USCO, The Company of Us, October 28 to December 10

Exhibition Dates: October 28 to December 10

Opening Reception: Friday October 27 from 6 to 8pm

Photos by Solway Gallery

The Boston Cyberarts Gallery was pleased to present USCO, The Company of Us, an exhibition of one of the very first art and technology collectives in the U.S. The exhibition was presented from Saturday October 28 to Sunday December 10, 2017.

In 1964, poet Gerd Stern, Steve Durkee, Michael Callahan and others created the multimedia collective USCO, The Company of Us. Working at first with oscilloscopes and refracted lenses, they came to include stroboscopes, projectors, audiotapes and lasers in their performances. USCO moved into a church in Garnerville, NY. This historical survey of one of the first art and technology collectives in the US is curated by Mark Favermann. Among the influential people USCO worked with were Marshall McLuhan, Charlotte Moorman and Stewart Brand. Jonas Mekas, watching an USCO performance once said he thought he was “witnessing the beginnings of a new religion.”

Here is an USCO documentary of the exhibition narrated by Gerd Stern.

On December 2, Art Technology New England held a discussion with Gerd Stern and Michael Callahan, moderated by Mark Favermann. Here is the 1:07:55 audio file of that discussion.

Mark Faverman, curator, Gerd Stern and Michael Callahan. Photo by Justin Freed

USCO at CyberArts Gallery, an Introduction

By Mark Favermann, curator

Pioneer art and technology artist collective USCO’s work is being exhibited at the Boston CyberArts Gallery beginning October 27th . The show opened to the public on Saturday October 28th. USCO was a media art collective active during the 1960s and 1970s. It was founded by Michael Callahan and Gerd Stern. This group was focused on communication as it was translated from the word, then interpreted by the then state of the art technology becoming art.

Starting in California in the early 1960s, they utilized stroboscopes, multiple projectors and audiotapes in their art performances/events. To underscore the notion of community to their various projects, USCO used the phrase “We are all one.” The abbreviation USCO stands for the Company of US. Crossing the continent, they eventually moved into an old church in Garnerville in Rockland, County, New York. The church is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among USCO’s members were the painter Stephen Durkee, print maker Judi Stern and the video artist Jud Yalkut. Other creative individuals were associated with USCO at various times.

USCO’s cutting-edge approach to art and technology led to working with Marshall McLuhan literally making the medium the message for his presentations, designing New York City discos and being on the covers of Look and Life magazines representing the 60s and psychodelia. They also interacted with many of the major figures of the pop culture, art and technology world at the time including video arts inventor Nam June Paik, WGBH Video Arts director Fred Barzack, Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Strobe developer MIT Professor Harold Egerton, Guru Meyer Baba, Big Brother and the Holding Company, John Brockman, Charlotte Moorman and many others.

USCO’s work predates computer-generated art and pushed to their limits the technology available during the 1960s and 1970s. This included a major laser performance project for the Boston Museum of Science’s planetarium in the mid-1970s.

I was the curator of this exhibit. I also serve as a Cyberarts board member. I have been a friend and admirer of the artwork of USCO and its principals since the early 1970s.

Without the assistance of CyberArts Executive George Fifield and Assistant Director Caitlin Foley as well as Michael Callahan and Gerd Stern, this project would have never come to fruition. I thank them all. Additionally, I would also like to thank art and distinguished technology historian Professor Joseph Ketner II of Emerson College for his support and insightful essay.

USCO artworks are represented by Carl Solway Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Boston Cultural Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, administrated by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture.