Outreach to Engineers
1967 - 1968
E.A.T. booth at IEEE Convention where artists talk with engineers. From Left: Jean Erlichman, Unidentified engineer, Tom Gormley and Hans Haacke.
In addition to working to form and structure the organization of E.A.T., assemble a small staff, reach out to industry to inform them of the interest of artists in the new technology, and fundraise for operations, many of E.A.T.' s activities were directed to inform and interest member engineers to engage them in helping fulfill the requests for technical help that E.A.T had received from artists at the first meeting and continued to receive, so that artists could have direct contact with engineers and scientists.
The goal was to respond to every artist who requested technical help and match the artists with engineers who could collaborate with them on ideas the artists couldn’t execute by themselves. On the basis of the experience of 9 Evenings, E.A.T. thought they could interest enough engineers to get the necessary help on a volunteer basis through the engineers' personal and professional interest. The engineers would participate in E.A.T. as they would in professional engineering societies.
So many of the activities in 1967 and 1968 aimed to generate publicity and contacts in order to recruit engineers to work with artists beginning in January 1967 when E.A.T. published and widely distributed the first edition of its newsletter, E.A.T. News, with information about the organization.
Direct mailings with recruiting information about E.A.T. were sent to the 3,000 engineer members of IEEE in the New York area, and an effort was made to generate articles about E.A.T. in the technical press and industrial house organizations. Billy Klüver, Bob Whitman and others active in E.A.T. participated in talks, panel discussions, and symposiums.
In March 1967 E.A.T. took a booth at the annual meeting of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in New York where artists like Hans Haacke and Tom Gormley talked to interested engineers about getting involved in artists’ projects.
Some of the activities combined outreach to engineers with services to artists to devise and expand opportunities for them to meet and interact with engineers and scientists. One of these was the idea of organizing tours for artists through industrial laboratories, or “"E.A.T. – ins” as they were called, and resulted later in 1967 in visits to Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, and IBM Laboratories in Armonk and Yorktown Heights, NY. Exploratory talks began with DuPont Laboratories and the Singer Corporation.
In the fall of 1967 E.A.T. began to hold a weekly Open House on Saturdays and Sundays at its loft offices on 16th Street where artists and engineers could meet and talk informally. Often artists brought plans of projects and engineers brought samples of materials and other technical literature. Collaborations developed organically.
E.A.T. initiated a safety program in November 1967 to inform artists of the safety precautions necessary in working with new technical materials and processes, such as ultra-violet light, lasers, chemicals, and microwave radiation, and to act as consultant to museums and art galleries on proper installation and maintenance of such works.
The recruiting efforts were successful and the number of engineer members grew steadily. Within three years, in addition to 2,000 artist members, E.A.T. had more than 2,000 engineer members from all over the country.