9 Evenings, Zurich
Forty-two years ago the New York art scene experienced an event that would pave the way for a new era of collaboration between artists and engineers. 9 Evenings was a series of performances led by Robert Rauschenberg combining music, theatre, dance, film and video – a groundbreaking coming together of 10 artists and 30 technicians from Bell Telephone Laboratories amidst the creative whirl of the 1960s.
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A new exhibition at the Museum of Design in Zurich, 9 Evenings Reconsidered, intricately re-examines the brief period through photography, film and sound recordings, drawings and written records.
What stands out most, beyond the milestone itself, is the nature of the work it produced – a sophisticated and innovative use of technology that moved beyond the realm of mere decorative gimmickry.
Like Rauschenberg’s tennis match, titled Open Score. Specially produced racquets were fitted with sensors such that each hit of the ball caused a loud gong to resound through the hall and one of the ceiling spotlights to dim. The haunting echo played a static beat through the darkening room, which eventually turned black, while the game continued.
Participants came from across disciplines, including John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, David Tudor and Robert Whitman, and Rauschenberg – an inspiring feat of collaborative experimentation well worth remembering.