| 1957: Billy Kluver, the father of electronic art, earns his PhD
by David Pescovitz
At the intersection
of art and technology lies one of the most fertile grounds for
creative expression. And it was a UC Berkeley engineer who planted
the early seeds that grew into the rich genre of electronic art.
Billy Kluver (EE '57) died January 11 at the age of 76.
Kluver with a battery-powered neon letter he created for
Jasper Johns's Field Painting (1964).
In the 1960s, Kluver collaborated with famed artists like Robert
Rauschenberg, Jean Tinguely, John Cage, and Andy Warhol on works
that influenced the last three decades of tech-art. For example,
Kluver designed an audio system for Rauschenberg's sculpture Oracle
that enabled the viewer to "play the sculpture as an orchestra
from the controls on one of the pieces."
Born Johan Wilhelm Kluver in Monaco on November 13, 1927, he grew up in Salen, Sweden, where his father built the first ski hotel in the country.
After graduating in electrical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm,
he worked on projects ranging from the television antenna atop to
the Eiffel Tower to an underwater video camera for Jacques Cousteau.
Kluver received his PhD in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley
in 1957 and taught in the department the following year. From
1958 to 1968, he was on the technical staff of Bell Telephone Laboratories
in Murray Hill, New Jersey, and it was during his years at Bell Labs
that he became immersed in New York's thriving avant-garde art scene.
informal collaborations with artists reached their pinnacle in
1966 when he and Rauschenberg organized "9 Evenings:
Theatre and Engineering." The performance series incorporated
new technology developed by 10 artists working with more than
30 Bell Labs engineers.
Kluver working on Oracle (1965), a collaboration with
the success of "9 Evenings," Kluver and Rauschenberg
then founded Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), a non-profit
organization designed to match artists with engineers and scientists.
In 1970, Kluver led the EAT team to design the Pepsi Pavilion
at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan, a tour-de-force of high-tech installation
Kluver went on
to write and edit several books, most recently A Day With Picasso,
published by MIT Press in 1997. Kluver discussed
this work during his last visit to UC Berkeley in the fall
as a speaker in professor Ken Goldberg's Art, Technology,
and Culture Colloquium. Coincidentally, the presentation was scheduled
70th birthday. After his energized presentation, Kluver was
surprised with a cake and a special gift--a bound copy of
presented by his PhD advisor, EECS professor Emeritus John
Kluver was an inspiration to everyone in the art and technology
community," says Goldberg, who is also an internationally recognized
artist. "He showed that a serious engineer could make
Kluver (center) in 2003 at the New York City opening of
Mori, an art installation directed by Ken Goldberg (second
Kluver died, he and his wife Julie Martin were working on a social
art communities from
1965 in the United States, Western
Europe, and Japan. Kluver is survived by Martin; daughter Maja Kluver
of Brooklyn, NY; son Kristian Patrik Klüver of Boulder,
Colorado; half brothers Björn
Tarras-Wahlberg and Lorentz Lyttkens; and half sister Ase Lyttkens
all of Stockholm, Sweden.
In Depth: Billy Kluver
Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium
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