9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering. Variations VII

John Cage

Los Angeles, California, USA, 1912 - New York, USA, 1992
Julie Martin - (Production)
Billy Klüver - Principality of Monaco, 1927 - New Jersey, USA, 2004 (Production)
Barbro Schultz Lundestam - Sweden, 1945 (Direction)
  • Series: 
    9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering
  • Date: 
    1966 (produced in 2008)
  • Edition/serial number: 
  • Media description: 
    Fragments of 16 mm, 35 mm film and photos transferred to video (DVCAM and DVD)
  • Duration: 
    16 min. 50 sec.
  • Colour: 
    Colour and black/white
  • Sound: 
  • Category: 
    Video, Performance
  • Entry date: 
  • Register number: 
  • Image credit: 
    © Experiments in Art and Technology

In 1965, aided by Robert Rauschenberg, Billy Klüver contacted thirty engineers from the Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, to invite them to take part in an interdisciplinary project that would mix avant-garde theatre with dance and new technologies. Ten artists resident in New York connected to performance, music and dance – John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Öyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor and Robert Whitman – held original performances for the project, entitled 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York. 9 Evenings is considered one of the most radical proposals that questioned the purity of the medium, advocated by modernity, and the start of an effort to combine different media which, in a renewal of the idea of the total work of art, was to determine certain foundations of contemporary art. The Museo Reina Sofía holds the complete collection.
Variations VII was John Cage’s contribution to these encounters. Cage was an acquaintance of Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, so he was aware of the advances being made in telecommunications and their impact on society and art. For the event, organised by Billy Kluver, he performed Variations VII, in which he used radio waves and telephone lines onstage to produce real-time transmission of sounds from outside the venue. In the piece, Cage gave a special place to shadow theatre. Projected onto the huge white canvases that surrounded the performers were the shadows of the musicians and the objects around them, converting the sound manipulation into a theatrical event, and subverting the monochrome painting as a screen. The work is Opus 7 in the Variations series (1958-1967), the key element of which is the search for uncertainty in musical composition, and which anticipates some aspects of his later series Theatre Pieces.

Cristina Cámara Bello