Robert Barry looks back at the work of Experiments in Art and Technology from art pavilions to discos with its veteran director
From 13–23 October 1966, the 69th Regiment Armory building in Manhattan was host to one of the most ambitious events in the history of modern art. 9 Evenings: Theatre And Engineering brought together artists and composers including John Cage, David Tudor, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg and Lucinda Childs, with engineers from Bell Labs such as Billy Klüver, Max Mathews and Fred Waldhauer. Over the course of its run, over 13,000 people attended and several now familiar technologies were employed for the first time in the course of the performances, including closed circuit television, fibre optic cameras, and portable wireless FM transmitters.
The collaboration of several key players continued under the banner of a new organisation called Experiments in Art and Technology, dedicated to bringing artists and engineers together. Julie Martin worked behind the scenes at 9 Evenings and later became one of EAT’s first employees, initially as the editor of the newsletter.
Now, as director of the organisation, she’s working with sound artist Jacob Kirkegaard to document some of the history of the organisation, including the release of new vinyl editions of Cage’s Variations VII (from 9 Evenings) and Monobirds by David Tudor. I spoke to Martin via a Zoom call to her home in New Jersey about the origins of EAT, its utopian promise, and the time David Tudor performed in the hottest disco in New York.
Your first involvement with 9 Evenings was through your work with Robert Whitman, is that right?
Yes, exactly. I was in New York very busy not getting a Masters in Russian Studies at Columbia. I met Bob Whitman through a friend and was kind of free that summer. So I began to help him on pieces that he was doing, [the film] Prune Flat and then a piece out on a swamp in Long Island. So then when the 9 Evenings came about, I continued to help him out. I was finding films for him and things like that.
As you became more involved in the event as a whole, what kind of things were you doing?
One of the things I was doing was wiring tiny plugs. Although the engineers had developed what they called the TEEM – Theater Electronic Environmental Modular system, a wireless system for both transmission of sound and also sound as control that each of the artists could use in his or her performances – they realised they needed a lot of cable for audio. So we spent last-minute time wiring tiny plugs. And also I helped on the catalogue, which is what led to Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer asking me to join EAT a little bit later, as editor of the newsletter.