This episode features Benjamin Patterson’s work Hooked (1980) from the collection of Getty Research Institute, acquired in 1985 as a part of Jean Brown Archive. Formally, Hooked is a fishing tackle box that contains several found, similarly unrelated objects adorned with either hooks or lures. One of the items included inside the box was a can of sardines. Our guest, conservator Albrecht Gumlich shares with us a story of how Hooked performed independently and beyond the control of its long-gone creator, disrupting the habitual functioning of an archival reading room. It is also a story about the challenges of the conservation of organic matter and the often difficult decisions that need to be made to keep Fluxus alive.
Albrecht Gumlich is a conservator specialized in object conservation. Originally trained as a cabinet maker, he studied the conservation of technical heritage at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Berlin. After his studies, he worked for 14 years as an object conservator at the Getty Research Institute. In 2012, he moved to Switzerland to join the conservation team of Museum Tinguely in Basel. Between 2017 and 2020 he was part of the conservation team at M+ Museum in Hong Kong. Currently, Gumlich lives and works in Singapore, from where he joined us to record our conversation.
Benjamin Patterson was a crucial figure in Fluxus’s founding, although he is rarely recognized in the same light as other American artists of the movement […]. Perhaps his 20-year “retirement” from art in 1963—after creating work and collaborating with artists and musicians in Europe for just three short years—might account for part of his lack of recognition as a Fluxus character. Or perhaps it was his “radical” status as the sole African American artist and musician in the movement that excluded him from the annals of art history, pointing to the problematic way in which history is recorded. Despite his position, Patterson was a determined individual with a voracious appetite for learning and found joy and inspiration in discovery; he embodied and lived in the spirit of Fluxus. He considered the central function of the artist to be “a duality of discoverer and educator.”Jeffereis, M (2016). A Radical Presence: Remembering Benjamin Patterson (1934–2016), Sightlines. Walker Art Center. Accessed at: https://walkerart.org/magazine/rip-benjamin-patterson-fluxus.
- Getty Research Institute. (2021). Fluxus Boxes: Hooked by Benjamin Patterson. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOUpkzQS-i0
- Harren, N. (2022). The Eternal Metabolic Network: Fluxus, Food, and Ecofeminism. In Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art (pp. 55–63). Getty Conservation Institute.
- Hood, A. (2021, September). Unboxing Benjamin Patterson’s Hooked. Getty / News & Stories. https://www.getty.edu/news/video-explore-benjamin-pattersons-hooked/
- Patlan, L. (2010). Career Profile : Albrecht Gumlich, Objects Conservator. https://blogs.getty.edu/iris/career-profile-albrecht-gumlich-objects-conservator/
- Reed, M. (2022). Killing with Kindness? The Challenges of Conservation and Access for Living Matter. In R. Rivenc & K. Roth (Eds.), Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art (pp. 114–125). Getty Conservation Institute.
Featured photo: Ben Patterson, Hooked, ca. 1980. Source: Reed, Marcia. 2020. Fluxus Means Change: Jean Brown’s Avant-Garde Archive. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, p. 124.