An Introduction to E.A.T. – Engineers, the Avant-Garde and a Tennis Court

Set of Documentation of the Workings of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) between 1966 and 1968

“On March 18th, 1960, a sculpture on the roof of New York’s Museum of Modern Art began to destroy itself. Engines attached to old baby carriages sent them careening through the space, mechanical arms banged out a dissonant tune on a piano and a paintbrush colored an unfurling paper that just as quickly caught on fire. The piece, titled Homage to New York and built by the French sculptor Jean Tinguely alongside engineer Billy Klüver, was created in order to self-destruct. The performance was the beginning of a series of collaborations that would bring together the worlds of art and technology in ways that were unimaginable in mid-century America. Klüver, originally from Sweden, was a technician at Bell Laboratories, whose innovations in the ’60s and ’70s paved the way for the digital age. An egalitarian and experimental ethos allowed Bell Labs to foster an incredible wellspring of creativity in these decades. The title of every Bell Labs engineer was ‘Member of Technical Staff,’ whether they were the lowest entry-level hire or one of the company’s presidents. Experimentation without a specific end goal was embraced – as long as their engineers were working on something interesting, Bell Labs didn’t worry about their work immediately translating into something that could be sold. The strategy paid off: In these years Bell Labs launched the first telecommunications satellites, invented the omnipresent C programming language and, most importantly, designed the transistor, the technology that allowed computers to shrink from the size of buildings to something that can fit in your palm. Yet Klüver believed that even the uniquely innovative environment of Bell Labs could be improved by outsiders. He began to hang around the avant-garde artistic circles flourishing in Downtown Manhattan. At this time, a deep divide existed between the worlds of art and technology. Artists saw engineering as the realm of war machines and algorithms that would negate the individual, creating mass conformity. Meanwhile, Bell Labs engineers were largely unaware of the revolutionary art happening just a few miles away in Manhattan. …”
Red Bull Music Academy (Video)
W – Experiments in Art and Technology
YouTube: The Note Episode 3 | E.A.T.: Engineers, the Avant-Garde and a Tennis Court

Billy Klüver and Robert Rauschenberg, 1966

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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