Here Woody is referring to people like Eric Siegel, Stephen Beck, Bill Hearn, Steve Rutt, Bill Etra, George Brown, Shuya Abe, Dan Sandin, Don MacArthur, and younger people like David Jones, Richard Brewster, Jeffrey Schier, and Ed Tannenbaum - all of whom have designed and/or built electronic devices for artists.
While a number of people in the late '60s and early '70s were working with video colorizers, mixers, and synthesizers, the Vasulkas took a different approach. "Our idea right from the very beginning was not to have a synthesizer. We always wanted to have open-ended boxes," Steina explains. Not only did they take a modular approach, but they wanted to control the tools by using another electronic input, not by using their hands to move a control knob until an image looked right. Most devices that incorporated colorizing, mixing, and synthesizing functions could be controlled either through external inputs - known as voltage control - or by control knobs. By opting for input-only control, the Vasulkas were imposing an organizing structure that was derived not from their own preconceived ideas about what might make an interesting image, but from the system itself. This is not to elevate their approachover one that Steina has called "knob twisting," but to illustrate that artists had certain choices in how their tools could be used.
Behind the Vasulkas's particular decision was their desire to understand the inner workings of electronic phenomena. "There is a certain behavior of the electronic image that is unique.... It's liquid, it's shapeable, it's clay, it's an art material, it exists independently," Woody has stated. 25 Video's plasticity was something that many artists explored, but the Vasulkas took a fairly rigorous, didactic, and conceptual approach. They were fascinated by the fact that the video image is constructed from electrical energy organized as voltages and frequencies - a temporal event.
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 synthesizer. 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 realize- unless their TV set breaks down - that the video signal is actually a frameless continuum. This fact, discovered accidentally, fascinated the Vasulkas, particularly Woody.
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. 26
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