Magazine article Artforum International

I Probably Met Bob around 1957

Magazine article Artforum International

I Probably Met Bob around 1957

Article excerpt

I PROBABLY MET BOB AROUND 1957. I remember taking him to see Red Grooms's piece called The Burning Building [1959]. I knew him well enough to say, "I want you to see this thing." He loved it.

During the performance days, when Bob was doing work like Pelican [1963], we saw a lot of each other. We were neighbors; at that time, I was downtown on Grand Street, and he was on Broadway, I think. I always liked the challenge of his performances--I found them challenging to me personally. I like the idea of seeing something that I can't imagine myself. Bob, Claes Oldenburg, and I once each did a piece as a fund-raiser for the [Film-Makers'] Cinematheque [1965]. The people who were participating were incredibly generous. That was a feature of the times. And I think Bob set an example--he was able to help out and support the people who participated with him.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This all leads up to the 9 Evenings [1966] experience, which was a wholehearted acceptance of all the energy and generosity of people. When we all began working on the 9 Evenings performances, our understanding was that we wanted to engage engineers as collaborators. We wanted a more even, democratic relationship. The point is that somebody does something and somebody does something else. There shouldn't be a hierarchy of value to what each person does. Of course, this made 9 Evenings a profoundly stressful situation--really. Everybody got a little crazy. The big discovery was the difference between artists and engineers: Engineers have an idea about proper design, for instance, but they don't have the same concept of a deadline. They work with a more open-ended schedule, typically. They don't realize that when tickets get printed, you've got to have it done on time. But my favorite example was this [automatic] stepping switch for Bob's piece [Open Score] that required intense wiring, which took a huge number of man-hours. The artist's solution to the problem would have been to just have a guy turn the switch during the performance--that's just a person hanging out, and that guy's going to be hanging out anyway. So you're not creating more work. As it turned out, we did manually operate the lights during the performance.

Somewhere in the middle of 9 Evenings is when E.A.T. [Experiments in Art and Technology] got formulated. Bob was always supportive of any interest that might help artists, and he was always trying to expand artists' opportunities. …

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