a Live Audience Test Laboratory - or LATL - during which the audience response to their experiments would be tested. As Steina recalls, "It wasn't supposed to be any kind of auditorium or 'legitimate' space. It was just a place where people could come in and interact with the people making the video." For the Vasulkas, it was difficult to think of their space as an "establishment" institution. They didn't want to become administrators or even have an office or phone.
What began as an informal laboratory, however, quickly evolved into a full-time alternative space. Like many organizations founded in the late '60s and early '70s, the goal was to create an open and flexible situation and, importantly, not to curate. In the early days at The Kitchen no one was ever turned away, and artists would bring their own crews and often their own equipment. As for payment, artists received no fixed fee, but if money was collected, they could choose to take it, split it, or leave it to The Kitchen. Most let The Kitchen keep the money, which paid for the monthly calendar and provided a fund of petty cash.
Soon events at The Kitchen started to get regular coverage in the Village Voice - and periodically in the New York Times. Describing The Kitchen during its 1972 video festival, David Shirey wrote in the Times, "Visitors to The Kitchen should not expect a well-appointed theater for the projections. They will be confronted rather with a loft-like room, honeycombed with wires, videotape recorders and a room-wide battery of TV monitors." So much for the hardware; commenting on the software, he said, "Although part of the work is tediously repetitive, displaying little imagination, there is enough inspired talent to warrant a visit."20
What kind of programming prompted this assessment? Although the Vasulkas originally wanted to limit The Kitchen's program to electronic music and video, they found that there was too much interesting work going on to justify such a purist attitude. Consequently, programming was actually more varied. Open video screenings, originally organized by Shirley Clarke, were held on Wednesdays. Rhys Chatham, an electronic musician who had studied with Morton Subotnick, became music director. A "Monday Series" kicked off with a performance by LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela - soon spilled over to Tuesday nights. 21 Thursdays and Fridays were taken up, says Steina, by other "general events that now have a name: performance art." Rock concerts were often held on Saturdays, and seminars and workshops on such timely topics as perception and cybernetics were held on Sundays. 22
In its entirety, The Kitchen provided a focal point for a variety of informal music, video, and other categorically elusive activities which would have otherwise remained invisible to a large public. Although a few of the names, e.g., LaMonte Young, Alvin Lucier, Nam June Paik, are now known outside of new music and video circles, most people involved remained part of a lesser-known downtown scene, but their contributions were nonetheless crucial to The Kitchen's vitality.
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