"9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering" was held
October 13-23, 1966 at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. Artists included
John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay,
Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor and Robert Whitman.
The artists worked with engineers and scientists from Bell Telephone Laboratories
to develop innovative technical equipment that enabled these performances. The ten artists and their "9 Evenings" works
> Steve Paxton:Physical Things.
A polyethylene air-inflated structure occupied most of the Armory floor. The
audience could walk through the structure freely, encountering projections,
sounds and performers. Outside the structure, wire loops suspended above the
audience generated sounds of music, screaming jungle birds and a discourse on
fishing the audience heard through small pick-up devices.
Field. Hay wore a backpack of specially designed differential amplifiers
and FM transmitters, which picked up brain waves, muscle activity, and eye movement
from electrodes placed on Hay's head and body. These sounds were broadcast to
the audience as Hay carefully laid out 64 numbered pieces of cloth. Then he
sat facing the audience, with his face being projected on a large screen behind
him, while two performers systematically picked up the pieces of cloth.
A tightly choreographed performance utilized dancers and carts. Eight formally
dressed, seated players controlled the movement of the carts. The dancers entered,
either walking or riding on a cart, and then walked or rode on the vehicles
in solo, duet or trio formations, filling the large Armory floor with changing
patterns of movement, light and sound.
Film still fromOpen Score
Score. The first movement was a tennis match between the artist Frank
Stella and a tennis professional. A specially built FM radio transmitter fit
in the handle of each racquet. Each time the ball hit the strings of the racquet,
a contact microphone picked up the "BONG," which was amplified through
12 speakers around the Armory. One stage light went out with each "BONG."
When the area was completely dark, a crowd of 300 people entered. Infra red
television cameras picked up the group's movements and projected these images
to three large screens seen by the audience.
Discreteness. On the floor were spread out cubes, planks, sheets and
beams of different materials: masonite, wood, styrofoam, rubber, and so on.
Seated in a high balcony, Rainer transmitted instructions to the performers
to carry objects from one place to another. Accompanying these movements were
pre-programmed on ACTAN drum switches, which included film and slide projections,
a super ball and pieces of foam rubber dropped from the ceiling, and a collapsing
Thirty photocells were mounted at ankle level around the performance area. The
cells activated a variety of sound sources as the performers moved. These sounds
came from contact microphones placed on a blender, juicer, fan, and toaster,
20 radio channels, and two Geiger counters. In addition Cage had ten open phone
lines to sites in New York City like Luchows restaurant, the Aviary, and the
14th Street Con Edison electric power station.
A 70kHzDoppler sonar system, especially designed for this piece, was activated
by three red fireman's buckets Childs took from a performer in a Ground Effects
Machine and hung from scaffolding. As she swung the buckets around inside the
ultra-sonic sound beams, the reflected signals from the buckets mixed with the
original 70 kHz signal, and the resulting beat frequency fell in the audible
range. These sounds were transmitted to the twelve speakers around the Armory.
Holes of Water – 3. Seven cars, carrying film and television projectors,
drove out onto the Armory floor and parked facing the back wall covered with
white paper. On the balcony, television cameras shot performances: two girls
moving slowly in front of a curved mirror, a girl typing. A small fiber optic
camera showed the inside of a coat pocket. Whitman fed images of these live
performances and off-air television images to television projectors in the cars.
He also cued the drivers to turn on the films of nature subjects and other films
he had made.
Bandoneon! As Tudor played the bandoneon, ten contact microphones picked
up the sound and distributed it to four processing devices. The output of a
forty- channel filter was fed to 12 speakers, and controlled the spotlights
on the balcony. An audio processing and modifying circuit fed four transducers
attached to wood and metal structures and horn speakers on the Armory floor.
Another device controlled images on three television projectors.
Film still from Kisses
Sweeter than Wine
Kisses Sweeter than Wine. Kisses was a complex theater performance incorporating
live actors, elaborate props, slides, film and television projection. Characters
and images included Jedadiah Buxton, an idiot savant who could multiply large
numbers in his head, played by Robert Rauschenberg; Space Girl, dressed in silver,
who descended in a winch hoist from the ceiling; a girl in a plastic swimming
pool of Jello, and a remote-controlled mylar inflated missile circling the Armory.
After "9 Evenings" > Experiments in Art and
Official mandates for E.A.T. organizations founded in 1967 in the aftermath
of "9 Evenings" included:
Maintain a constructive climate for the recognition of the new technology and
the arts by a civilized collaboration between groups unrealistically developing
Eliminate the separation of the individual from Technological change and expand
and enrich technology to give the individual variety, pleasure and avenues for
exploration and involvement in contemporary life.
Encourage industrial initiative in generating original forethought, instead
of a compromise in aftermath, and precipitate a mutual agreement in order to
avoid the waste of a cultural revolution.
Immediately after E.A.T. was founded, expressions of interest and requests for
technical assistance came from all over the United States and from abroad: Europe,
Japan, South America. Artists were encouraged to start E.A.T. local groups and
about 25 were established. In 1968 a conference for these local groups was held
at E.A.T. headquarters in Manhattan.
E.A.T.'s activities took two principal forms: a technical services program and
projects the organization initiated and administered. The ongoing technical
services program provided artists with access to new technology for their work
by matching them with engineers or scientists for a one-to-one collaboration.
A major objective of this effort was to acquaint the technical and business
communities with the needs of artists.
E.A.T. was not committed to any one technology or type of equipment and never
established a laboratory or workshop. Artists were encouraged to work directly
with engineers in the industrial environment where the technology was being
created. The Technical Services were open to all artists and no judgment was
made about the esthetic value of the artist's project or idea. An effort was
made to match each artist with an engineer or scientist who could assist her/him.
The range of artists' interests was enormous. The geographic, technical, and
artistic diversity of these contacts with E.A.T. document a vital and important
moment in the history of post-war art, as well as artists’ continuing
involvement with new technology in the 20th century.
E.A.T. initiated and organized a variety of events and exhibitions, among them
"Some More Beginnings" at the Brooklyn Museum (1968-1969); Pepsi-Cola
Pavilion at Expo '70, Osaka Japan (1969-1970) and The New York Collection for
During the 1970s the emergence of new hardware in communications, data processing,
and command-and-control instrumentation led to new generations of software systems,
which were of great interest to artists. E.A.T. realized that artists could
make a significant contribution to the evolution of these software systems and
generated a series of projects in which artists participated in technological
development. E.A.T. undertook interdisciplinary initiatives that extended the
artists' activities into a variety of social settings: Projects Outside Art
(1969-1971); American Artists in India (1970-1971); Telex: Q&A (1971); Children
and Communication (1971); City Agriculture (1971) and numerous projects involving
artists and television in this country and abroad, of which the Anand Project
in India (1969) is a prominent example.