Several years after the "garden party," E.A.T. officially developed as an organization in 1966. In the "Statement of Purpose" co-written by Rauschenberg and Klüver in 1967, a declaration was issued for the civilized collaboration and dialogue between new technology and art. Profiling systems were organized to match artist and engineer according to interest and skill, and surveys were even administered via punch card and correlated with an EAT-EX system (a basic database). Workshops focused on obtaining technological skills and knowledge were organized, including visits to IBM and seminars in "computer basics." E.A.T.’s projects were infused with a technological optimism full of limitless possibility. Artists submitted technical questions to engineers asking whether assistance could be provided in becoming weightless or harnessing dreams. Some of these fantastic uses of technology were attempted in the 9 Evenings performance, which staged the integration of theater and engineering, and made claims that dancers and audience members alike would "float on air."
Klüver remarked that E.A.T.’s interdisciplinary collaborations, which forged a connection between art and technology, were "from the start related to the desire for something new outside the realm of art; a desire to participate in the possibilities for radical changes in our environment which technology was to bring about." (1)
With this schema in mind, the series of exhibitions "Projects Outside Art," was initiated in 1969. Held at the Automation House in New York City, this initiative moved art outside—into an expanded context of technology and social purpose. Through such projects as "Children and Communication," where school children circulated messages across Telex machines, E.A.T. sought to use "state of the art technology" to address issues pertaining to the larger social environment. In this way, E.A.T. focused its attention on art as process and exchange, rather than discrete object.
As with Conceptual Art, the majority of records remaining from E.A.T.’s undertakings consist primarily of documents that track the circulation of ideas. Indeed, many of E.A.T.’s projects used channels of communication, from satellites to Telex machines, to transmit ideas. (2)
With these projects, art occurs in the transaction between input and output, and the virtual transmission primarily leaves a paper trail from which to conjecture. "Utopia: Telex Q&A," a second project that employed the Telex machine (and by default generated reams of paper) may be read through this communication residue. "Utopia: Telex Q&A" staged an intercultural communication fest through the transmission of questions and answers between four cities. Held in 1971 as part of the "Utopia and Visions" exhibit at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the project consisted of public terminals set up for telex communication between New York, Tokyo, Bombay and Stockholm. The objective was for individuals to pose questions and answers about what the year 1981—ten years in the future—would bring. Four hundred and fifty questions in total were transmitted between the four locations.
Klüver initiated the event with a message that expanded upon the possibilities of the telex event with a text that seems caught in the maw of an excitable machine:
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 MECHNAICAL, (SIC) AND WHICH WAS NOT DEVELOPED SINCE THE LATE NINETEENTH CETXX (SIC) CENTURY. LIKE PRINT, ITS VERY SIMPLICITY PROVIDED ACCESS. WE BELIECXXX (SIC) WE BELIEVE THAT THIS IS THE FIRST WORLD WIDE PXXXXX (SIC) PEOPLE TO PEOPLE PROJECT, IMAGING TEHEIR (SIC) FUTURE.
UTOPIATK TK4411...T (3)
As Klüver indicates, at the core of this exchange of communication was a mechanical medium, but its particular use to dream up the future through a global correspondence went beyond all previous interactions. Channels of communication were delineated as a public space for engaging with worldwide questions (and answers) about Utopia. Because of the time difference among the four cities, messages were transmitted 24 hours per day in a constant feed of information. The questions and answers exchanged included musings about a future both apocalyptic and paradisiacal. Shuzo Takiguchi, sending a Telex from Tokyo (which was translated in situ into English), suggested that such musings on a technological utopia were a precarious venture:
TECHNOLOGY DOES IT EVER GUARANTEE FOR US UTOPIA? PROBABLY, NO. ... FOR WE KNOW THAT EVERY CHAT AND FANTASY ABOUT FUTURE COULD HAPPEN TO BE SUDDENLY CHANGED INTO COUNTDOWN TO OUR CATASTROPHE—AS FAR AS UTOPIA REMAINS A ROSE-COLORED CATCH-WORD AS EVER. (4)
From optimistic to catastrophic speculation, the imaginary future took shape through the Telex medium, which in the end was essentially secondary to the larger project of exchanging utopian speculations. Referring to developments in Conceptual Art during the 1960s, Sol Lewitt commented that "the idea becomes a machine that makes art." (5)
This statement may be read even more literally with respect to E.A.T.’s projects, where the idea is not only a machine, but the machine is also an idea. The conceptual agenda, which informed art and technology alike, rendered materials and machines relatively superfluous, such that even the machine "dematerialized" under the weight of ideas.
In Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object, Lucy Lippard documents a letter written by the Art-Language group that refers to such an elision of matter. They write that for an art of information, "the consequent material qualities of the entity produced (i.e., typewritten sheet, etc.) do not necessarily have anything to do with the idea." The material produced in the generation of ideas is simply a "necessary by-product" and has even less to do with dematerialization, as its subject was not matter from the beginning. (6)
E.A.T.’s use of information and communication systems, a common approach during this time period, similarly had an effect that moved beyond dematerialization to the creation instead of by-products, where the process of art and technology typically left behind scraps of paper and discarded devices. In this sense, the primary art "object" is no object at all, but rather the process of communication and exchange of ideas. The matter leftover is residual, it goes without saying, but the question that remains is whether, to a certain degree, matter has been residual ever since. Perhaps the stacks of paper, computers, telex and fax machines that pile up today in the rush of dematerialized communication share something with this initial momentum to realize machines that are most adept at eliminating themselves. So much is thrown away—those necessary by-products—in the factory of ideas.