Open Score

Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg imagesWell, another year at the US Open draws to a close and the women's champion (Stosur) has been anointed. At this point, the games have been sufficiently digitized with serve speeds clocking upwards of 141 mph/226 kmh, slow-motion cameras capturing foot-faults and all statistics duly recorded for posterity (see post from 9.09.11). Although we'd like to think we're digital pioneers without precedent, a new exhibit at Seventeen Gallery in London illuminates a performance piece by artist Robert Rauschenberg that shows otherwise.

In 1966, across the river from Flushing, at New York's 69th Regiment Armory, Rauschenberg and ten fellow artists collaborated with engineers and scientists from Bell Telephone Labs to create works incorporating ground-breaking technology of the time. One of nine performances, Open Score, followed Frank Stella playing tennis using wired rackets. Contact with the ball produced an accompanying score and switched lights off until the players were enveloped in darkness and the audience entered for a modified replay. As Rauschenberg wrote in the original program:

'Tennis is movement, put it in the context of theatre it is a formal dance improvisation. The unlikely use of the game to control the lights and to perform as an orchestra interests me. The conflict is not being able to see an event that is taking place right in front of one except through a reproduction is the sort of double exposure of action. A screen of light and a screen of darkness'


Exhibition through Oct 8, 2011 at Seventeen Gallery, 17 Kingsland Road, London. Tel: 44(0)20 77295777 A documentary from 1997 is also available on DVD

via Cool Hunting