Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) was founded in 1971 as one of the first nonprofit organizations in the United States dedicated to the support of video as an art form. EAI has played a pioneering role in the history of media art. As one of the earliest organizations in the emergent video art movement, EAI was created to provide an alternative system of support for this nascent art form and the artists engaged with it.
EAI was founded by Howard Wise, an innovative art dealer and visionary supporter of video as art. From 1960 to 1970, the Howard Wise Gallery on 57th Street in New York was a locus for kinetic art and multimedia works that explored the nexus of art and technology. The gallery featured several groundbreaking exhibitions, including On the Move (1964) and Lights in Orbit (1967).
Wise's most influential and provocative show was TV as a Creative Medium, the landmark 1969 exhibition that served to link the kinetic art movement of the 1960s with the emergent medium of video art. The first exhibition in the United States devoted to video, TV as a Creative Medium signaled radical changes and defined an emerging artistic movement. Among the twelve artists in the show were Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, Paul Ryan, Ira Schneider, Frank Gillette, and Eric Siegel. This prescient exhibition featured performance, objects, closed-circuit tapes and installations, with works ranging from Paik and Moorman's TV Bra for Living Sculpture to Gillette and Schneider's Wipe Cycle.
Seeking to create new paradigms to support artists working in the nascent video underground, Wise closed the gallery in 1970 to found the nonprofit organization Electronic Arts Intermix. The founding mission was to support video as "a means of personal and creative expression and communication."
For detailed information on the early years of EAI and the video art movement, please see A Kinetic History: The EAI Archives Online, a project that features access to primary documents and essays that chart this unique history.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, video art was one of many new art movements — such as conceptual art, performance art, site art, process art — that challenged the notion of the unique art object as a commodity. These alternative art movements were also part of larger social and cultural forces that defined the era, from feminism to countercultural and activist political movements.
In its first years, EAI served as an umbrella or sponsor for an eclectic range of innovative projects relating to the intersection of video and contemporary art. Among these projects were festivals such as the Annual Avant-Garde Festivals, organized by Charlotte Moorman; the first Women's Video Festival, held at the Kitchen in 1972; and the Computer Arts Festivals of 1973-75. Other initiatives included Perception, an early collective of artists exploring the parameters of the medium, and Vasulka Video, a research project directed by Woody and Steina Vasulka to develop new video technologies. EAI also fostered the development of Eric Siegel's Synthesizer and colorizer, which were among the earliest image-processing tools.
In addition to these sponsored projects and events, EAI initiated its own programs to serve the burgeoning needs of artists and audiences in the emergent video field. These programs were to become the core of the organization.
In 1972, EAI began the Editing/Post Production Facility in response to a need for a creative workspace and equipment access for artists. This facility was one of the first nonprofit services of its kind in the U.S., and enabled the creation of many seminal video works, by artists including Mary Lucier and Joan Jonas. The facility has served thousands of artists and organizations with low-cost access to analogue and digital technical facilities.
In 1973, the Artists' Videotape Distribution Service was founded to answer a need for a new paradigm for the dissemination of artists' video works, apart from the conventional gallery system. Many artists of that time were drawn to the utopian notion of a medium that was easily reproducible and therefore democratic and widely accessible. Videotapes were distributed in unlimited editions at relatively low prices. Created around a core of seminal video artists, including Peter Campus, Juan Downey, and Nam June Paik, this service grew into one of the world's foremost resources for video art, and remains the oldest existing distributor of artists' video.
In 1986, the EAI Preservation Program was begun to facilitate the restoration and archiving of works in the EAI collection. This was one of the first such programs that addressed the preservation needs of a video art collection, and is today a leading initiative for media art preservation.