Vasulka Video: Pioneers of Electronic Art

Date: 5 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

5—7 March 2004
London Candid Arts Trust & University of Westminster

Steina and Woody Vasulka began to use the medium of video as early as 1969, first documenting jazz performances, rock concerts and the underground activities of ‘illegitimate culture’. Exploiting the relationship between the electronic signals for both sound and image, they started a didactic exploration of the limitless possibilities of video processing using a range of newly crafted technological tools. Each tape produced was a by-product of the dialogue between the Vasulkas and their machines, as they systematically analysed and deconstructed the fundamental materiality of video through spatial, temporal and sound/image manipulation. The Vasulkas are the creative pathfinders of the electro-magnetic spectrum, whose works – infused with the fizz and crunch of the analogue age – are as mesmerising and astounding today as in their original moment of discovery.

Steina and Woody Vasulka will present three unique events during the weekend, which includes a continuous one-day gallery projection of key works.


Vasulka Video: The Tools

Date: 5 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

5—7 March 2004
London Candid Arts Trust & University of Westminster

An overview of Steina & Woody Vasulka’s video processing tools. 

VCS3 (The Putney)
Designers: Peter Zinovieff, Tristram Cary and Dave Cockerell for Electronic Music Studios (EMS)
Year of conception: 1969
The VCS3, named for “voltage-controlled studio,” is best known by the name Putney in the United States. This analogue, duophonic synthesiser is equipped with a relatively small connection panel, compared to others of that time. It can control audio signals and their relationships to one another from the device itself. Integrated oscillators produce the repeated fluctuations of voltage that modulate the sounds. Conceived by atonal musical composers, the first version of the device did not have a keyboard.

Video Sequencer (Field Flip/Flop Switcher with Digital Control)
designer: George Brown
year of design: 1972
type of application: video
This sequencer allows the programmer to separate two video sources in a determined sequence. It controls, among other things, the alternation of the points of view of two cameras in real time on the same monitor. The sequence is controlled according to various parameters: the rhythm of the regular sweeping of the screen, sound pulsation, etc.

Horizontal Drift Variable Clock
Designer : George Brown and the Vasulkas
Year of conception: 1972
The Horizontal Drift Variable Clock is not in itself an instrument, but rather an external source of synchronisation that can control the horizontal displacement of a video image. By adding an oscillator with the capacity to go up to 15,000 cycles to the portable camera adapter (Sony Portapak), it is possible to control the voltage of the horizontal synchronisation signal. Typically, two cameras make up the system: one camera is hooked up to the normal vertical and horizontal synchronisation signal, while the other camera, whose image is being superimposed or keyed on the first, receives a different horizontal frequency. This will then result in the horizontal movement of the image towards the right or the left. The Vasulkas also used this technique to cause images to travel from one monitor to another in multi-monitor compositions.

Rutt/Etra Scan Processor
designers: Steve Rutt, Bill Etra, Louise Etra
year of design: 1973
marketed by: Rutt Electrophysics Corp. (New York, New York, United States)
type of application: video
This processor modulates the deflection line of the electromagnetic field of television images. On a normal screen, the synchronisation signals are controlled by electromagnets that guide the movement of an electromagnetic ray so as to scan the 525 screen lines. The Rutt-Etra monitor contains a system of electromagnets and a built-in synchronisation mechanism for processing the video signal. The modulations alter the field of raster lines, which are vertically deflected and appear to adopt the contours of objects.

Designer: George Brown
Year of conception: 1973
This digital sequencer is controlling an analogue video keyer in real time. By way of the keying process, a chromatic value is removed from an image on which a motif will be added. In conjunction with the keyer, the Multikeyer enables six video sources to be merged and placed on different planes according to a pre-programmed sequence.

Designer: George Brown
Year of conception: 1974
The only digital instrument in the Vasulka’s instrument collection before 1977, the Programmer can control the actions of a switcher or a keyer, both analog devices. It can store operation sequences in its memory and activate them at any chosen moment.

Digital Image Articulator
Designer: Jeffrey Schier and Woody Vasulka
Year of conception: 1978
This digitizer breaks the video image down pixel by pixel and reshapes the components in an environment governed by mathematical laws. The Digital Image Articulator generates effects of pixelation, manipulates the borders of an image, stretches the image vertically and horizontally, and duplicates it several times on the screen. It is also used to create sequences of complex geometric motifs based on algorithmic structures.

Vasulka Video: Participation

Date: 5 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

Friday 5 March 2004, at 7pm
London Candid Arts Trust

“Today it’s hard to imagine the excitement generated by the introduction of the Sony Portapak in 1969. Though not ‘portable’ by today’s standards, using half-inch reel-to-reel tapes (much like audiotapes, and only recording in black & white); the Portapak revolutionised a generation of artists’ understanding of image and time. In comparison to the simplest 16 mm sound sync set-up with crew, the Portapak finally made spontaneous roving sound and image documentation technically feasible and as well as affordable, and the attraction of instantaneous playback or closed circuit room situations proved irresistible in an atmosphere still reeling from the upheavals of the sixties.” —Arnold Dreyblatt

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Participation, 1971, b/w, sound, 62 min
Performers : Paul Ambrose, Ian Anderson, Billy Andrews, Gary Bartz, Tally Brown, Larry Chaplan, Don Cherry, Kevin Coe, Jackie Curtis, Candy Darling, Miles Davis, Jack De Johnette, Eric Emersion, Estelle !, Christmas Eve, Michael Enderson, Jimi Hendrix, Stephen Holt, Keith Jarret, Jay Johnson, Aunt Josie, Agosto Machado, Taylor Mead, Buddy Miles, Geri Miller, Mario Montez, Airto Moreira, Paul Morrissey, Ondine, Rita Redd, Al Sayegh, Silva, Ekathrina Sobechanskaya, Steve Stanwick, Steina, Artchie Strips, David Susskind, Tinkerbelle, Jethro Tull, Richard Weinstock, Holly Woodlawn.


Vasulka Video: Video Gallery

Date: 6 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

Saturday 6 March 2004, 11am—5pm
London Candid Arts Trust

Continuous projection at Candid Arts Trust. Screening at approximately 11am and 2pm. 

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Swan Lake, 1971, b/w, sound, 7 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: Red Roses, 1970, b/w, sound, 5 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: Let It Be, 1970, b/w, sound, 4 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: The Kiss, 1970, b/w, sound, 2 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: Charles’ Story, 1970, b/w, sound, 5 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: Alfons, 1970, b/w, sound, 3 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: Thierry, 1970, b/w, sound, 2 min
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Sketches: Gun Dance, 1970, b/w, sound, 3 min
The Vasulkas capture the counter-cultural spirit of the era in a series of performances by Larry, Jackie Curtis, Steina, Charles Hayworth, Helen Wong, Alfons Schilling, Thierry Benizeau and Daniel Nagrin. These ‘sketches’ also reveal the Vasulkas’ early experiments with electronic image manipulation.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Interface, 1970, b/w, sound, 4 min
Performer: Charles Hayworth. Audio: Gino Piserchio.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Discs, 1970, b/w, sound, 5.5 min
A circular image of a reel is set in a rapid motion by a difference in horizontal camera drives. The image repetition results from a time delay produced by re-entering the signal into the system: a visual echo. Sounds result from a video signal interfaced with a sound synthesiser.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Calligrams, 1970, b/w, sound, 3.5 min
A re-scan camera is pointed at the television monitor displaying a pre-recorded tape. A misalignment of the horizontal hold causes a vertical multiplication of the image.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Tissues, 1970, b/w, sound, 1.5 min
Various camera images are randomly inserted onto a pre-recorded tape. These forced edits become the source of abrupt voltage changes in the audio when looped through a sound synthesizer.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Descends, 1970, b/w, sound, 4 min

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Decay I, 1970, colour, sound, 2 min
Dual Colorizer: Eric Siegel
A face, pre-recorded on a videotape, is manually forwarded on the playback to produce image decay.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Studies: Decay II, 1970, colour, sound, 1 min
Dual Colorizer: Eric Siegel
An audio generated shape is pre-recorded on a videotape which is then manually moved on the video playback to produce image decay.

Steina & Woody Vasulka, Distant Activities, 1972, colour, sound, 5 min
Dual Colorizer: Eric Siegel
The protagonist is a video feedback, processed and controlled through a video keyer. Sound is from video signals interfaced with an audio synthesiser.

Vasulka Video: Performance

Date: 6 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

Saturday 6 March 2004, at 7:30pm
London University of Westminster

Steina presents a live adaptation of her seminal tape Violin Power, using MIDI violin and customised software to process the video image in real time. Plus a screening of Orbital Obsessions, a multi-layered studio performance/exploration of reshaped video space.

Steina, Violin Power: The Performance, 1992-present
Violin Power, 1970-78, b/w, sound, 10 mins
Orbital Obsessions, 1975-77/78, b/w, sound, 25 mins


Vasulka Video: Lecture

Date: 7 March 2004 | Season: Vasulka Video

Sunday 7 March 2004, at 3pm
London Candid Arts Trust

Woody Vasulka: Lecture on Sound and Image Relationships in Early Video Art

Initially, they identified two properties peculiar to video. Both audio and video signals are composed of electronic waveforms. Since sound can be used to generate video, and vice versa, one of the first pieces of equipment the Vasulkas bought was an audio synthesiser. Many of their tapes illustrate this relationship – one type of signal determines the form of the other. Their second interest entailed construction of the video frame.  Because timing pulses control the stability of the video raster to create the “normal” image we are accustomed to, viewers rarely realise – unless their TV set breaks down – that the video signal is actually a frameless continuum. This fact, discovered accidentally, fascinated the Vasulkas.

“At that time, I was totally obsessed with this idea that there was no single frame anymore. I come from the movies, where the frame was extremely rigid, and I understood that electronic material has no limitation within its existence. It only has limitation when it reaches the screen because the screen itself is a rigid time structure.” —Woody Vasulka in Afterimage, 1983