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Alex Hay

Grass Field (background)

Alex Hay and Lucinda Childs during the discussions at Stony Points
During the first half of the 1960s, visual artist Alex Hay assisted Robert Rauschenberg in making sets for the dance pieces of Merce Cunningham. Along with his wife, Deborah Hay, he joined the Judson Dance Theater from its very inception in 1963 and went on to play a role in dance as either an amateur dancer or set designer. For Concert #13 (1963), he conceived and performed a piece entitled, Prairie, climbing a metal sculpture by Charles Ross while a voice on a soundtrack repeated ironically, “Are you comfortable?” Hay was already attempting to draw viewers’ attention to the position of the body on the stage, and in the time and space of the performance.

His use of sensors to amplify physiological phenomena to the point of audibility for Grass Field places Hay within a whole tradition of art research that expanded rapidly in the early 1960s, along with dance and music, in response mainly to the medical research then being conducted notably on the brain. For one example of this approach in the world of dance, we could mention Yvonne Rainer’s At My Body's House (1964), which used a microphone attached to her throat to amplify the sounds of her breathing. In music, Alvin Lucier converted alpha waves into sound for his Music for Solo Performer (1965) (1). Cage adopted the same principle for his own performance in 9 Evenings.

Clarisse Bardiot © 2006 FDL

(1) Gordon Mumma, "Alvin Lucier's Music for Solo Performer 1965", in Source: Music of the Avant-Garde, Vol. 1, no. 2, july 1967, pp.68-69.