McLuhan's theory has since been discarded by some scholars because his utopianism completely contradicts the fact that electronic media have been used as instruments of social control. Moreover, as Raymond Williams has shown, this analysis represents a technologically determinist approach to history, which posits technology as a force in itself - responsible for changes in society and the human condition - rather than something developed with specific purposes in mind. In Television: Technology and Cultural Form Williams counters McLuhan: "All media operations are in effect desocialised; they are simply physical events in an abstracted sensorium, and are distinguishable only by their variable sense-ratios (emphasis added)." 13
Still, as I said, many artists were creating intermedia sense environments, openly embracing McLuhan's ideas." 14 These events - as well as others less explicitly derived from McLuhan - were commonly known as "expanded cinema " (the term was later used as the title for Gene Youngblood's futuristic survey of such work).
While the Vasulkas read Mekas's column regularly and were peripherally aware of underground filmmakers, they attended very few of these events in the first years they were in New York. Steina continued studying violin, while Woody started working on commercial and industrial films and exhibits in 1967. In 1969 he started using video. His employer, Harvey Lloyd, was using closed-circuit, multiple-monitor video displays as well as multi-screen projections and this structure eventually became the model for much of the Vasulkas' early work.
For Woody, video provided an alternative to film which he felt was an exhausted medium. In 1978 he recalled,
I was educated in film, which I understood as an extension of narrativity into space. So at that time, I was very concerned with literary forms presented in cinematic ways, which I linked directly to the economic structure of existing productions - studios, laboratories, equipment. Only much later, after I had worked in film productions in New York City, did I achieve any independence, or manage to personalize the process of image-making, and that came about as a result of working with electronic equipment. 15
Beyond the compromises entailed in working in the film industry and the limitations of conventional cinematic narrativity, Woody also had an initial fascination with what might be called the phenomenology of video: "When I first saw video feedback, I knew I had seen the cave fire. It had nothing to do with anything, just a perpetuation of some kind of energy." 16
Like many other early video artists, Steina's involvement was inspired by Howard Wise's exhibition, "TV as a Creative Medium," held in the spring of 1969. "I went in there and saw Einstein (a tape by Eric Siegel utilizing the video colorizer he designed and built), blasting out, and it quite blew my mind." 17 Soon, both the Vasulkas were using Lloyd's
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