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The 50th Anniversary of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering and Experiments in Art and Technology, Incorporated (E.A.T.)

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Guest post by Jennifer Eberhardt, Special Collections, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the performance series 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, held at New York’s 69th Regiment Armory from October 13-23, 1966. A central landmark in the history of experimental dance, music, and the use of technology in the arts, 9 Evenings was organized by Bell Laboratories’ engineer Billy Klüver and artist Robert Rauschenberg. Pairing 10 artists and performers with over 30 technical engineers from Bell Labs, 9 Evenings aimed to present new collaborative works that pushed the boundaries of technological innovation and performance. Preparation between artists and performers began in late 1965 and the eventual works presented over the course of 9 Evenings included applications of doppler radar (choreographer Lucinda Childs), infrared cameras (Rauschenberg), bioelectrodes (choreographer Alex Hay), inflated polyethylene environments (choreographer Steve Paxton), and an integrated multichannel sound, light, and projection system (composer David Tudor), among other cutting-edge technologies. Total attendance for the series exceeded 13,000. The final program included:

  • Physical Things, Steve Paxton (October 13 & 19, 1966)
  • Grass Field, Alex Hay (October 13 & 22, 1966)
  • Solo, Deborah Hay (October 13 & 23, 1966)
  • Open Score, Robert Rauschenberg (October 14 & 23, 1966)
  • Bandoneon! (a combine), David Tudor (October 14 & 18, 1966)
  • Carriage Discreteness, Yvonne Rainer (October 15 & 21, 1966)
  • Variations VII, John Cage (October 15 & 16, 1966)
  • Vehicle, Lucinda Childs (October 16 & 23, 1966)
  • Two Holes of Water - 3, Robert Whitman (October 18 & 19, 1966)
  • Kisses Sweeter than Wine, Öyvind Fahlström (October 21 & 22, 1966)

In 1966-67, along with fellow 9 Evenings participants Robert Whitman (artist) and Fred Waldhauer (engineer), Klüver and Rauschenberg formally founded the non-profit organization Experiments in Art and Technology, Incorporated (E.A.T.). Advocating that creative collaboration between the arts and technology benefitted both in ways unachievable through their individual development, E.A.T.’s mission was to encourage progressive artist-engineer partnerships along the lines of 9 Evenings. E.A.T. solicited membership applications and project proposals from performers, engineers, and artists, sponsoring project competitions, a lecture-demonstration series, and a matching service for arts practitioners seeking like-minded technicians. In New York, the work of E.A.T.-member artists and engineers was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (1968) and the Brooklyn Museum (1969), and, by the late 1960s, E.A.T. had established over two dozen regional chapters with 4,000 individual members.

Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.)

In observance of their 50th anniversaries, a current case exhibit on the third floor of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts highlights materials related to 9 Evenings and E.A.T. drawn from the collections of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division and the Music Division’s American Music Collection. The exhibit includes photographs and an original program documenting 9 Evenings performances, newsletters and other early publications describing the organizational objectives and technological aesthetic of E.A.T., composer John Cage’s handwritten sketches and notes for Variations VII, first performed at 9 Evenings (as well as a payment receipt from E.A.T. to choreographer Merce Cunningham—in the amount of $6.40—for his contributions to the work), and correspondence, photographs, and ephemera related to two later E.A.T. projects, the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion at the 1970 World’s Fair Exposition in Osaka, Japan, and the 1971 New York arts benefit and auction ARTCA$H.

E.A.T. case exhibit, October 2016, Jerome Robbins Dance Division and Music Division

At the conclusion of the case exhibition, researchers interested in the history and impact of 9 Evenings and E.A.T. may locate relevant materials in the Jerome Robbins Papers (*MGZMD 130, Box 505, Folder 16), the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, Inc. records, Additions (*MGZMD 351, Box 22, Folder 2), the John Cage Music Manuscript Collection (JPB 95-3, Folders 340-342), and the Dance Division’s general program (*MGZB), photograph (*MGZEA), and clippings (*MGZR) collections, or by contacting dance@nypl.org or music@nypl.org.

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