Benjamin (Ben) Patterson (1934, Pittsburgh – 2016, Wiesbaden) is one of the founders of the Fluxus movement. He attended the University of Michigan from 1952 to 1956, where he studied the contrabass, Composition, and Film Direction.
From 1956 to 1960, he worked as a double bassist with several orchestras in Canada. He soon enlisted in the US Army, serving for two years in the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra, based in Stuttgart.
Patterson moved to Cologne in 1960. There he met John Cage, who profoundly shaped his thinking around indeterminacy and chance operations, which led him to marry his experimentations in classical music improvisation with actions tied to musical composition.
Patterson created instruction-based works, "compositions for actions", akin to numerous Fluxus artists. These types of works allowed for direct engagement with participants or the audience, often through unexpected or humorous actions.
His earliest composition is Paper Piece (1960), a set of instructions that includes the number of participants, materials to be used, and actions to be taken, such as crumpling, twisting, and rubbing together paper. Some of his other notable works include Lemons (1961), Pond (1962), and Variations for Double-bass (1962). The latter one asked from a solo performer to "agitate strings" of the instrument with a comb and corrugated cardboard, and balance it upside-down on its scroll while rubbing a rubber object against its strings.
As one of the founding member of Fluxus, he participated and helped organise the first Fluxus Festival in Wiesbaden (1962). There, he participated, alongside George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Wolf Vostell, and Emmett Williams in performing Philip Corner's Piano Activities. Patterson's interview with Emmett Williams for the opening of this festival in the Stars and Stripes magazine became the first article ever about Fluxus.
In 1963 Patterson moved to New York, where he participated in Fluxus manifestations until the late 1960s, as one of the most prominent artists in the movement. In the 1970s he ceased making artwork and held several positions in culture administration and teaching in New York City. He returned to art in 1987 by creating assemblages out of found objects, doing performances, and staging participatory artworks.