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Billy Klüver

E.A.T. - Archive of published documents

Billy Klüver at the first meeting of EAT in November 1966.
Photo by Peter Moore © Barbara Moore/Licensed by VAGA, NY.
Experiments in Art and Technology was 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 (U.S.), brought together 40 engineers and 10 contemporary artists who worked together on performances that incorporated new technology. It became clear that achieving ongoing artist-engineer relationships would require a concerted effort to develop the necessary physical and social conditions. E.A.T. saw itself as a catalyst for stimulating the involvement of industry and technology with the arts. 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.

Artists and the art community responded enthusiastically to E.A.T. 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 all over 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 Beginning (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. Realizing that artists could contribute significantly to the evolution of this software, E.A.T. generated a series of projects in which artists participated in these areas of technological development. E.A.T. undertook interdisciplinary projects that extended the artists' activities into new areas of society.

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 archive material reflects the great geographic, technical and artistic diversity of E.A.T.'s activities. Furthermore, the collection uniquely documents 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.

Billy Klüver © 2000 FDL