In 1966, a group of artists and engineers got together for a series of performances called “9 Evenings” in New York City. Artists such as John Cage, Deborah Hay, and Robert Rauschenberg spent ten months collaborating with 30 engineers and scientists from Bell Telephone Laboratories to create unique live performances using the latest technology of the time: infrared cameras, video recording, and electronic music and sound.
Fifty years later curator John Boylan is recreating the festival in Seattle, pairing multimedia artists and performers with scientists and engineers to explore creativity, technology and art for nine evenings at King Street Station in Seattle.
And where better to commemorate this festival, Boylan says, than Seattle, “given that we have such a booming technology scene – not just the high tech, but from Boeing to all kinds of small factories that are around, up to the latest word from Google and Microsoft. So all of that factored in.”
Today’s tech landscape looks vastly different from that of the original 9e2, and the Seattle festival will capitalize on that to feature virtual and augmented reality, interactivity, motion sensing technologies, advances in neuroscience, and big data to tackle subjects from global warming and the environment to language, history, and culture.
The performances and installations at the festival have a wide range as well: from computer-generated visions of the sky to visual art that delves into physics and dark matter, a musical ensemble that projects music created directly from the brain in real time, and a dance piece that utilizes survellaince technology. DJ Spooky will give a rare performance at Benaroya Hall in collaboration with Dartmouth scientists that will explore themes of astronomy, engineering, biology, and psychology. A full lineup of the performances and installations can be found here.
Boylan says that these days, scientists can also be artists and vice versa. During the first 9e2, “there was a sense you really had to make a decision, and now I think that has changed a lot. So we have people who operate in both worlds and it’s changing the way art works and changing the way people do science.”
In fact, he adds: “All art is actually all about technology. I mean, every single thing you do in art is based on some level of technology, whether it’s charcoal or oil paints or composing music. That’s the way you make art. You use a certain technology.”
For people interested in attending the festival (which, like the original, features 9 evenings of performances), Boylan hopes that 9e2 highlights some of the exciting ways that technology and science are converging in the creative economy – especially in Seattle.
“The question is: are we in a moment where the technologies that exist now will explode or not. Are we going to look back at this time, when all of the technologies we’re starting to experience now, from artificial intelligence, to driverless cars, and especially virtual reality and immersion, and see them blow up the same way it happened in the 60s? And if that happens, what role will Seattle play in that?”
Find tickets to the 9e2 Festival here.