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Artists and Television

Artists Television Programming Projects at Automation House

1970 - 1971

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Announcement and schedule

In the Spring of 1967, an E.A.T. supporter John Powers introduced Klüver and Rauschenberg to Theodore W. Kheel, a lawyer and partner in the law firm of Battle, Fowler, Stokes. Kheel, who was a prominent mediator of labor dispute, immediately became enthusiastic about collaboration between E.A.T. and the foundation he had had started, the American Foundation on Automation and Employment. The foundation “encouraged the use of automation in industry by solving the employment it creates and demonstrate what labor and management can accomplish in their own and the public interest by working together.” And as Kheel saw it “Our two organization have similar objectives: We welcome the new technology and the contribution it can make in providing individuals with new opportunities for self-fulfillment.”


Kheel had recently acquired at townhouse at 49 East 68th Street, that he named Automation House that he wanted to renovate as headquarters of the American Foundation on Automation and Employment, the Institute of Collective Bargaining and Group and Relations, and the Center for Job Training Information. Through E.A.T. Kheel met L.J. (Robbie) Robinson, who had been so important in working on 9 Evenings and was active in E.A.T. activities at this time, and commissioned from his a report. “Technical Criteria for Information System: Automation House," presented September 13.1967. Robinson took over the coordination of technical plans of Automation House to meet the needs of the groups using the building, with input from Billy Klüver and Rauschenberg. The plans, as described in the November 1, 1967 E.A.T. News, called for an auditorium in the basement with the latest audio and projection equipment; cabling on the first and second floors for "projection, display and information retrieval equipment, and exhibits of technical machinery and art works"; offices and conference rooms on the third and fourth floors; the top floor would house a film and television studio, with ceiling space of 30 feet, and fully equipped according to broadcast standards; “the building will have its own microwave tower.” It was envisioned that E.A.T. would use the equipment and facilities of Automation House for performances, meetings and exhibitions.


After long period of renovation, Automation House officially opened March 1970, during a time when E.A.T. staff and attention were focused on the Pepsi Pavilion in Osaka, Japan.


Later in the spring and back in New York, E.A.T., was working on ideas of artists’ involvement in educational television in India, and artist-in-residence proposals for RCA Laboratories, and later in the year  developed several proposals for artists use of the television production facilities at Automation House. It was at this time that Kheel had begun planning to o expand the television capabilities at Automation House and establish a Community Television Center there. It was to be a fully equipped recording studio and a center of technical and production assistance, information, training, and experimentation in   programming. The facilities, connected by cable to Sterling Manhattan Cable Company, would be available for community groups to encourage their use of public access television channels.

A Proposal for a Series of Twenty-Six Television Programs

In September 1970, E.A.T. proposed a series of twenty-six television programs to be produced at Automation House that would be a sort of "E.A.T. Cookbook," The proposal incorporated the ideas of Billy Klüver, Robert Whitman, and Barry Kaplan, The purpose of the series was to provide the general public and especially college and high school students people with information concerning what has been accomplished as a result of the working relationship between artists, engineers and other professionals, and specific ideas about how they, themselves, may generate and participate in collaborative projects. The series could begin with Programs describing E.A.T.'s philosophy, policies, and in particular the technical services for matching artists and engineers. This would be followed by programs describing and analyzing completed E.A.T. projects, including. 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, the 1968 lecture-demonstration series, the art and technology exhibition "Some More Beginnings," the design and construction of the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion at Expo ’70, as well as current and ongoing projects: "Projects Outside Art," "American Artists in India," and the Anand project. Participants would include the individuals whose work had been “instrumental to the projects' development." These would be followed by programs devoted to documentaries on  individuals, groups, industries or institutions" for their work that best exemplified the spirit and values of collaboration  exploring not only ideas, the imaginative thinking, initiative and the often complicated procedures employed in carrying out the objectives of their projects.” A series of program titled  "Product Evaluations," and would present evaluations and demonstrations of video, audio, and photographic equipment by artists, technicians, or other professionals who had used the equipment "in specific experimental or environmental situations. Several programs would also evaluate the effectiveness of innovative projects in such areas as ecology and communications, and the application of new technology for dams, trains, planes, buildings, and so on. The programs will investigate existing evaluation procedures and will explore new methods and criteria for measuring the effectiveness of projects in meetings the needs of the community.


The proposal was submitted for sponsorship in September 1970 to the Educational Broadcasting Corporation through Richard J. Meyer, director of the School Television Service, Channel 13, WNDT. It remained unfunded end was not implemented.

"4 Proposal for a Series of Twenty-Six Television Programs," September 24, 1970, p. 1.

Artists' Television Programming at Automation House

E.A.T. continued to pursue opportunities for artists to work with television and developed a proposal for “Artists' Television Programming at Automation House”, for  “a one-year demonstration project in which artists work with broadcast television as a medium. Fifteen artists will plan and produce a series of television programs for broadcast using the recording and broadcasting facilities of Automation House. The series would be widely distributed to interested cable systems, and local UHF and VHF stations, and an effort made to establish an ongoing distribution network between these stations for future exchange of such experimental innovative programs.” E.A.T. also proposed to evaluate these programs and document the qualities that artists can uniquely contribute to television programming. Another report on the “experience of the project would serve as a stimulus to broadcasters to invite artists to participate in programming and as a guide for local groups to generate imaginative low-cost programming based on the experience of the project.”


To prepare the proposal, In February 1971 E.A.T. invited over forty artists to submit ideas for programs, not necessarily works of art, but rather what artists would like to see on television. In a letter to the artists: “This is part of our larger concern to develop methods for low-cost no-cost programming that would make it possible for minority groups, special interest groups, and local community groups to be able to do effective programming. We feel the artist has the imagination and flexibility to generate programming ideas, procedures and methods that could be used by groups in other situations and for other purposes. “ The artists submitting proposals to E.A.T. and their programming ideas included Robert Breer, for an informal talk on work and digression into other topics; Trisha Brown, for documenting street performances with community children in Middletown; Ann Douglas, for interviewing newsmen of major networks; Shirley Kaplan, for a serious/comic newsreel collage; George Kuchar, for a movie resembling an average hour of television but “souped up"; Claes Oldenburg, for newsreels and information programs; and Richard Serra, for films made by people in the Bronx and Bedford Stuyvesant areas. Other artists, composers, video makers who were invited, some of whom submitted proposals, included William Burroughs, John Cage, Jackie Cassen, Remy Charlip, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Gene Davis, Jean Dupuy, Allen Ginsberg, Global Village, Walter Gutman, Ann Halprin, Pauline Oliveros, Nam June Paik, Larry Poons, Raindance Corporation, Ed Ruscha, Shunk-Kender, Michael Snow, Keith Sonnier, David Tudor, Videofreex, Andy Warhol, and Andrew Wyeth. E.A.T.'s proposal completed in March 1971 named twenty-five artists who had "responded positively and made specific proposals." Of these, fifteen would be selected for the project.


E.A.T. proposed that the project would begin with a two-day conference during which the artists would be able to "discuss their work in relation to broadcast television,” and “become familiar with the equipment and facilities at Automation House,” "talk to television engineers and technicians about their program ideas." Then each artist would produce a half-hour or one-hour program. To distribute the programs, E.A.T. proposed to find television broadcast and cable networks around the country, which would want to participate in a national distribution and exchange network.  Two studies would be made to document and evaluate the project. One would be a descriptive report analyzing the experience of the artists and would be a guide for those in the television industry who wanted artists in their locality to produce television material. The other would be a multidimensional scaling study, designed with the help of Bell Laboratories scientist Max Mathews, "to map audience perception of the difference between artists’ programs and those regularly offered on television," and would provide "quantized” support for having artists involved in television programming.


In late March the proposal was submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts, and for matching funding the New York State Council on the Arts, and  the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. On May 28, 1971, Billy Klüver wrote the artists concerned that Chloe Aaron of the Endowment had informed him the proposal was totally rejected. The proposal remained unfunded and unrealized.


During this time E.A.T. continued to push for opportunities for artists access to broadcast, and increasingly cable television. At the request of Paul Laskin, head of the Sloan Commission on Cable Communications, E.A.T. submitted suggestions for five research papers to the Commission and on March 12 and 13,  Billy Klüver and Robert Whitman participated in a producers’ conference at the Harvard Club held by the Sloan Commission to discuss alternative uses of cable channels and necessary conditions to implement these uses, where they emphasized the positive role inclusion of visual artists  could provide a vital source in counteracting the esthetic stagnation of the medium. A few days later, on March 26, 1971, Billy Klüver, at the invitation FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, testified before the FCC at a hearing on proposed cable television rules. He emphasized the importance of artists’ participation in developing cable television.  Klüver proposed "a planned involvement" of artists working in the medium was essential for the system to develop in the direction of a "a multi-channel, multi-purpose, open-access system" satisfying individual and mass needs.


Adopting fixed, arbitrary, institutional aesthetic standards, as those in broadcast television that had "been consciously or unconsciously determined by commercial interests and engineering practices," shut off variety of available inputs and limited access to the medium, the medium thus becoming stagnant. Klüver argued that standards and regulations established must accommodate artists who “had little access to broadcast television as a medium to work in." Klüver noted how the artist's traditional role had been "to break through institutionalized esthetic barriers" and to expand and enrich the use of whatever medium in which he worked, citing the creative energies had come from underground films, artists happenings, and multi-media events, feeding back and revitalizing the more established media. Artists working in cable television would not simply provide "new and highly creative sources of programming," but new approaches and procedures values that provide models for other groups of people using the cable broadcast medium. Klüver argued that developing the capability of cable television involved responsibilities "far beyond conditions in the United States." It offered "the possibility to develop a viable model" for television systems and programming for developing countries. For an artist to effectively contribute to the development of cable television, "he must know his medium" and work in it "on his own terms." In concluding his presentation, Klüver recommended  “that the Commission develop a continuing direct contact with as many operating artists as possible," not depend on intermediaries, like himself, to speak on the artist's behalf.

E.A.T. continued working with Monroe Price, a staff member of the Sloan Commission, who was very: interested in developing uses for public channels on cable television; and in the summer of 1971 E.A.T. proposed a "Public Service Programming project, using the facilities provided by Automation House ,to develop an experimental   series of "no-cost, low-cost" programs working with special interest groups, minority groups, and local community groups to develop methods for these groups to do effective programming over the public channels that would soon be open to them. 

Artists and Television

As the FCC considered new regulations, a new phase of cable television entered the picture, public access channels, and the opportunities it offered artists to both produce and cablecast their works without the restrictions of commercial or educational television outlets. So with this opportunity E.A.T. developed a project to present artists’ works on the public access channel.


There were two major cable television companies in New York: Teleprompter that covered Manhattan north of 79th Street and Sterling Manhattan that covered Manhattan south of 79th to the Battery. By the terms of the franchise agreements drawn up by the city in the summer of 1970, the companies were each required to provide two public access channels that opened up programming to a wider group of people and organizations.  Time slots on the channels were to be provided on a first-come – first-serve basis, and the cable companies were required to provide studio facilities and technical assistance, and training to any non-commercial individual or group to enable members of the public, accredited educational institutions, and government to produce their own shows for cablecast on these channels. The public access channels were inaugurated in July 1971.


Just as 16mm had enabled artists to make their own films, portable video recording and editing equipment was making it economically feasible for artists to make work in video. There existed a growing amount of material on half-inch tapes made by established artists, which could be screened in galleries or small experimental venues in New York but lacked a regular outlet for showing them to the general public. Billy Klüver and Bob Whitman pursued the idea that the public access channels offered a unique opportunity to show these artists’ films and videos, and E.A.T. developed a project to present artists’ works on the public access channels.


To participate in the inauguration of public access cable television channels (CATV) in New York City on July 1, 1971, E.A.T. decided to present a program “Cable Television and the Artist” in support of artists’ access to television programming, by asking a varied group of politicians, artists, academics and television executives the question, "Do you feel it is vital to the development of the television medium that artists be involved in making programs?" and present recordings of the answers.  This project was not completed, but E.A.T. followed up with a project, “Artists and Television” to present a series of cablecasts of artists' works over these newly opened public access cable television channels. Carlota Schoolman joined the E.A.T. staff as project director and began to assemble, artists’ works to be presented in weekly, one-hour programs on each of the two public access cable channels. The programs consisted of video tapes and 16mm films already made by the artists. The artists themselves and New York galleries Bykert Gallery, Castelli Gallery, Pace Gallery, and Reese-Paley Gallery, provided films and videotapes to the project.


 “Artists and Television” began in the fall of 1971 and scheduled artists’ works to appear every Tuesday (Sterling Manhattan) or Wednesday (Teleprompter CATV) evenings from  November 2nd  to December 29th . In addition, E.A.T. arranged for two locations where the programs could be viewed on monitors: at the E.A.T. office at Automation House, 49 East 68th Street, and Max’s Terre Haute, at 1st Avenue and 73rd Street, a restaurant owned by Mickey Ruskin and friendly to artists.  An average of 30 persons attended at each location. Schedules of the programs were printed and mailed to approxi­mately 3,000 persons on E.A.T.'s Manhattan mailing list. Wee­kly ads appeared in The Village Voice and The New York Times.


E.A.T.’s first program was Shinohara: The Last Artist, a film on Japanese artists living and working in New York City, directed and produced by Rod McCall for Japanese television. It was announced in an E.A.T. press release for September 9 and 10, 1971. Following that, one or two works were shown each week for 9 weeks from  November 2 to December 29. The works shown were: Michael Snow, Back and Forth; Nancy Graves, 200 Stills; Lucas Samaras, Self; Les Levine, Open Art Hearings; Andy Warhol Producer, made by Michael Netter; One Hour of Tape, Keith Sonnier, a compilation of films transferred to ½ inch video; Michel Auder, A Natural Childbirth;  Joan Jonas and Richard Serra, Veil; Joan Jonas, Blue Wind; John Chamberlain, Cocaine Blues; and Richard Serra, Color Aid.


E.A.T. found that the channels showed, both “a willingness to show the artists’ tapes" and "an encouraging lack of censorship. Only one tape, which depicted sexual intercourse (Les Levine’s John and Mimi's Book of Love), was rejected. Tapes by Warhol/Netter and Auder, that included some nudity, were shown complete on both cable networks.


Cable and especially public access cable television was in its infancy technically, and Schoolman had to spend considerable time and effort adapting the artists’ tapes to the equipment at the head-end studios at the cable companies. Some of the works chosen by Schoolman were films in 16mm color that had to be transferred to half-inch color tape at Sterling Manhattan since a color film chain was reportedly unavailable there for public access use during evenings.  The cable companies also experienced some technical difficulties transmitting the artists’ video tapes, particularly on Sterling Manhattan where the television images tended to tear and break up from time to time. The series was generally well received by the press. In addition to reviews in The New York Times and The Village Voice, in December the program on radio station WBAI, “For the Arts,” aired an interview by Ruth Rothko with Carlota Schoolman,


E.A.T. discovered that there existed a large amount of material on half-inch tapes made by established artists already exists, for which there is no regular outlet. Also approximately 20 artists approached E.A.T. with an interest in putting their work on cable or gaining access to video equipment. As a result of the publicity, E.A.T. received a number of requests from universities, cable networks, video centers, video theaters, state art councils, and museums from around the country to provide them with material. These responses led to another E.A.T. proposal, described in the project reports for "Artists and Television" but considered independent of it, to compile a package of five 90-minute video programs by different artists using the processing and editing facilities of NET at Ann Arbor, Michigan. The package was to be nationally distributed. Funds would be sought from people interested in renting the tapes.

Art Cash Benefit

Artcash poster

Poster for 'Artcash' with and without event announcement.

In December 1971 E.A.T. organized a benefit evening at Automation House to raise funds for Artists and Television and Television Production Studio at Automation House.  It was to be a “casino” night, where guests would purchase artist-designed bills to use at the gaming tables, and winnings could be redeemed for art works donated by New York galleries to the benefit evening.


Klüver asked six artists to make bills, which  were  called Artcash and were as follows:  $1 Andy Warhol; $3 Robert  Whitman; $12 Robert Rauschenberg; $24 Tom Gormley; $51 Red Grooms;  $88 Marisol. E.A.T. board member, labor lawyer Theodore  W. Kheel, who was also head of the Foundation for Automation and Employment at Automation House arranged to have the  bills printed at American Banknote  Company, which printed currency for many foreign countries. 

Tom Gormley, who contributed one of the bills and oversaw the printing, designed a poster showing both sides of all the bills, which was issued in a limited edition lithograph signed by all the artists and an unlimited edition of  signed-in-plate lithographs.


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