Well, to begin with, perhaps the fact that the reviews of the 9 Evenings
were so negative, nobody (art critics and historians alike) realized that
something important was happening at the time, outside the realms of
«modernistic» art history chronicles, since some of the performances might
have looked pretty messy for lack of mastery on the technology ( mainly due
to a lack of time and communication) all through their two week run.
Another factor could be that in 1966 we were at the beginning of the era of
the «dematarialization of the art object», hence all this technological and
very apparent apparatus was far from dematerialized and not akin to that
train of thought! Thus the audience, at the 9 Evenings focussed mainly on
the «messy technologies» and not on the experimental part of the «process».
The technologies, eventhough cumbersome, were a tool and not an end in
itself. Furthermore, to Robert Rauschenberg and Oyvind Fählström, the
technological tools they used in their respective performances were far from
neutral. Both artists used technologies that had been developped by the
military industry, such as infrared lights and cameras(R.R.) and laser beams
(O.F.), in part to make the point that these could be utilized toward a
peaceful/cum artistic purpose...In the midst of the Vietnam War. Well it
may not have passed too well either.
Yet a supplementary factor, for this occultation, was that Billy Klüver
didn't wish to convey any explanations to anybody, whether it was the
audience, the critics, the layperson or even the engineers who were working
with the artists on the performances, on what he was trying to do in
matching art with technologies (he also called this match: art & industry,
another trope that probably didn't pass too well at the time). For Klüver
this should have been «self-explanatory» period. Doesn't that remind us of
something? In fact, eventhough Klüver's intentions might have been noble and
«revolutionary» as he qualified them, he was still living through the
paradigmatic lens of modernity. So this lack of communication between
artists and engineers created many a tension as each group spoke a different
language and evolved in a completely different and separated conceptual mind
frame. However, it is important to underline that several engineers such as
Fred Waldhauer, Per Biorn, Herb Schneider and a few others, were entirely
dedicated toward the successful realization of this endeavour and became
mediators, so to speak between the engineers and the artists.
Also, (for now) let's not forget that artists such as Vito Acconci, Hans
Haacke, to name a few sollicited the services offerred by EAT, at a later
time. Moreover, the Art and Technology Program, on the West Coast, initiated
by Maurice Tuchman at the Los Angeles County Museum, and begun in 1967, one
year after the 9 evenings, included artists such as John Baldessari, Iain
Baxter, Les Levine, Robert Irwin, etc., who went to work «in residence» in
various industries such as The Rand Corporation, International Chemical and
Nuclear Corporation, etc. Strangely enough, though, not much of that is
reported in Lucy Lippard's «Six years». Other than the very touchy subject
of collaborations between artists and industry, my theory is that a
hierarchy started to install itself slowly, which put conceptual art at a
higher level than art that was using the technologies in an open fashion.
Finally, I think the misunderstandings stemmed from a certain technophobia
that prevailed at the time in certain circles, eventhough men were being
sent to the moon, and also from the social context, where men were being
sent to Vietnam.
----- Original Message -----
To: "YASMIN DISCUSSIONS" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Sunday, March 01, 2009 5:41 PM
Subject: Re: [Yasmin_discussions] Artists as Inventors: "9 Evenings: Theatre
and Engineering" and Experiments in Art and Technology
> Thanks, Sylvie.
> I am excited to learn that you plan to share some recent inventions by
> Canadian artists and their collaborators. It is reassuring that their
> work will have a better chance of not falling into the historical gap
> with your keeping an eye on them.
> With so many well-known people involved in "9 Evenings: Theatre and
> Engineering" and Experiments in Art and Technology, it is hard to
> believe that the work and group has not become a more common thread in
> narratives about the period.
> Would you be kind enough to describe some of the primary factors that
> you have discovered that have influenced their not being being
> properly documented and how this might relate to certain potentially
> transgressive practices, such as artists as inventors?
> Also, what is a fact or two that has been commonly misunderstood and
> repeated about "9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering" and Experiments
> in Art and Technology? Documenting them in this online discussion
> could go a long way in correcting them.
> On 3/1/09, Sylvie Lacerte <email@example.com> wrote:
>> Hello all,
>> Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to Robert Thill for having
>> invited me as a discussant for this month's theme Artists as Inventors.
>> is a great honor for me to to know I will be sharing ideas with Yasminers
>> for this upcoming March discussion, which promises to be of great
>> As one, of now, few historiographers of the seminal series of
>> «9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering», (New York, 1966), which eventually
>> led to the creation of EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology) under the
>> tutelage of Billy Klüver, Robert Rauschenberg, Fred Waldhauer and Robert
>> Whitman, I've had the privilege to meet with Billy Klüver and Julie
>> on a few occasions and spend some fascinating moments with them, while
>> my research.
>> One of the upshots of this encounter was my essay «9 Evenings and
>> Experiments in Art and Technology: A Gap to Fill in Art History's recent
>> Chronicles», included in the anthology «Artists as Inventors/Inventors as
>> Artists» (2008), under the direction of Dieter Daniels and Barbara U.
>> In this paper I delved mainly into the relationships between artists and
>> engineers that Billy Klüver had instigated in order to produce this
>> extraordinary series of performances that put forth the work of ten
>> among whom R. Rauschenberg, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, etc.
>> Their performances could not have been possible had it not been for the
>> «inventions» the 30 engineers' team devised to make this series of
>> performances a reality. However lest it be said, that if it is true
>> of the 60's were not, as a general rule, as technologically savvy as
>> are nowadays, these inventions had been nontheless triggered by the
>> ideas, concepts and projects. Important to add that engineer Herb
>> drew up some diagrams, for each performance, as mediating tools, so
>> would understand and speak the same language, in order to reach the same
>> goal: the performance
>> If we cannot deny this marriage was difficult at times, and created
>> «results» that were often mitigated, leading in turn to several vitriolic
>> reviews by art critics and reporters after the event, we can say, in
>> hindsight, that this endeavor was unarguably outstanding for that period
>> time, as it defied the Kantian/Greenbergian paradigm of the genius artist
>> standing alone before the universe, through inventions that were not the
>> work of a sole group or of a singular person but the result of a
>> collaboration,however laborious the relationships may have been between
>> artists and engineers.
>> Lastly, I would like to add, that, beyond EAT's realm, I might want to
>> forth, during the next four weeks, some of the inventions devised, in the
>> last few years, by a few canadian artists and their collaborators.
>> Sylvie Lacerte
>> Yasmin_discussions mailing list
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> Yasmin_discussions mailing list
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Yasmin_discussions mailing list
Yasmin URL: http://www.media.uoa.gr/yasmin
HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: click on the link to the list you wish to subscribe to. In the page that will appear ("info page"), enter e-mail address, name, and password in the fields found further down the page.
HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE: on the info page, scroll all the way down and enter your e-mail address in the last field. Enter password if asked. Click on the unsubscribe button on the page that will appear ("options page").
HOW TO ENABLE / DISABLE DIGEST MODE: in the options page, find the "Set Digest Mode" option and set it to either on or off.