In the early 1960s, Poet & multimedia artist Gerd Stern & friends Michael Callahan & Steve Durkee founded USCO (an acronym for Us Company or the Company of Us). It became a burgeoning cooperative group of artists, poets, filmmakers, engineers, & composers who worked out of an old church in Garnerville, New York, north of NYC.

It is here that they emerged as probably the first producers of multimedia happenings, of immersive & oozing light shows, ephemeral performances that became all the rage during the height of hippie-LSD times. Part hippie, part beatnik, part Black Mountain, part Eastern mysticism, part fluxus, part political leftist, & part new music, they adhered to collective & inclusive artistic practices & preferred to work under the USCO name rather than as individual artists.

USCO utilized unique new uses for lighting, colors, projections, film, audio, & live performances to create multimedia & environmental art that included installations with slide projections, closed-circuit television, oscilloscopes, strobe lights, amplifiers, early IBM computers, live performances. This culminate most famously in the Expanded Cinema Festival & Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic Theater & the first multimedia disco called Murray the K’s World that incorporated immersive technology & ideas, allowing audiences – many of whom may have been tripping – to feel as if they were entering a new, immersive,  sensory realm.

They’ve performed or exhibited at many great museums, universities & venues including the van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Walker Art Center, Whitney Museum, Tate Liverpool, Pompidou Center, MIT, & RISDI. The USCO Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016.

I first met Gerd in the 20th Century. Born in Germany in 1928, he emigrated with his parents to the US as a refugee in 1936.  Gerd & started crossing paths in New York City in the 1960s.  We  discovered common ground at a Phill Niblock loft concert in the 1990s. He asked me to write music & sound design for his play, “Lost Cabaret” or “Katandogastrophic,” produced for the 2003 New York Fringe Festival. I asked Gerd to create  poetry for a 3D sound work Sky High. It is included in this iMMERSE! podcast.

Playlist mix by Wreck This Mess

When Then • USCOSkyHigh • USCO [Gerd Stern Poem, Charlie Morrow Music]Hubbub • USCOInsurrection Oratorio 1 • Charlie Morrow & Bread & Puppet Theatre Insurrection Oratorio 2 • Charlie Morrow & Bread & Puppet Theatre& various auditory intrusions

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