Experiments in Art and Technology

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Founded in 1966 by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. The non-profit organization developed from the experience of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering. This event, which was held in October 1966 at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City, brought together 40 engineers and 10 contemporary artists who worked together on performances that incorporated new technology.

The organization worked to forge effective collaborations between artists and engineers through industrial cooperation and sponsorship. Membership was opened to all artists and engineers, and an office set up in a loft at 9 East 16th Street in New York. By 1969, given early efforts to attract engineers, the group had over 2,000 artist members as well as 2,000 engineer members willing to work with artists. Expressions of interest and requests for technical assistance came from the United States and Canada and from Europe, Japan, South America and elsewhere. People were encouraged to start local E.A.T. groups and about 15 to 20 were formed.

An ongoing Technical Services Program provided artists with access to new technology by matching them with engineers or scientists for a one-to-one collaboration on the artists' specific projects. A part of this effort was to acquaint the technical and business communities with the artists' needs. E.A.T. was not committed to any one technology or type of equipment such as computers or holography. The organization tried to have the artist work directly with engineers in the industrial environment where the technology was being developed. Technical Services were open to all artists with no judgment made about the aesthetic value of an artist's project or idea. In addition, efforts were taken to team up every artist with a suitable engineer or scientist.

E.A.T. also initiated interdisciplinary events and projects involving artists and new technology. These projects included: 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering (1966); Some More Beginnings (1968), the first international exhibition of art and technology, which was held at the Brooklyn Museum; and artist-engineer collaborations to design and program the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka (Japan).

In the seventies, emerging hardware technologies used in communications, data processing, and control and command instrumentation led to a new generation of software systems that were of great interest to artists. E.A.T. generated a series of projects in which artists participated in these areas of technological development.

Projects realized at this time included: The Anand Project (1969), which developed methods to produce instructional programming for India's educational television through a pilot project at Anand Dairy Cooperative in Baroda (India); Telex: Q&A (1971), which linked public spaces in New York (U.S.), Ahmadabad (India), Tokyo (Japan) and Stockholm (Sweden) by telex, allowing people from different countries to question one another about the future; Children and Communication (1972), a pilot project enabling children in different parts of New York City to converse using telephone, telex and fax equipment; a pilot program (1973) to devise methods for recording indigenous culture in El Salvador; and finally a large-screen outdoor television display system (1976-1977) for the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

In 1980, to detail its activities and projects, E.A.T. put together an archive of more than 300 of its own documents: reports, catalogues, newsletters, information bulletins, proposals, lectures, announcements, and reprints of major articles. A selection of newspaper and magazine articles by others has also been included. Complete sets of this archive were distributed to major libraries in New York (U.S.), Washington (U.S.), Paris (France), Stockholm (Sweden), Moscow (Russia), Ahmadabad (India) and London (England).

The Story of E.A.T.

In 2001 Billy Klüver produced an exhibition of photo and text panels entitled "The Story of E.A.T.: Experiments in Art and Technology, 1960 - 2001 by Billy Klüver." It was first shown in Rome in Summer 2001, then at Sonnabend Gallery in January 2002. The exhibition went to Lafayette College in the spring 2002, then to the Evolution Festival in Leeds, England, and University of Washington, in Seattle. In 2003 it traveled to San Diego State University in San Diego, California and then to a gallery in Santa Maria, California, run by Ardison Phillips who was the artist who managed the Pepsi Pavilion in 1970. From April to June 2003 a Japanese version was shown at a large exhibition at the NTT Intercommunication Center (ICC) in Tokyo which also included a number of object/artifacts and documents and E.A.T. posters, as well as works of art that Klüver and E.A.T. were involved in. A similar showing took place in Norrköping Museum of Art, Norrköping, Sweden in September 2004.

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