Telex: Q & A / Utopia: Q &A
July 29-August 28, 1971: New York, Stockholm, Ahmedabad, and Tokyo
Telex Machine on Park Avenue in New York City
In 1971 Pontus Hultén asked E.A.T. to contribute a section on ten years in the future for his exhibition Utopia and Visions:1871-1981. The exhibition would include sections on the Paris Commune of 1871, explorations of everyday aspects of life such as money, work, leisure, and family; presentation of Buckminster Fuller's work and ideas, including a geodesic dome where Moki Cherry created a colorful environment and Don Cherry held music events.
Billy Klüver and Bob Whitman remembered plans for a telex project that they had developed with Fujiko Nakaya and Katsuhiro Yamaguchi of the Japan Electrical Arts Association in March 1969 for a telex information service between New York and Tokyo in which artists in Japan could ask and receive answers to their technical questions from E.A.T. member scientists and engineers in the United States. They expanded this idea and began to work with Nakaya and the E.A.T. Local Group in Tokyo that Nakaya had established one year earlier to develop a large international communications project.
Telex was selected as a medium of exchange for its simplicity, availability, and nearly real-time connections. People at each location would ask questions about the year 1981, which people at the other locations would answer. Questions were to concern the future of everyday life and not be the kind easily answered by going to a library. Questions would be collected during the day and transmitted by telex to the other locations toward the end of the day. Answers would also be collected by telephone from non-experts as well as experts or "wise men," depending on the nature of the question, and transmitted to the other locations.
During August 1971, telex terminals were established at the E.A.T. office at Automation House in New York; at the exhibition at Moderna Museet in Stockholm; at the Design Institute, Ahmedabad, India, with the project headed by Dashrath Patel; and at the Sony Building in Tokyo. For one month, the public in all four countries was invited to submit questions about ten years in the future to the other countries. Scientists, artists, subject experts, students, and members of the general public were asked to formulate answers which were then telexed to the original questioner and all other terminals.
In New York, the project opened with an event "online" at Automation House, making contact with the other locations. The project's opening included telex messages by Sweden's Ambassador Gunnar Heckscher, Theodore Kheel, John Fierce, Setsuya Seki, G. Matsushita, Minoru Yoshida, Aldo Tambellini, Douglas Carroll, Nilo Lindgren, Marcia Newfield, Shirley Seeley, Maja Klüver, the Pulsa group, a taxi driver, and a sushi maker. Billy Klüver transmitted the following message: Our hope is that this project will contribute to the recognition of and contact between different cultures. We have chosen a medium which was invented in 1846, which is essentially mechanical, and which was not developed since the late nineteenth century. Like print, its very simplicity provides access. We believe that this is the first worldwide people-to-people project, imagining their future
In Stockholm, the project at Moderna Museet was administered by Tonie Roos, and comprised one section in the outdoor exhibition, Utopia and Visions. The telex unit was housed in a little white building with the questions and answers projected on the exterior. Tonie Roos, in an interview, recalled that the museum visitors unfortunately could not directly use the telex themselves and that the number of questions was limited by available funds and transmission technicalities. Roos also remembered that the "wise men" in Sweden who were asked for answers were often hesitant in giving answers, perhaps she thought, not wanting to make a commitment or take the responsibility that might be implied in commenting on the future. Pontus Hultén, in a later interview, recalled a wonderful response at the Moderna Museet and expressed the belief that the project would have many other useful applications.
In Ahmedabad, Dasarth Patel organized the project at the National Institute of Design, in Ahmedabad, and borrowed a telex machine by convincing the owner to consider its use for the benefit of mankind. At the Ahmedabad station, Chandralekha, who helped work at the Ahmedabad center, found people more interested in asking questions than receiving answers. She suggested to E.A.T. to organize an exchange “question and question" project. Difficulties in acquiring answers from “wise men" was also an issue in Ahmedabad, as in Stockholm, but not in Tokyo and New York.
In New York, E.A.T. had wanted to move its telex machine from E.A.T.’s offices at Automation House to a more public location like Grand Central Station or some other heavily trafficked outdoor place, such as Park Avenue, but was unable to do so because of an ongoing telephone installers’ strike that made it impossible to install the necessary connection equipment at such sites.
Also, soon after the project started, heavy rains in New York city caused floods in the basement of Automation House and knocked out the Western Union telex transmission equipment located there. Thus, E.A.T staff had to use the public telex office in the basement service level of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, transmitting questions and answers between 12:00 and 1:00 at night. During daytime hours, staff members -- Billy Klüver, Julie Martin, and Barbara Birkenmeier, joined by Harriet De Long, used the telephones to gather questions and to solicit as many answers as possible from different sources, that were compiled and sent once a day.
Nakaya, working with Kobayashi Hakudō and Morioka Yūji, organized the largest and most public version of the project and titled their Tokyo center Utopia Q&A, 1981 which was active from July 30 to September 30, 1971, at the Fuji Xerox showroom in the Sony building in Ginza, where a team of volunteers translated incoming messages into Japanese and outgoing ones into English. Visitors were encouraged to pose questions about ten years in the future to the other locations, read the telexes received from the other sites that were posted on the walls, and give answers to questions in these telexes.
In addition, visitors could have their photos taken, and the more than 1500 photos collected were assembled into a Utopia: Q&A poster, that had the same layout as the poster Hultén had made for his exhibition in Stockholm. E.A.T. Tokyo also held events at the site with the participation of a number of well-known media and cultural figures including manga artist and animator Tezuka Osamu, scientist Oda Minoru, and composer Ichiyanagi Toshi.
Nakaya also organized a send-off party for Kosugi Takehisa and the Taj Mahal Travelers, an artists’ band that had been invited to Stockholm and perform during the exhibition with Don and Moki Cherry.
At the Tokyo station, the exhibition continued after the one-month telex transmission phase of the project and visitors could continue to view printouts of questions and answers hung on the walls and add their own answers to the exhibition, and have their photos taken for the poster. Over 500 questions from the four locations were transmitted during the project and some questions received several answers from the other centers.
For the official close of the project in New York, August 28, 1971, E.A.T. arranged for a day-long event at Automation House. and invited each telex station to do the same at their location. As announced in E.A.T.'s telex press release, Indian, Japanese, and Swedish nationals in New York had been invited to come, They would address questions to in their own language, comment on the questions and answers transmitted from their native country, and give opinions “on how their consciousness of the possibilities of 1981" had been changed by the project.
Julie Martin recalled in a later interview that the closing party online provided an opportunity for exchange among family members and friends in the different telex centers. Among those transmitting messages were Leon Lassovsky, Yoko Ono, Marcia Newfield, and Robert Whitman in New York; Kosugi, Barbro Ostlihn, Öyvind Fahlström, and the Taj Mahal Travelers in Stockholm; Gautam Shah, Mana Sarabhai, Chandralekha, and Steve Paxton in Ahmedabad; Toshi Ichiyanagi, Ay-o, and G. Matsushita in Tokyo. Matsushita's message was "Sayonara," referring to “the end as well as the beginning,”
Fujiko Nakaya and others at Utopia Q&A 1981 Terminal at Xerox Knowledge-In, Sony Building, Ginza, Tokyo, 1971
Telex Q&A Terminal on Park Avenue in New York City, 1971.
Anna Lundh : Q & Q - 2022
Mixed media installation, online project, performance. (Ongoing research).
Q&Q – 2022 is a project by Swedish artist Anna Lundh considering questions about the future from multiple vantage points, both temporal and local. First initiated in March 2012 as a participatory installation at the art institution ExitArt, New York, where the public were invited to ask questions about what the future will be like, 10 years into the future. The incoming questions were also displayed, to inspire and generate new questions. The project included the addition of an online work developed in collaboration with New Museum, New York, and launched on 12/12/12 as a new commission for the New Museum’s First Look: New Art Online. Through the website, questions came in from all over the world, accumulating into an archive of questions and concerns of that precise moment in time. In 2018, Lundh installed a new version of the project at MMCA (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art), Seoul, Korea, which instead asked, “what will the future be like in 2028”?
The first “Q” in the title references Utopia: Q&A – a project organized in 1971 by E.A.T. as part of the exhibition “Utopia & Visions: 1871–1981” at Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Their project envisioned “a world-wide people-to-people communication link to explore aspects of life in 1981”, and it involved the installment of telex machines in four cities around the globe; in Stockholm, New York, Tokyo, and Ahmedabad. Local participants from each city were then invited to send questions (and suggested answers) via telex about 1981 – ten years into the future – to the other sites. The second “Q” in the title stands for the new questions that are produced in the present (so far, in 2012 and 2018).
Lundh also developed a series of lecture performances, which have been performed at venues such as Bonniers Konsthall and Moderna Museet in Sweden, Performa 13 Biennial in New York, and MMCA, Korea. These performances include a “Q&Q” (a “question and question”- session) together with Julie Martin, either live or on video call. A selection of the questions from 1971 are asked by Martin, and Lundh responds each question by asking a new question that was posed in 2012, over 40 years later.