On Ken Knowlton, Bell Labs, Art & Technology


Ken Knowlton's artistic collaborations have been less well-known that his Bell Labs colleague, Billy Kluver, who created E.A.T. Experiements with Art & Technology, with Robert Rauschenberg and who introduced Andy Warhol to Mylar. But we'll get to that.

kluver_balloon_nyt.jpgIn collaboration with Leon Harmon, Knowlton made some pioneering, ASCII-style artworks, including a reclining nude transformed from photograph to a printout of dot-matrix symbols, which was featured in a NY Times article in 1967 ["Art and Science Proclaim Alliance in Avant-Garde Loft," Oct. 11, 1967].

The report was about an art/technology "news conference 'happening'" held in Rauschenberg's loft, and attended by corporate and union leaders, and politicians, including Sen. Jacob Javits, who is shown with large, pillow-shaped Mylar balloons floating behind him in "the Chapel," the two-story space at the back of Rauschenberg's Lafayette St. building. [The occasion was a reorganization of E.A.T.]

They're the same balloons Andy Warhol had used in his April 1966 installation, Silver Floations, which he'd learned about from Kluver. [Bell Labs, of course, was also the ground operator of the Mylar communications satelloons of Project Echo, which launched in 1960 and 1965.]

Anyway, 18 months later, it's Kluver whose seen batting these balloons around, with nary a mention of Warhol to be found. Odd.

Willard Maas made an awesome short film about the show in 1966. It's at YouTube or UbuWeb:

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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