Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg

The above video shown in the website is about a performance art done by Robert Rauschenberg, called “Open score”. It is a performance art done by a series of artists which using new technology in collaboration with engineers and scientists at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue at 25th Street (New York City) . Robert and his team invited their artist friends to participate.

Open score( my summary from the article on ):

It began with a tennis game between Frank Stella and his tennis partner, Mimi Kanarek, on a full-scale court laid out on the Armory floor.When Frank or Mimi hit the ball, a loud “BONG” vibrated around the Armory and the sound of each BONG switched off one of the lights illuminating the court.

Bill Kaminski from Bell Laboratories (which Robert was working as a research scientist) had designed a tiny crystal-controlled FM transmitter that could fit in the handle of the tennis racquet. A contact microphone was placed at the top of the handle and the antenna for the transmitter was wound around the racquet head. When the ball hit the racquet, the vibrations of the strings were picked up by the contact microphone and transmitted to an FM radio receiver, amplified, and fed to the speakers, resulting in a loud BONG, which also turned off one of the lights. The game continued in the increasing darkness until the Armory was completely dark.

The second part: a crowd of 500 people entered in the darkness. Lights with an infrared filter illuminated the crowd as the infrared sensitive television cameras picked up their movements. The television images were projected onto three large screens hanging in front of the audience. The audience could sense the presence of the crowd, but could only see them through the projected television image. Meanwhile, the audience would be guided to do some acts designed by Robert, like “touch someone who is not touching you; hug someone quickly; move closer together; move apart; draw a rectangle in the air as high as you can reach; sing one of ten songs being sung loudly or sing one of your own choice, etc.” At last,the house lights came up slowly and the crowd followed Rauschenberg’s instructions to “remain fixed until the lights dim down and go completely out.”.

The final section: Robert had the crowd leave silently in the dark. Then a single spotlight picked up the shape of a girl in a cloth sack – Simone Forti – singing a Tuscan folk song she remembered from her childhood. Rauschenberg picked her up, carried her to another place on the Armory floor and put her down. He repeated this several times as she continued to sing.


Performance art do need the interaction between the performers and the audience, we could not finish the “performance” without any one of the sides. Open score invited various kinds of people to get involved in this event, like engineers and scientists at Bell Laboratories, their artist friends and the crowd of people. Actually we can see the importance of every duty in this performance, for example, the engineers for supporting the events , artists performing in the event and the acting of the 500 people  etc. Also, without the technology , the performance would not be that successful and effective . I quite like the part of the tennis game and the crowd of 500 people . The technology used in the game had enlarged the vibrating sounds of the tennis racquets when hitting the ball. It gives me an alternative feeling of the hitting sound which i used to hear when i hit the tennis balls. Besides, hitting the ball would switch off the lights one by one is an interesting idea , like the player would a score after a hit of the tennis ball. Lastly, the 500 people gives me a mysterious feeling as the video mentioned that the 500 people’s act would projected on the screen , they would be in green (in color), just like ghost, they are real people indeed.They dismissed under Robert’s instructions silently when the lights completely out, like ghost. In my personal view , I hope there would be more performance art like “Open Score” did, so that I can experience more on various kinds of collaboration and explore more! Just have fun!


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