Film stills: John Cage performing Variation VII, New York 1966 / Deborah Hay, Solo, New York 1966 © 9 evenings: Theatre and Engineering. E.A.T. Barbro Schultz Lundestam.

9 evenings: Theatre & Engineering


9.5 2014


9 evenings: Theatre & Engineering – a series of groundbreaking performances that took place in New York 1966. Moderna Museet recently acquired the documentation of these legendary evenings and the ten films are now shown together for the first time.

Interdisciplinary collaboration between artists and new technology

Date: 9 May 2014
Time: At 18–20
Price: Admission free.

Please use the main entrance.

At 6.30 pm, Curator Jo Widoff presents the new collection display, followed by a conversation with Barbro Schultz Lundestam, documentary filmmaker and director of 9 evenings: Theatre & Engineering. The conversation will take place outside the gallery. Limited seating.

9 evenings: Theatre & Engineering

9 evenings: Theatre & Engineering was a series of performances organised by the Swedish engineer and scientist Billy Klüver and the artist Robert Rauschenberg. The performances took place at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York on 13-23 October, 1966. For ten months, artists, choreographers and composers had collaborated with Klüver and his colleagues at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, one of the world’s top research centres at the time with access to the very latest technology. For five days, the large Armory drill hall was transformed into a temporary stage and for the first time infrared cameras, video projections and a revolutionary remote control system for sound, image and movement were used outside military projects.

The documentation of the performances was thought to have been lost for 30 years until documentary filmmaker Barbro Schultz Lundestam and producer Julie Martin perceptively reconstructed each performance. Moderna Museet recently acquired the ten resulting films now shown together for the first time.

The participating artists were John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor and Robert Whitman.

The artists on 9 evenings

Robert Whitman
USA, 1935
Two Holes of Water – 3
October 18th and 19th, 1966

Robert Whitman on Two Holes of Water:
“I am after a work around the stability of a film image and immediacy of newsflash. The images are concerns – the whole piece makes an image. Television is a great way to collect stuff; besides what’s on the air, a camera on anything brings it in live – a local newsflash. Film is a rock solid steady unchangeable record of someone looking at something past.”

David Tudor
USA, 1926–1996
Bandoneon! (a combine) October 14th and 18th, 1966

David Tudor on Bandoneon ! (a combine):
“Bandoneon !, (bandoneon factorial), is a combine incorporating programmed audio circuits, moving loudspeakers, tv images and lighting, instrumentally exited. The instrument, a bandoneon, will create signals which are simultaneously used as material for differentiated audio spectrums (achieved through modulation means, and special loudspeaker construction), for the production of visual images, devised by Lowell Cross; for the activation of programming devices controlling the audio visual environment, devised by Bob Kieronski (“Vochrome, “ and programmed patch-board) and Fred Waldhauer (Proportional Control). Bandoneon ! uses no composing means; when activated it composes itself out of its own composite instrumental nature.”

John Cage
USA, 1912–1992
Variations VII
October 15th and 16th, 1966

John Cage on Variations VII:
“My project is simple to describe. It is a piece of music, Variation VII, indeterminate in form and detail, making use of the sound system which has been devised collectively for this festival, further making use of modulation means organized by David Tudor, using as sound sources only those sounds which are in the air at the moment of the performance, picked up via the communication bands, telephone lines, microphones, together with, instead of musical instruments, a variety of household appliances and frequency generators. The technical problems involved in any single project tend to reduce the impact of the original idea but in being solved they produce a situation different than anyone could have pre-imagined.”

Steve Paxton
USA, 1933
Physical Things
October 13th and 19th, 1966

Steve Paxton on Physical Things:
“This piece is a dance with a set. It is cast not only by those chosen as permanent population (for the duration of the piece) but by those who have chosen to come to see it, and it is presumed that they will observe each other. With regards to air pressure and topography this piece is not an airplane, is pretty much the opposite of an airplane, but much of the rest is analogous.”

Öyvind Fahlström
Brasilien/Sverige, 1928–1976
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
October 21th and 22nd, 1966

Öyvind Fahlström on Kisses Sweeter Than Wine:

“In my piece, I approach the new technology on several levels. Chemicals developed by the new technology permit me to use elements formerly not possible – an object gradually changing color, “snow bubbles” rising from the ground, people enveloped by “clouds.” By utilizing our internal broadcasting system, I can have pillows sing out while they are bounced on the floor or thrown in the air. By utilizing our remote control system, I can have an actor pursued by an airborne object or direct the same object to approach floating targets. On another level, my piece deals with machine-like qualities in people: robot-like people capable of memorizing enormous amounts of data or of making multi-digit calculations in their heads (as found in psychiatric [sic] literature); the risk of putting “robots” (narrow minds) in situations for which they are not “programmed”–i.e., crisis situations–and machines getting out of control. Juxtaposed with this are glimpses of everyday events and characters of the world of today. Bob Hope and Mao Tse Tung appear in New York city street demonstrations, for example. For this we will use films of actual demonstrations along with tapes of the reactions of the people who see it. Tape and film becomes part of the piece. New York, China, Indonesia, the bottom of the sea, space, the world of the future (as seen in a science fiction movie) are all interwoven into a triptych of slide, movie, and television screens. There is no explanation. The spectator draws conclusions or not, as he chooses. I think of it as initiation rites for a new medium. Total Theater.”

Alex Hay
USA, 1930
Grass Field
October 13th and 22nd, 1966

Alex Hay on Grass Field:
“A work built around three elements divided into parts equal in time.
Three Elements:
1. Internal sound potentials of the body
2. External body color
3. A singular work activity
The body sounds, example: brain waves, muscle movement, eye movement, will be picked up by differential amplifiers and transmitted to the central control stations to be distributed by the sound person.

All properties and dress will have the color identity of the skin of the performers. The work activity is in the random placement of 100 numbered six foot squares of duck in a ten by ten modular pattern and then retrieved in a correct arithmetic progression and placed centrally. The placement and retrieving of the squares will be a designation of the two parts.”

Deborah Hay
USA, 1941
October 13th and 23rd, 1966

Deborah Hay on Solo:
“Solo is a white, even, clear event in space. The performers are part of the space and light. They continue the quality of the area – a white environment. All movement is with the intention of maintaining a balance of order and evenness.
Solo is cumulative, gradually accumulating more light, more platforms, more performers, more activity – yet remaining as still and composed as in the beginning.
There are 24 performers. Eight of the performers remain stationary. Formally dressed, they are seated as a musical ensemble. From this position they operate eight remote control platforms, which move in and around the space. Sixteen of the performers also move in and around the space, sometimes on the platforms.
Bright lights around the stage area are strongly reflected by the white costumes of the 16 moving performers. The extreme intensity of light bouncing off the costumes modifies the lines of human body. At times there are no lights. I am interested in creating a middle ground between seeing and not seeing.
The principal visual elements of the piece are moving performers, lights, darkness, remote control platforms, and movement. It is my main intention to make all these elements equal in energy and visibility.”

Lucinda Childs
USA, 1940
October 16th and 23rd, 1966

Lucinda Childs on Vehicle:
“Vehicle consists of materials animate, inanimate, air-supported (in one instance), which can exist in a non-static state and be observed in increased dimension as they come in contact with light and sound sources made available consistently or intermittedly by radio signals through-out the dance.
The Doppler sonar has ultrasonic beam sources and a receiver. The beam emits frequencies at a level which is greater than our hearing capacity. A moving figure or object passing in front of the beam interrupts it and send frequencies back to the receiver of the sonar at a level determined by the velocity of the figure or object. What we hear is the proportional difference between the frequencies sent out and those returned through interruption of the beam, and the resulting reduction in the frequency level is what makes the sonar audible. Middle C (as we know it in music) is supposed to occur at approximately three feet per second of movement. This device, however picks up movement of any duration or speed at the exact time that it begins or ends.
The ground effect machine is made from a General Motors refrigerator part which is designed as a platform to raise the 440lb. weight of a refrigerator a fraction of an inch off the ground by intake of air from a vacuum cleaner, thus making it possible to move the 440lb. with ease. The engineer, Per Biorn, installed two vacuum cleaner motors onto this platform so that I am in effect on a cushion of air when I use it.
I intend to utilize these devices in a set of circumstances as instruments, which may or may not be efficient to the notion of completing anything. I do not feel that dance should be limited to the display of physical exertion alone; anything that can exist in a non-static state for a certain duration of time is of interest to me. My ideas are generally derived from the laws which govern the materials themselves and I attempt to allow the qualities and limitations of materials to be exposed in different situations.”

Robert Rauschenberg
USA, 1925–2008
Open Score
October 14th and 23rd, 1966

Robert Rauschenberg on Open Score:
“My piece begins with an authentic tennis game with rackets wired for transmission of sound. The sound of the game will control the lights. The game’s end is the moment the hall is totally dark. The darkness is illusionary. The hall is flooded with infra-red (so far invisible to the human eye). A modestly choreographed cast of from 300 to 500 people will enter and be observed and projected by infra-red television on large screens for the audience. This is the limit of the realization of the piece to date.
Tennis is movement. Put in the context of theatre, it is a formal dance improvisation. The unlikely use of the game to control the lights and to perform as an orchestra interests me. The conflict of not being able to see an event that is taking place right in front of one except through a reproduction is the sort of double exposure of action. A screen of light and a screen of darkness.”

Yvonne Rainer
USA, 1934
Carriage Discreteness
October 15th and 21th, 1966

Yvonne Rainer on Carriage Discreteness:
“A dance consisting of two separate but parallel (simultaneous) continuities and two separate (but equal) control systems. 1. Performer continuity controlled by me from a remote ‘plotting’ table where I will spontaneously choose the actions and placements of people and objects (from a pre-determined list of possibilities) and communicate those decisions to the 10-odd performers via walkie-talkie. 2. Event continuity to be controlled by TEEM (theatre electronic environment modular system) in its memory capacity. This part will consist of sequential events that will include movie fragments, slide projections, light changes, TV-monitored close-ups of details in the dancer-proper, tape recorded monologues and dialogues, and various photo-chemical phenomena several involving ultra-violet light.
I have become interested in the idea of effort and in finding precise ways in which effort can be made evident or not.
The floor space of the performance area is divided into 20 rectangles and numbered in chalk 1 to 20. Performers are instructed to take objects from one space to another. The objects…to be manipulated are deliberately distributed among the 20 rectangles in a preconceived arrangement… The instructions to the performers are improvised at the moment of the performance.”