By the Late John Brockman

Carl Steadman and John Brockman on By the Late John Brockman

From: Carl Steadman
To: John Brockman

You sold the Dolly book.

You know, I just gotta respect that.

What was the name of your seminal text on life, the universe and everything? I haven't been able to find it.

Your pal,


From: John Brockman
To: Carl Steadman

Thanks for asking, Carl.

You must be referring to By The Late John Brockman, a book I wrote thirty years ago. Upon completion of the manuscript, I presented the book as a performance piece in November, 1968, one of a series of avant-garde evenings at The Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y in New York. The show, interrupted four times by uninvited "audience participation" in near-riot conditions, was a harbinger of things to come. Publication of the book elicited extreme reactions, e.g.: "Futuristic gibberish...Electronic Dada." (The Kirkus Review); "A terrifying book" (Vogue); "The most important book since Wittgenstein's Tractatus " (Alan Watts).

The history of my brief early literary career is summed up in the cover copy to a slim paperback published in 1974 by Abyss Publications, a small press, entitled After Brockman, A Symposium, a book about my work:

In 1969 and 1970, the first volumes of John Brockman's work were published. By The Late John Brockman (Macmillan) and 37 (Holt Rinehart Winston) received little notice when they appeared. These two early works have been included in his remarkable Afterwords (Anchor Press, 1973), a book which has stirred profound interest among his contemporaries because of the serious challenge it poses to contemporary ideas of language, thought, and reality. Many people are beginning to believe that Brockman, at 33, is unique among the writers and thinkers of our time. Still, the reception to his work remains, at best, a puzzled silence.

Where was I coming from? I was immersed in a milieu of explosive new ideas about art and communication not unlike what is happening today regarding the Internet and the World Wide Web. In fact, the following banner headline, 'Love Intermedia Kinetic Environments', (September 4, 1966) on the front page of The New York Times Sunday "Arts & Leisure Section", was eerily prescient:

'Love Intermedia Kinetic Environments.' John Brockman speaking - partly kidding, but conveying the notion that Intermedia Kinetic Environments are In in the places where the action is - an Experience, an Event, an Environment, a humming electric world. (Click here for article.)

At that time and place, new ideas and forms of expression were coming out of happenings, the dance world, underground movies, avant-garde theater. They came from artists engaged in experiment. Intermedia consisted more often than not of nonscripted, sometimes spontaneous, theatrical events by artists in which the audience was also a participant.

I arrived at this spot after managing the Film-Makers' Cinematheque, home for underground cinema in 1965, where I commissioned thirty performance pieces by world-class artists, dancers, poets, dramatists, and musicians for the Expanded Cinema Festival which received major media attention. I called the stuff we were doing Intermedia, a word I had coined and used as my logo. Some of the people I worked with during that period included visual artists Les Levine, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Robert Whitman; kinetic artists Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik; happenings artists Allan Kaprow and Carolee Schneemann; dancer Tricia Brown; filmmakers Jack Smith, Stan Vanderbeek, Ed Emshwiller, and the Kuchar brothers; avant-garde dramatist Ken Dewey; poet Gerd Stern and the USCO ("Us" Company) group; and musicians Lamonte Young and Terry Riley.

Through my art world activities, I knew, and was inspired by such people as communications theorist Marshall McLuhan, anthropologist Edmund Carpenter, composer John Cage, architect-designer Buckminster Fuller, futurist John McHale, and cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall. I read avidly in the field of information theory, cybernetics, and systems theory. I orchestrated an art and science symposium bringing together New York artists and Harvard and MIT scientists. By the Late John Brockman takes on board and synthesizes many of the ideas of the period.

For the Internet edition of the work, published under its original title: By The Late John Brockman, click on: .

Today, September 22, 1997 is publication day of the Internet edition.

Your friend,


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