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Brockman's Taste For Science

or how to entertain the smartest people

By Hans Ulrich Obrist, February 1999

John Brockman is the literary agent, writer, impresario and producer whose engagement in the arts and sciences forms the very foundation of his remarkable business. Based in N.Y.C he holds a position as one of the true networkers on the American and international scene of art, science, media and culture. As a devoted dinner host he brings the most sharp minds together and on his website Edge he provides for daily intellectual jam sessions. Here he talks to curator Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Hans Ulrich Obrist (HUO:) You were talking about differences between Europe and America?

John Brockman (JB): "Nobody knows, and you can't find out" is one of the ideas that I live by. When I think about Europe, I add another phrase: "Nobody knows, you can't find out, and you have to ask permission". Europe is all about asking permission, whether it's in Science, where you are not allowed to ask a question until you are forty years old and a professor, or art where you're surrounded by statues commissioned by the rulers celebrating death for centuries. There is a very different situation in America where the artists basically get no respect, and neither do the scientists. There is no premium placed in this society, in this culture, on erudition and knowledge. You are judged in your neighborhood on whether or not your house is painted, you keep your lawn mowed and you treat your children well. If you get along at that level, people accept you on that basis. Whether you are a nuclear physicist or a Noble laureate in Biology is beside the point; people just don't seem to care that much.

In Europe on the other hand, a major scientist is "Herr Professor" and lives an exalted existence in a very hierarchical mode, whereas the younger people are not allowed to open their mouths until they reach a certain level and a certain age, and that age can be when in their forties. In America you go to any University and everybody is on a first name basis and the doors are open. People don't get the same kind of respect, but in a way it's a deeper respect, because it's about ideas, it's not about institutions. Years ago, I had written "By the Late John Brockman", was invited by Alan Watts John Lilly to a conference which they called the American University of Masters, which was a joke because if you spell out the initials it's "AUM". The idea was that these masters were people whose authority was derived from their persona and their ideas, not from their institutions. It included Heinz von Foerster, Gregory Bateson, Stewart Brand among others.


HUO: When did this conference take place?

JB: 1973. We were all brought together to spend a week studying laws of form ... Spencer Brown's mathematical formulations. I was a late invitee. I went because I wanted to hear Richard Feynman, the keynote speaker. When I arrived and asked when he was scheduled to speak, the person at the desk showed me the schedule: his name was crossed out and mine written in pencil next to it. He had become ill and was unable to attend. I never did get to meet him. The point is you don't have to ask permission in America, and that allows people to be wild, at least in their heads, and that's where you get your breakthroughs.

HUO: You mentioned in your book Digerati the importance of the salon-like evenings which were organized by John Cage. Can you tell me a little more about this and how it influenced you to do your own salon, and maybe the differences because your own salon changed considerably over time.

JB: Very early in my career, 1964 or 65, Dick Higgins, the poet, who had a beautiful brownstone, organized a series of evenings along with John Cage for young artists. Cage would cook dinner and we would talk. Obviously he got a lot out of it and so did everybody there. It was there that I first heard of Norbert Weiner, first heard of McLuhan. Unlike the literati, the people in the art world were extremely erudite and interested in the sciences. People such as Rauschenberg and Cage were reading and talking about McLuhan and I started to read his books. At these dinners that went on for about a year, Cage would cook up his mushroom dishes and...

HUO: How many people did attend these meetings? How was your relationship with Cage?

JB: Six, maybe ten. People like Ed Schlossberg, Philip Glass... the people who were there were cooking and all interesting characters. I never developed any kind of one-on-one relationship with Cage. He was not that kind of cuddly guy; he was very Zen. I once inquired of Higgins why he hadn't responded to something I brought up during a session. "It's because he doesn't think you need him", Higgins replied.


I was 23 or 24 and at that time I came up with an interesting idea which has guided many of my actions over the years: the idea that I could look upon my contemporaries as historical figures. I was thinking about some of the people of my own age and generation, radicals such as Huey P. Newton and Abbie Hoffmann, artists such as Byars, Paik and Warhol.


Idea number two is that the world is a finite proposition. It's not sitting a priori like some modernist masterwork for a literary art critic to decipher, it is, quite simply, "said". Take it off the tongue. If ours is a world of words, who has said it? A finite number of people throughout human history have uttered the words that vocabulary that we call "the universe", "ourselves", "reality". There aren't that many; you can identify them. In terms of the sciences, and much of this is bootlegged from scientific ideas over a period of time, there are more scientists today than have ever lived throughout history. Well who are they? Who is inventing the world? Who is doing the empirical work that will take us to the epistemological crossroads where everything has to be rethought? That's what I started to track back in 1965.


HUO: Ballad coined the term of a junction maker.

JB: I was thinking about this, that there was a consciousness that hadn't revealed itself yet but it was immanent in the work a lot of people were doing, and it all came together in the arts: cybernetics, communications theory. I realized I was dead center in the middle of it, and because of what I did and what I was interested in I could communicate with all these various people and become a nexus.

HUO: That's also the time when you went to see McLuhan?

JB: This was before. My entire career since then has been in pursuit of this vision. In a funny way, the literary agent business is just a spin-off rather than the other way around as people would imagine.

HUO: One can say all these different parts are unfolding from this set of questions.


JB: It wasn't a calling, it's just what interests me. There is a book that McLuhan turned me onto, "Doubt and Certainty in Science", by J.Z. Young (Oxford University, 1951). Young I gather is in his nineties, he's still alive, and he has this phrase that's repeated in dozens of books: "Man creates tools and is molded by his use of them". "The heart is a pump" is the product of Newton. "The brain is a computer" came along in the fifties and people got very upset. Now it's old hat, we've gone beyond that. We've become a clockwork, we've become an information system. New York is Newtonian, L.A. is Einsteinian, and in a very real way we are a reflection of the tools we create. That's important to me because the words of the world become the life of the world, and nature is not a creation, nature is said. The question is "who is saying it?". I look to the people of the third culture people, and by third culture I mean those who through their empirical work are changing the nature of ourselves and reality, whether they are scientists are not. It's a big enough umbrella to include what I call the Digerati, which is people who are using technology and new communications ideologies to radically reboot the whole idea of human communication.

HUO: Let's go back to the beginnings of your work in the 60s. Not coming particularly form a science background, how did you start to meet all these different scientists?

JB: I had no science background, and I had never been interested in science per se. I'm interested in ideas. I think I've sat through one or two scientific lectures in my life, and it's probably too many. But I read voraciously. When Cage recommended a book, I would read it. Then I would read that book's bibliography. So I would not only read McLuhan but I would read everything he read. It would take me down some interesting pathways and into some very deep ideas. I was fortunate since I did not have the baggage, getting back to the European thing of having to ask permission, and also since I was doing very interesting stuff myself, I had no problem in picking the phone up and calling anybody and saying, "I'm organizing the Expanded Cinema Festival and I've read your book. Can we talk?"

HUO: So that's how these contacts started.

JB: Yes. And people called me. One was cultural anthropologist Edward T. Hall, one of my intellectual heroes, who called me one day out of the blue, introduced himself (I said, "I know who you are"), and said, "I have a plan to end the war in Vietnam. I'm working with the State Department, and you're central to it. When can we talk?" I said "Well, when would you like?" He said, "I'm in Chicago, I can be in New York in four hours". Four hours later I was sitting with Edward T. Hall talking about his multi-media blitz on Lyndon Johnson which he wanted me to orchestrate, to make him realize what was really going on.

HUO: Can you talk a bit about the Expanded Cinema Festival? 


JB: I got out of the army in 1963, came to New York and promptly had my own investment leasing company with an office on Park Avenue. Going to the office everyday and looking at paper and talking to businessmen, but at night I went down to St. Mark's Church where one of my boyhood friends was working at Theater Genesis, which was an off-off-off Broadway theater. I must have had a strong yearning to do something more creative, because I began hanging out every night and helping out . Myself and a couple of other young guys - Sam Shepherd who had just arrived in New York, and his friend Charles Mingus, Jr. would set up the chairs, sweep the floor, etc. After a while, I forget how this happened, Michael Allen, the minister, asked me to start a film program. I started an avant-garde film program which was an immediate success. The place was packed with hundreds being turned away. At that point Willard van Dyk ran a program at Moma which was very up-scale avant-garde cinema, and Jonas Mekas ran the underground cinema stuff at Film-maker's Cinematheque. After a few months of this I recall sitting playing my banjo in Central Park (I used to be a folk singer) and there's Jonas Mekas walking by with his ubiquitous little 8 mm camera starts and he began filming me.

HUO: His Bolex, which he still uses.

JB: We talk, and in an hour I was the Manager of the Filmmaker's Cinematheque. I would leave my office on Park Ave. wearing my Brooks Brothers suit and velvet black collar and go down at 5 o'clock and run the Cinematheque.

HUO: It was like a double life.


JB: In a way I've always been a control group. Let everyone else be downtown and hip, and I'll be uptown and straight, or vice-versa. So it wasn't a problem for me. It wasn't a problem for them either. The place was completely unruly and unmanageable, and at least I could run something, which I did. It went very well. Mekas went off to the Baltics to visit family. He had come up with some general plan to do institute a program involving cinema and other arts, and he just laid it in my lap. He had a list of people, and I added some, and he left the country. Life is the theater of one chance, from the Zen Buddhist teaching where if at one point in life you take an action, everything changes completely. What I did was send a personal letter out to the press. It wasn't a press release, just a statement of what I was hoping to accomplish. The result was massive global coverage on which led to two related Life covers in a year, a New York Times Magazine cover, just tremendous effect. The Festival was also a fabulous event, so that added to it. Each artist, dancer, poet received a mandate to do something that included cinema in their work, and that was it. They each got fifty dollars.

HUO: All time-based art?

JB: Mostly performances or events.

HUO: Who were the artists you worked with?

JB: La Monte Young, Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, Whitman, USCO, Carolee Schneeman, Jerry Joffen, Nam June Paik, Jack Smith, etc. Until then the Cinematheque had been the home for the 8 mm artists making movies, people like Stan Brackhage, Gregory Markopoulos, Stan Vanderbeek, Ed Emshwiller...

HUO: Kind of a ghetto.

JB: Well, I wouldn't say that. It was what it was. This took it from that to a much broader art world focus. Until then, no one in the art world was paying attention. I remember ... the Cinematheque had moved, Mekas was in Europe. The night of the Rauschenberg piece, he returned and found throngs of people outside the theater. Inside, in the lobby, Mike Wallace was interviewing Teddy Kennedy for CBS-TV. Jonas walked up to me and handed me a letter informing me that my services were no longer required. From his point of view I had things too well organized and this was affecting the artistic license of the Cinematheque regulars. I could accept that. On the other hand people like art historian Meyer Shapiro began to attend events. One night Miro showed up and stayed for a 3-hour piece by Nam June Paik. For this kind of crowd the shows had to begin on schedule. So there was tension.

HUO: This was before you had done anything in publishing?

JB: Publishing started much later. After the Cinematheque, I did a project for Michael Meyerberg, the Broadway producer who did the famous Broadway production of Waiting for Godot, eminent, high class productions. He had an airplane hangar in Roosevelt Field, Long Island that was used as a movie studio. He asked me, "Can you do something with it?" This was the start of my next career as the first McLuhanesque consultant. I said, "no problem, I can handle it".

HUO: Could we say this was the daily practice of McLuhan?

JB: McLuhan collaborated with USCO, a group of anonymous artists who pioneered the whole genre of multi-media. USCO would do a performance and Mcluhan would then talk about it. I came up with the idea of a multimedia entertainment space. I brought USCO into the project and within six month we had opened the world's first mixed-media disco, "Murry the K's World" which was announced to the world on the cover of Life Magazine. Within a week every bar in New York had a slide projector. Even today, go to a movie and you see moiré patterns on the screen between shows, or check out the flashing strobe lights in a disco - some of the stuff is still around.

HUO: What exactly was your function in this project?

JB: A cross between impressario, producer, and artist; conceiving a project and putting together a team to do it. Interestingly, I originally brought in Andy Warhol, and the project was called "Andy Warhold's World". For some reason I can't recall, Andy dropped out and we wound up with Murray the K, a disc jockey also known as "the fifth Beatle." Later I was invoved with Andy at the environment at the Dom on St Mark's Place.

HUO: What was the next move?


JB: Amos Vogel of the New York Film Festival showed up and asked me to do something similar - a special projects program -for the 1965 Film Festival. A few months later - it was Labor Day, 1965 - I'm profiled on the front page of the Sunday New York Times Arts section, "What Happens after Happenings?", regarding what I was doing at Lincoln Center. The next day I got in the elevator and William Schuman, the composer and President of Lincoln Center, glared at me and said, "I've been reading about you." They weren't too happy. But I put on a series of similar-type events. It was lot of fun. I got into a broader frame, meeting a different crowd - film-makers such as Goddard, Fellini, Forman, Wells, among others. I gave Scorcese a screening. He was a student at NYU doing a different kind of thing but an enormously talented guy.

HUO: This was Scorcese's first public project?

JB: Outside of NYU, he was still a student.

HUO: When did the publishing start? Was it a similar idea, to produce people?

JB: This was in 1973. It followed a very successful consulting career which began after Lincoln Center. I worked with General Electric, Scott Paper, Metro Media, Colombia Pictures, the Pentagon, the White House.

HUO: Consulting on media projects?

JB: Communications, ideas, but really reframing what people did, what their business was. I was also on Wall Street doing stuff for investment banks and companies they worked with. Then I settled into writing. In 1973 I was at the AUM conference - all the participants were authors, some of them best-selling authors: Alan Watts, Ram Das Stewart Brand... no one there had an agent. A few of them said to me, "Why don't you represent our interests in New York?" I had gotten an MBA at Colombia Business School, so I had some background, I could do things. I said OK. I went for it and within a few weeks I sold John Lilly's new book for a lot of money. I figured I could just write and do this for three or four hours a day. Well, the joke was on me. Because of the immediate success I learned something about business they don't teach in business school. In business, if you're growing, you have to accelerate growth to maintain the cash flow to accommodate the growth. Otherwise, you have to take in investors. To do the business you incur expenses, you have to pay taxes, you have increase revenues. It becomes a self-organized system.

HUO: There is a great text by Paul Krugman about the self-organization of economy. He come to very similar conclusions as in Science in terms of self-organized systems.

JB: In business, if you stop, you're dead, it's over. You can't stop. Every year my company inevitably gets bigger. But for many years I wrote books and that's how I was able to bootstrap the operation.

HUO: So this activity took over, time-wise.

JB: Very quickly. And it's been like that for twenty-five years.

HUO: One ongoing theme seems to be the salon, from the early John Cage salon to your first own salons up to the Digerati Dinners and the Edge events. Has there been an evolution?


JB: First of all, I hate the word "salon" because it connotes a rich person condescendingly entertaining creative people, and that's never been the case. To me it's just dinner. I like people for whom the world is the only subject, for whom anything less than everything means nothing. That's what I expect from the people I hang out with and that´s why I spend a lot of time alone. There are not that many of them. If I can gather a few of these people together from time to time, fine. What these evenings represent is what's interesting to me.


By the eighties I was pretty much out of the art world - I knew it was time to walk after a conversation with an artist regarding his favorite collector's landscape gardener. In 1983 I went to Comdex in Las Vegas, and found it to be wildly exciting. I had been wondering "where are things happening?", well, this is what's happening. A different cast of characters, a bunch of nerdy-type people wearing nondescript clothing, but - what passion, what excitement. This thing called the personal computer was coming in and changing everything. Just like today the Internet is the agent of change. What interests me are the edges of the culture.

HUO: What exactly is the function of your famous dinners? 

JB: The pattern that seems to have evolved is to organize a social life around these dinners, where I can go to a town, send out a few emails, and see everyone I know in one night, thirty, forty, seventy people. This brought a certain fame in 1983 when the Wall Street Journal ran a front page story mentioning my "millionaires dinners." Even this year, several magazine articles have been devoted to recent dinners in Monterey and San Francisco.

HUO: You're refering to the Digerati dinners in the eighties and nineties that take place in different cities.

JB: There are different ones, like the one I had at TED. Last year I couldn't even get in the conference. I went to Monterey and had a dinner. I had one in California three weeks ago. I also had a dinner with scientists two weeks ago out here. It's different groups, but they can overlap to some degree.

HUO: So these dinners are not just in NYC, they travel with you. 

JB: I had a dinner in London last year for seventy people: the press, the publishers, best-selling writers, everyone comes. I've done them in Paris, in Cannes, Prague, Amsterdam, etc. .. it's a fun thing to do.

HUO: How are the dinners related to Edge? Could you define Edge?

JB: Edge is the electronic iteration of the Reality Club which started in 1980, which in a sense formalized what I did at these dinners. It celebrates thinking smart versus the anesthesiology of wisdom. It's the idea of somebody getting up and presenting questions they are asking themselves, usually in a New York venue in a New York style, with an expectation they are going to be challenged. But they are not doing it in front of their peers in their academic discipline or their field, they are doing it in front of people who are their equals in other areas. It can be really exciting, and it can be awfully boring.

HUO: So it doesn't work every time. There is the risk of failure.

JB: That's part of it's charm.

HUO: I started a very informal kind of meeting between artists, scientists, etc., but always with only five or six people. It either works or it fails. I observed in your Digerati evening, when I came earlier this year, that with seventy people you have many dinners within the dinner. Every table is a dinner within the dinner, even if people mingle. The complexity is higher.

JB: The Reality Club wasn't a dinner. I would serve food but it was a talk and then discussion.

HUO: To have the chronology for the sake of the interview, when did the Reality Club become Edge?

JB: The Reality Club started in 1980. The name was a pun, but some people took it seriously. I was spending a lot of time at my house in the Hamptons, and all people would talk about was realty. So I decided to have my own club and make it the Reality Club. It was just something I was doing anyway. That went on for a good ten years. The other person most active in it, who towards the end became the President was Heinz Pagels; he died in a tragic mountain climbing accident. It was painful; he was such a good friend. That took the heart out of it. It went on to 1991 or 92. Just around that time the Web started, around 1993.


Another thing was that in 1980 when I started it, I put together a group that included some people that had done very interesting work that I came across during the sixties, which meant did it in the fifties. By 1980 some of the people hadn't done anything in twenty-five years, and by 1990 it was thirty-five years. If you have a group that meets regularly, two or three times a month, the people who are really cooking are not going to be able to make it a lot because they're really busy, and the people who can make it all the time probably aren't doing much. It got to a point where it was time to change the subject.

HUO: So it lost the edge.

JB: I let it go for a couple years and started Edge with a different cast of characters.

HUO: Is there also a fixed core of people, regulars?

JB: There is the Third Culture mail list, you're on it, and if you, or others on the list tell me to add someone on the list, I'll do it. It's not exclusive I terms of excluding people; it's inclusive as regards the social network.

HUO: More fluid than the Reality Club.

JB: Yes. In order to come to a meeting of the Reality Club you had to have given a talk. No spouses or significant others were allowed. It's much more open ended. However the mail list is private, and that's where all the action occurs. You get the e-mails, right?

HUO: I get the Edge interviews.

JB: That's it.

HUO: Do you do all the interviews yourself?

JB: Yes. It's almost three-quarters of a million words so far.

HUO: We were talking about boundaries.

JB: E-mail is the killer application. The Edge editions are very long by email standards. There is a nostrum (an excepted wisdom) vis-à-vis the internet that you only send one page. People say, "These are so long!", and I respond, "I know, and my Picasso drawing is too big for my couch". So don't read it! I don't want to hear about it. If I've got Steven Pinker talking and saying something interesting, I'm not going to turn off the tape recorder.

HUO: It can go on for dozens of pages which is very important because it can happen on the Net; in dailies and weeklies it doesn't happen anymore.

JB: The public has access to the Edge Web site and can read the pieces but there's no response mechanism. There are no "Letters to the Editor". It's a public service, read only. I don't feel I have to be there personally for everybody. It's not a publication in that sense.

HUO: Tell me about the World Question Center.

JB: That was James Lee Byars. In 1970-71, he created the World Question Center in which he was calling his list of the 100 most brilliant minds to ask them questions they were asking themselves. Byars being Byars, seventy of them hung up on him.

HUO: I attended one of his last performances, in the garden of the Foundation Cartier. He came to Paris to give a last performance a few months before he went to Egypt to die. He walked for a couple of seconds in his golden suit and went back to the hotel.

JB: In person, he was irascible and demanding. One day I got a call from a live tv show on Belgian national television. It's Byars in Brussels in a conference call with the Dalai Lama, Herman Khan and myself, asking each of us for our question. The Dalai Lama asked his question and Byars hung up on him. So, that's what Byars was like. After his death last year, I did WTQ on Edge to honor him. Year after year, I recall Byars' mantra: "Call Freeman Dyson, Johnny, the world's smartest man, get his question, Johnny; let's go see him, let's call him". As you can see, Freeman has now asked his question.

HUO: So it was the realization of a hitherto unrealised project. Will you continue this question project? What's the next step?

JB: I'll think about it; I've thought about it.

HUO: My last question concerns the immanency/imminencey of doing an interview with you who does so many interviews. Your books Digerati, Third Culture, Edge are all based on interviews. You seem to have a predilection for the medium of the interview. As Marcel Broodthaers said: "Je tautologue, je conserve, je sociologue".

JB: For Edge I do interviews, but in my book, The Third Culture, I edited myself out.

HUO: In Digerati you took yourself out as well.

JB: My role becomes more of director than writer, although I certainly rewrote a lot of the pieces. Narrative non-fiction, to me, is an utter waste of time. I have little interest in a journalistic interpretations of the work or ideas of people capable of deep thinking. I have less interest in reading about their personal lived. Just show me their notes.

HUO: The idea that's it's not the secondary but the primary voice.

JB: Primary stuff. One hundred years from now a dialogue with Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins will be valuable for someone to read; not so an impressionistic, gonzo journalistic article or book.

HUO: It's the same thing for artists. I've started to publish lots of artists' writings because I think the writings of artists usually give much better access to their work than most of the literature about the artist.

JB: And also, do you really think anyone is interested in my ideas on evolutionary biology? on or quantum mechanics? Should they be? The best I can do is make available, in a readable way, the real thing. Much of what passes for writing today is baby talk.

HUO: How do you see your role as an agent?

JB: I take very seriously my role as an agent, which is fiduciary; it's about money and business, and I do my best. When I'm sitting with an author it's like a mouse looking at cheese; it's about money, and that's what they see when they look at me. On the other hand, I do happen to work with a lot of the most sublime thinkers that have ever lived. By doing the Edge project, I can put a different hat on and talk to them as an editor, and I can talk to them the way you're talking to me, and, I get to learn something.


I run the best graduate school in the world and I am the only student.

HUO: That's beautiful.

JB: I edit everything personally; I don't have any help. Everything goes through my word processor. The idea that education stops when you get out of school is absurd. What I'm doing is providing entertainment for the smartest people. If you're really bright, where do you go for entertainment? The movies? Think about conglomerization of the entertainment industry in America. Everything is geared to prototypical mass-market. But you can still get very diverse and interesting stuff in books, and on the Internet, I.e. this kind of e-mail distribution.


In terms of how I choose things, I have a gut instinct. I just go with whatever interests me. In terms of business I can make a living doing that. There's no magic formula. That could be an information book, something very banal, or it could be a very serious thinker. If I'm interested, then I know there's a market. It just worked out that way.


Let me just make one distinction: The Edge is a non-profit foundation, and since the Reality club began in 1980, there has never been more than 30% of the people as clients. Most people are not clients, like yourself. Also, about 80% of my clients have nothing to do with Edge. It's not about business; it's a way to get away from business. Bateson came over one day in the early seventies and cautioned me by saying, "of all our human inventions, economic man is by far the dullest". And recently I read something by Drucker of the need more than ever to create social spaces that are not about money. That's my goal.

HUO: We were talking about the issue of a mainly American context in the sciences...

JB: By and large, Europeans get a much broader, deeper education up until college age, then after that it becomes very hierarchical in nature and rigid. It's not conducive to the kind of back and forth creativity which sometimes occurs between fellow professors, graduate students,and/or assistant professors. Europeans can get stuck in narrow slots; it's petrified.

HUO: So that there is no cross-fertilizing of ideas.

JB: No, that's because culture gets in the way. Call it Culture with a capital C. It's the one thing Europe can dispense with.

HUO: Are there any thinkers from Europe you're interested in?

JB: I am sure interesting people are around. I image the people who would interest me are probably off the commercial radar screen and that's where head is at these days.

HUO: Could you talk more about the social spaces Drucker is mentioning.

JB: When I left the Army and came to New York in 1963, I went downtown every night to the Cedar Bar. I couldn't conceive of not going there. The people were larger than life, their ideas were larger than life. It was a thrill to be there. Similarly a few years later, Max's Kansas City became the place and I was there every night without fail. The whole world passed through and that's where you found out the gossip and you did serious work in terms of networks and relationships. Nothing like that exists today.

HUO: I spoke with Steina Vasulka , the Icelandic video pioneer, who once did a show at Max's Kansas City. She thought is was much more important to do it at Max's Kansas City than to do a show at MOMA or a big museum; it really was the thing. I don't think that this kind of social space exists anymore in NYC. Maybe E-mail replaced it. ■

First published by Art Orbit, February 1999.

"There is a very different situation in America where the artists basically get no respect, and neither do the scientists. There is no premium placed in this society, in this culture, on erudition and knowledge."

"I was thinking about this, that there was a consciousness that hadn't revealed itself yet but it was immanent in the work a lot of people were doing, and it all came together in the arts: cybernetics, communications theory. I realized I was dead center in the middle of it..."

"I had no science background, and I had never been interested in science per se. I'm interested in ideas. I think I've sat through one or two scientific lectures in my life, and it's probably too many."

"I came up with the idea of a multimedia entertainment space. I brought USCO into the project and within six month we had opened the world's first mixed-media disco, "Murry the K's World" which was announced to the world on the cover of Life Magazine."

"In business, if you stop, you're dead, it's over. You can't stop. Every year my company inevitably gets bigger."

"I like people for whom the world is the only subject, for whom anything less than everything means nothing. That's what I expect from the people I hang out with and that´s why I spend a lot of time alone."

"I had a dinner in London last year for seventy people: the press, the publishers, best-selling writers, everyone comes. I've done them in Paris, in Cannes, Prague, Amsterdam, etc. It's a fun thing to do."

"I have little interest in a journalistic interpretations of the work or ideas of people capable of deep thinking. I have less interest in reading about their personal lived. Just show me their notes."

"What I'm doing is providing entertainment for the smartest people. If you're really bright, where do you go for entertainment?"

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