Experiments in Art and Technology, Incorporated (E.A.T.)
Not-for-profit organization, founded 1966.
In late 1965, the artist Robert Rauschenberg and the engineer Billy Klüver organized a project for 10 artists – John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor, and Robert Whitman – to collaborate with a group of 30 engineers and scientists from Bell Telephone Laboratories to develop performances that incorporated the new technology.
9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering took place at the 69th Regiment Armory at 25th Street and Lexington Avenue in New York City from 13 to 23 October 1966, with more than 10,000 people attending the performances. The energy and excitement generated by the collaborations and the performances led Rauschenberg and Klüver, the artist Robert Whitman, and the engineer Fred Waldhauer, in September 1966, to found Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), a not-for-profit organization to promote collaborations between artists and engineers like the ones that had developed during their work on 9 Evenings. The founders held that E.A.T. was not solely organized to benefit artists but also could influence the way engineers approached the technical problems they faced day to day – and thus lead technology in directions more conducive to the needs, desires, and pleasures of the individual.
There was an immediate response to E.A.T. from artists and the art community. Expressions of interest and requests for technical assistance came from all over the United States and from abroad: artists and engineers in cities far from New York were encouraged to start E.A.T. local groups, and about 15 to 20 were formed. Due to the early activities of the organisation aimed at attracting engineers, by 1969 there were over 2,000 artist members and 2,000 engineer members willing to work with artists. E.A.T.’s activities took two principal forms: the Technical Services Program and E.A.T. Projects, which the organisation initiated and administered.
The 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 on the artist’s specific project. The Technical Services Program was open to all artists, and no judgement was made about the aesthetic value of the artist’s project or idea. An effort was made to match every artist with an engineer or scientist who could help her/him.
Among the large-scale projects initiated by E.A.T. are the first international art and technology exhibition, Some More Beginnings at the Brooklyn Museum (1968–1969), and the design and programming of the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70, in Osaka, Japan (1969–1970).
During the 1970s the emergence of new hardware and software systems were of great interest to artists; and E.A.T. realized that artists could make a significant contribution to the evolution of these technologies and their implementation in society. So E.A.T. began to generate a series of interdisciplinary projects that extended the artists’ activities into new areas of society, which were called Projects Outside Art. They included ‘Children and Communication’ (1971); ‘City Agriculture’ (1971); ‘American Artists in India’ (1970–1971); ‘Telex: Q&A’ (1971); and numerous projects with artists and television in the United States and abroad, of which the Anand Project (1969) in India to develop instructional material for satellite television broadcasts is a prominent example.
The most active years of the organization were 1966 to 1974, although Klüver and other engineers continued to work with artists on individual projects, and archival and documentation projects continue today.
E.A.T. legitimized artists’ use of new materials and technologies by focusing on the one-to-one collaboration between individuals. The idea of the artist-and-engineer collaboration has become commonplace. Today the artist does not meet with the same resistance or lack of understanding when incorporating technology in art. And a measure of E.A.T.’s success is that most artists now are able to obtain access to industry and find suitable engineering support on their own. As predicted in some of the early ideas of Klüver and Rauschenberg, other groups and institutions have taken up the collaborations between artists and engineers and scientists. In particular, art schools and universities are establishing programs to encourage collaborations across disciplines, and some schools offer art-and-technology courses.
- 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering. Experiments in Art and Technology, performance program, Experiments in Art and Technology, New York, 1966 (with foreword by Klüver, Billy, statements by artists).
- Klüver, Billy/Whitman, Simone: ‘Theater and Engineering’, in Artforum, vol 5, no. 6, February 1967.
- Some More Beginnings: Experiments in Art and Technology, exhibition catalogue, Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1968 (foreword by Klüver, Billy).
- Hulten, Pontus: The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968.
- Tomkins, Calvin: ‘Onward and Upward With the Arts’, in The New Yorker, 3 October 1970.
- Klüver, J. W.: ‘Photographic Recording of Some Optical Effects in a 27.5 m. Spherical Mirror’, in Applied Optics, vol 10, no. 2, December 1971.
- Klüver, Billy/Martin, Julie/Rose, Barbara (eds.): Pavilion, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1972.
- New York Collection for Stockholm, exhibition catalogue, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, 1973 (forewords by Hulten, Pontus, Antonio, Emile de, and Klüver, Billy; cover by Whitman, Robert).
- Klüver, Billy: E.A.T. Bibliography 1965–1980, Experiments in Art and Technology, New York, 1980.
- Schultz-Lundestam, Barbro (ed.)/Martin, Julie (ed.): Teknologi för livet: Om Experiments in Art and Technology, Schultz Förlag, Paris, 2004.
- Morris, Catherine (ed.): 9 Evenings Reconsidered: Art, Theater, and Engineering, 1966, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (MA), 2006.
- Breitwieser, Sabine (ed.): E.A.T.: Experiments in Arts and Technology, exhibition catalogue, Verlag de Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne, 2015.
- Experiments in Art and Technology Records 1966–1993, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 940003.