Sunday, March 1, 2009

[Yasmin_discussions] Artists as Inventors

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. It 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 interest.
As one, of now, few historiographers of the seminal series of performances «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 Martin on a few occasions and spend some fascinating moments with them, while doing 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. Schmidt.
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 artists, 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 artsits of the 60's were not, as a general rule, as technologically savvy as artists are nowadays, these inventions had been nontheless triggered by the artists' ideas, concepts and projects. Important to add that engineer Herb Schneider drew up some diagrams, for each performance, as mediating tools, so everyone 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 in 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 bring 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
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