Annual Avant Garde Festivals


Led by the indomitable cellist and performance artist Charlotte Moorman, the Annual Avant Garde Festivals of New York began in 1963 as open forums for the experimental music scene that was emerging out of Fluxus. The first festival, held at Judson Hall, featured 28 composers, including such seminal figures as John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Edgard Behrman. By the Eighth Festival in 1971, these evening salons of experimental music incorporated multi-media performance, kinetic art, and video art, showcasing nearly 200 artists each year, including Stan Brakhage, Shirley Clarke, Ray Johnson, George Kuchar, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono. Howard Wise lent the support of EAI in the festival's fundraising efforts in 1971 (and for the next six years). This new collaboration fostered the festival's expansion in size, scope, participation, and attendance. Nam June Paik, Otto Piene, Woody Vasulka, and Jud Yalkut were among those who participated that year. These carnivalesque events were held at wildly diverse locations, including Shea Stadium, Wards and Mill Rock Islands in the East River, the World Trade Center, the Staten Island Ferry, and on a train en route to Buffalo from Grand Central Station. In 1977, Moorman formed her own non-profit organization, New Ground Presentations, which sponsored the festivals until 1982.