The idea of the artist-engineer collaboration
materialized with 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering
, a group of collaborative performances that took place
from October 13 to October 23, 1966 at the 69th regiment
Armory on Lexington Avenue in New York City.
I first discussed the idea with Robert Rauschenberg,
and we decided to go ahead. We invited artists to participate:
Steve Paxton, Robert Whitman, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, David
Tudor, Öyvind Fahlstrom, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer,
Lucinda Childs, and Robert Rauschenberg. I recruited engineers
from Bell Laboratories to work on the project.
On January 14, 1966, the group of artists
and engineers began to meet. At the first artist-engineer
meeting, I told the artists to ask for anything they wanted
and the engineers responded with suggestions on how to
accomplish their ideas. These meetings lasted through
March, and we collected more than seventy artists' requests.
Not all of these were realized.
The engineers went to work. As time went
on one engineer was assigned to each artist depending
on what the artists' project was and what the engineer's
speciality was. Other engineers worked on equipment and
systems that would be used by more than one artist.
The 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue
at 25th Street was empty and available. The many Armories
located around New York City serve as headquarters and
practice halls for local National Guard Units, who still
hold drill practice there. This particular Armory had
been the site of the famous Armory show of 1913, that
introduced modern European art to the United States, and
where Marcel Duchamp showed Nude Descending the Staircase.
It was a very exciting space, although the acoustics were
terrible. The reverberation time for sound was 6 seconds.
The artists liked the idea of its size. It would now be
possible to reach a much larger audience than they had
had at Judson Church or at the downtown Happenings. Audience
size had become an issue for them.
We moved into the 69th Regiment Armory to
set up on October 8th, with only five days to the first
performance. During the next five days we installed the
electrical system for the stage lights and other equipment,
laid miles of cable, installed the sound system with 12
speakers in the balcony surrounding the central space,
and set up the bleachers for the audience. The artists
held rehearsals as best they could.There were endless
conferences. The Armory had a vaulted steel roof, 40 meters
high in the center. It was a challenge.
9 Evenings left a permanent impression
on the artists who participated and on the many younger
artists who were in the audience. It has become a classic