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The strange dance: 9 evenings: theatre & engineering as creative collaboration

Resource type
Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
Date created
This dissertation examines the historical case study of 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, a 1966 series of technology-based performances created collaboratively by avant-garde artists and Bell Labs engineers in New York City. The 9 Evenings project, part of the 1960s Art & Technology movement, was a well-documented attempt to bridge C.P. Snow’s iconic “Two Cultures” of science and art. It inspired the formation of an international networked organization of artists collaborating with engineers called Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.). Both the 9 Evenings artists and engineers were influenced by Cybernetics and other new ideas emerging from 20th century science, and they saw the value of experimenting with new communications technologies as part of their respective collaborative practices. I argue that the 9 Evenings project helped pioneer creative collaboration as a key aspect of today’s digital culture that to date has not been sufficiently examined. I also argue that technology had, and increasingly has significant roles to play in the creative collaboration process, including as translator, or “boundary object” in an emerging “collaboration aesthetic” that foregrounds dialogic processes and new knowledge rather than creating art objects. There is a review of a large body of historical and contemporary literature about mid-twentieth century art that includes original documents written by the 9 Evenings artists and engineers. There is an examination of recent writings about creative collaboration by business experts, social scientists, and arts scholars. Through case study methodology and research design, the artists’ and engineers’ first-hand accounts are applied to a matrix of successful creative collaboration elements and to technology’s identified roles in collaboration. I conclude that as creative collaboration, the 9 Evenings project was both revolutionary and transformational. It was revolutionary for its intentional focus on dialogic processes utilizing technology as both tools and boundary objects to generate new knowledge, and it was transformational emotionally, intellectually and professionally for many, if not all of the artists and engineers.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Bowes, John
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