Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was a non-profit and tax-exempt organization established to develop collaborations between artists and engineers. The group operated by facilitating person-to-person contacts between artists and engineers, rather than defining a formal process for cooperation. E.A.T. initiated and carried out projects that expanded the role of the artist in contemporary society and helped eliminate the separation of the individual from technological change.
1913 Armory Show
It was officially launched in 1967 by the engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. These men had previously collaborated, most notably in 1966 when they together organized 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, a series of performance art presentations that united artists and engineers. The performances were held in New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory, on Lexington Avenue between 25th and 26th Streets as an homage to the original and historical 1913 Armory show. Such collaborations continued to break down barriers between the arts and scientists in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and indirectly launched and supported the experimental sound artist John Cage, dancer Merce Cunningham, and pop artist Andy Warhol.
The pinnacle of E.A.T. activity is generally considered to be the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo ’70 at Osaka Japan where E.A.T. artists and engineers collaborated to design and program an immersive dome that included a fog sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya.
Twenty-eight regional E.A.T. chapters were established throughout the U.S. in the late 1960s to promote collaborations between artists and engineers and expand the artist’s role in social developments related to new technologies. In 2002 the University of Washington hosted a reunion to celebrate the history of these regional liaisons and consider the legacy of E.A.T. for artists working with new technologies in the 21st century.
In 1966, 10 New York artists worked with 30 engineers and scientists from the world renowned Bell Telephone Laboratories to create groundbreaking performances that incorporated new technology. Video projection, wireless sound transmission, and Doppler sonar had never been seen in the art of the 60s. The 9 Evenings DVD Series is an important documentation of the collaborations between the artists and engineers that produced innovative works using these emerging technologies. These performances still resonate today, as forerunners of the close and rapidly-evolving relationship between artists and technology. The dense and daunting exhibition represented an experiment in the archaeology of the avant-garde. The installation gathers the vast and insightful but also often undecipherable shards, artifacts, apparatus, photographs, drawings, diagrams, correspondence, and documentary film footage that provides information, but little if any comprehensive understanding of a series of ten individual works that, although wildly uneven on every level from aesthetic to technical, have entered the canon of performance art, experimental music and theater, bridging the gap from the eras of Dada, Fluxus and the Happenings/Actions of the 1960s, through the current generation of arts for whom multimedia and technology are the norm.
In 1972 Billy Klüver, Barbara Rose and Julie Martin edited the book “Pavilion”, that documented the design and construction of the E.A.T. Pepsi Pavilion for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan.
In 2001 Billy Klüver produced an exhibition of photo and text panels entitled “The Story of E.A.T.: Experiments in Art and Technology, 1960 – 2001 by Billy Klüver.” It was first shown in Rome and then again at Sonnabend Gallery in 2002. The exhibition went to Lafayette College in the spring 2002, then to the Evolution Festival in Leeds, England, and University of Washington, in Seattle. In 2003 it traveled to San Diego State University in San Diego, California and then to a gallery in Santa Maria, California run by Ardison Phillips – who was the artist who managed the Pepsi Pavilion in 1970. From April to June 2003 a Japanese version was shown at a large exhibition at the NTT Intercommunication Center (ICC) in Tokyo which also included a number of object/artifacts and documents and E.A.T. posters, as well as works of art that Klüver and E.A.T. were involved in. A similar showing took place in Norrköping Museum of Art, Norrköping, Sweden in September 2004 and a small version of the panels were presented in 2008 at Stevens Institute of Technology as part of a celebration of Experiments in Art and Technology.