presented as part of 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering
, The 69th Regiment Armory, New York, N.Y., United States, October 14-23, 1966.
Racquet design and construction:
Mimi Kanarek, Frank Stella (tennis players), Simone Forti, Christopher Rauschenberg, Robert Rauschenberg, Christine Williams, a group of 500 people gathered together for the two performances
Direction of the performers:
Elaine Sturtevant, Susan Hartnett, Clark Poling
Technical assistance for the closed-circuit video broadcast:
Robert Breer, Les Levine
Jennifer Tipton, Beverly Emmons (assistant)
Alex Hay, Deborah Hay
In Open Score
, Robert Rauschenberg derived the content of his performance from the characteristics of the performance venue. The tennis racquet suggested both the idea of the ready-made
(at other times tennis was played at the Armory) and that of a dance improvised in accordance with specific rules. The lighting, however, which dimmed each time a racquet hit a ball, conferred on the player’s actions a function bound up with a complex technological system. During the second part of the performance, which took place in total darkness, a crowd on stage, which was filmed with infrared cameras, appeared to mirror the viewers assembled on the bleachers that served as seats. As close as the onstage crowd was, it could be seen, paradoxically, only on the screens (1)
Two tennis players (Mimi Kanarek and Frank Stella) took up positions on the tennis court set up at centre stage. Contact microphones fitted onto the racquets picked up the reverberations produced by the sound of the balls (b)
. These data were relayed by short wave (FM) to two receivers/transistors and from there to the Armory speakers. At the same time, the reverberations of the balls hitting the racquet strings triggered an automatic mechanism that shut off the 36 lights on the Armory ceiling one by one. Thus the stage and auditorium were gradually plunged into darkness. During the performance of October 14, the mechanism did not function properly; in order to simulate the effect of simultaneity, the engineer Jim McGee had to manually operate the apparatus in order to cut the power to the lights. The match ended once all the lights were out (d)
. During this first performance, the sound of the tennis balls hitting the racquets was recorded on six reel to reel tape recorders. The transition to the second moment was facilitated by playing these sounds in the dark.
Nearly 500 people then assembled on the stage, where they were filmed by infrared cameras that had been set up on the balcony. Each participant was required to move around in accordance with 10 memorized instructions provided by Rauschenberg. The sequence of the instructions, and hence that of the participants’ actions, was signaled by numbered panels and flashes of light. The instructions were as follows: “1. Touch someone who is not touching you. 2. Touch two places on your body where you are ticklish (don’t laugh). 3. Hug someone quickly then move to someone else. Continue this until next cue (do this seriously, quickly and smoothly). 4. Draw a rectangle in the air as high as you can reach. 5. Take out a handkerchief and wipe your nose (do not blow). 6. Women brush hair 7. Move close together. 8. Move apart. 9. Men take off jackets; replace them; repeat. 10. Sing one of the 10 songs being sung (loudly), or sing a song of your choice.” (2)
The image of this crowd appeared on three screens hung in front of the audience (k)
During the performance of October 14, Rauschenberg played a pre-recorded soundtrack on which individuals gave their names one by one. This recording was not used during the performance of October 23. On the other hand, an additional element was added: Rauschenberg walked across the stage carrying the swaddled body of Simone Forti, putting her down from time to time; she, for her part, sang an Italian ballad (y)
. The length of the performances is not mentioned in the documents that were consulted when writing these notes.