to be finalized, Massing and JEMA curator Sean Miller are thinking about floating JEMA in a Bottle down the Caloosahatchee on the last day of the exhibition or launching it in the waters lapping the shores of Robert Rauschenberg’s artist compound on Captiva Island. “Who knows where it will turn up,” Massing chuckles. “It could be picked up by the Gulf Stream and wash ashore in Spain or a hurricane could blow it back to Houston,” which is where Massing calls home. Or maybe, like the Friendly Floatees, JEMA in a Bottle will help elucidate the inner workings of one of the other ten gyres known to be operating today in the world’s oceans.

Jack Massing 05Massing is one-half of the Art Guys, who The New York Times once described as “a cross between Dada and David Letterman, John Cage and the Smothers Brothers.” Massing and partner Michael Galbreth are known worldwide for using humor and everyday materials as a way to demystify art in an attempt to welcome a broad range of audiences into the discourse about contemporary art. In this way their work has been compared to medieval court jesters and fools as well as noted 20th century artists like Marcel Duchamp and Dada, Fluxus artists, Andy Warhol and William Wegman among others.

JEMA in a Bottle 2Sculpture, drawing, performances, installations and video are among the many forms The Art Guys have employed, with food, drugs, pencils, baseball bats, car lot flags, toothbrushes and matches as just a small sampling of the unconventional materials they have utilized. Using an open and offbeat “direct-to-the public” methodology, they have presented their work in grocery stores, movie theaters, airports, restaurants, sports arenas and many other non-traditional venues JEMA in a Bottle 3for experiencing art while also exploiting mass media and entertainment to explore contemporary society and issues. They are perhaps most well known for their numerous staged performances, public spectacles, and “behavioral” interventions in a wide array of situations that have blurred the divisions between art and life.

By comparison, JEMA in a Bottle almost seems tame.

“We’re about taking art to people rather than having people come in to see the art,” Massing told the Rush Auditorium audience during the panel discussion that preceded the ELEVEN opening. “When art suddenly shows up unannounced, viewers have no preconceived notions or expectations and can experience the art in a freer way. It circumvents institutional close-mindedness. We’re essentially outsider artist and revel in the idea of doing something unsanctioned.”

Sean Talks with Security about Escaping EmissionsWhich is a good fit with ELEVEN curator Sean Miller, who just showed up without permission in the lobby of the Seattle Art Museum for his inaugural 2-minute JEMA opening on July 25, 2003. And of course, the philosophy underlying the location variable JEMA carrying case is that it allows Miller and his co-conspirators to take his shows to viewers rather than having to induce them to visit him.

Jack Massing and David Hatchett 2The Art Guys’ work has been included in more than 150 exhibitions in museums, galleries and public spaces throughout the United States and in other parts of the world including Europe and China. Their work has been seen in more than 40 solo exhibitions, including shows at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Tacoma Art Museum, the de Saisset Museum, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art and Seeing Double at the Tampa Museum of Art in 2007. Additionally, The Art Guys have lectured at more than 60 universities and colleges throughout the United States including Harvard, Chicago Art Institute, School of Visual Arts New York, Kansas City Art Institute, UCLA, Vanderbilt and many more.