Experiments in Art & Technology (E.A.T.) was founded in 1966 by engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer, and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman to provide artists with access to new technology. E.A.T. matched artists with engineers or scientists for one-to-one collaborations on the artist’s specific project.
E.A.T. initiated large-scale projects such as 9 Evenings:Theatre & Engineering, a series of performances which took place at the 69th Regiment Armory in 1966 incorporating new technology. The 9 Evenings featured performances by John Cage,Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor, and Robert Whitman.
In 1968 E.A.T. organized its first international art and technology exhibition Some More Beginnings at the Brooklyn Museum. One of E.A.T.’s
most celebrated projects was the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo’70 in Osaka Japan, a spectacular synergy of the creative inputs of more than 63 artists, engineers and performers. Since the early 1970s E.A.T. also undertook interdisciplinary Projects Outside Art that extended artists’ activities into new areas of society, including Telex: Q&A, Children and Communication, City Agriculture and the Anand Project in India to develop instructional software for satellite television in rural villages. In 2013 BROADWAY 1602 presented at the Independent Art Fair the 1971 E.A.T. project ARTCASH, a creative fund raising event for the E.A.T. project Artistsa nd Television. Billy Klüver asked Andy Warhol,Robert Whitman, Robert Rauschenberg, Tom Gormley, Red Grooms and Marisol to make their versions of paper bills that that people could purchase and then use to gamble with at the event.
In collaboration with Julie Martin BROADWAY 1602 will stage in January 2014 the first gallery focus exhibition on projects by E.A.T. with related works and archival exhibits including a site-specific sound installation by David Tudor. In the same year a retrospective exhibition on the E.A.T. history is planned at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg.
Computer Nude, 1966
History of the Computer Nude
Bell Laboratories, New Jersey, was one of the two leading centers for computer science and art activities. The non-profit organization Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) had been founded in 1966 by the Bell Labs electronic engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer, and the artists Robert Rauschenschberg and Robert Whitman.
“Bell Labs was heavily involved in the emerging art and technology scene, in particular it contributed to a series of performances entitled ‘9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering’ organized by E.A.T. in 1966.
One of the most famous works to come out of Bell Labs was Leon Harmon and Ken Knowlton’s Studies in Perception, 1967, also known as Nude.” (from V&A, London, History of Computer Art, online)
In the early 1960s digital computers became available to artists for the first time (although extremely costly and cumbersome, and programs and data had to be prepared with the keypunch, punch cards then fed into the computer; systems were not interactive and could produce only still images). The output medium was usually a pen plotter, microfilm plotter, line printer or an alphanumeric printout, which was then manually transferred into a visual medium.
In 1963, computer scientist Ken Knowlton developed at Bell Labs the BEFLIX (Bell Flicks) programming language for bitmap computer-produced movies, created using an IBM 7094 computer and a Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder.
In 1966, Knowlton and Harmon were experimenting with photomosaic, creating large prints from collections of small symbols or images. The reclining nude was based on a photograph of dancer and choreographer Deborah Hay. Hay worked at the time with Merce Cunningham and the Judson Dance Theater. The Nude represented the first experiment to scan a photograph into a computer and reconstitute it with a gray scale, using 12 discreet levels of gray, produced by mathematical and electronic symbols. The scanning process established a certain level of gray in a certain area of the photo and replaced it with one of the symbols. This process was used to try to establish the minimum amount of information the human eye needed to resolve an image. From the microfilm a 12 feet photograph was printed.
The image found fame when it featured in a press conference in Robert Rauschenberg’s loft announcing E.A.T.’s “working alliance” between industry labor/technology and the art community. The New York Times featured the press conference on 11 October,1967: “Art and Science Proclaim Alliance in Avant-Garde Loft”, by Henry R. Lieberman. As the stories went on, the “Computer Nude” was to become also the first frontal nude allowed to be published in the New York Times.
In the same year Billy Klüver (E.A.T.) collaborated with Knowlton and Harmon to publish a number of black and green silk screen prints of the “Computer Nude” (formatted at 4 and 6 feet wide).
The Nude was further exhibited at one of the earliest computer art exhibitions, Pontus Hulten’s legendary show The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1968/69. The original 12 foot Computer Nude was donated soon after its creation into the Public Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
9 Evenings and Pepsi Pavilion
In December 1971, the foundation Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) held an ARTCASH gambling night benefit party at Automation House to raise money for E.A.T.’s project “Artists and Television” and for and the Community Television Center at Automation House. This was a project to show video tapes by contemporary artists on the newly opened cable television channels in New York City and to produce video at the Community Television Center at Automation House, where E.A.T. had its offices.
Billy Klüver, President of E.A.T. asked artist friends to make bills that people could purchase and then use to gamble with at the event. The bills, which were called ARTCASH, were made in non-traditional denominations and the artists were:
$1 Andy Warhol
$3 Robert Whitman
$12 Robert Rauschenberg
$24 Tom Gormley
$51 Red Grooms
E.A.T. board member, the labor lawyer Theodore W. Kheel, arranged to have the bills printed at American Banknote Company, who printed money for foreign countries that couldn’t trust their own people to do the printing. Although the denominations were different, the artists decided to try to get as close to ‘real’ money as possible. For the bills they used 100% Rag Cranes Bond, which is the stock the U.S. Treasury uses; the bills had the same size and shape as U.S. currency, and were printed black on one side and green on the other. The difference was that ARTCASH used white, not off-green, paper and it did not have the silk fibers used in U.S. bills. However, Tom Gormley, who oversaw the printing, had to observe the same security the Banknote Company used in printing other currency: the paper was delivered sealed to the premises, and each sheet of printed bills was counted before and after it came off the press, so that all 15,000 sheets were accounted for. Gormley organized the printing layout so that each sheet contained all six bills: seven $1’s four $3’s, four $12’s three 24’s, three $51’s and two $88’s. We printed 5,640,000 in ARTCASH. The cut bills were delivered to us bound in bundles of 500 bills each.
Some of the printed sheets of ARTCASH, 22 x 27 ¾ inches, were left uncut, and limited editions of prints which had images of all the bills were signed by the six artists.
At the casino evening, guests purchased ARTCASH and gambled with it. Winners could redeem their ARTCASH for any of more than 350 fine art prints, graphics, multiples, and art books, that had been made available to the benefit evening from more than 20 galleries and fine art publishers and were exhibited on the ground floor of Automation House.
– Julie Martin