"performance of energies organized into electronic images and sounds," is a continuum of constantly permutating abstract images which variously resemble a landscape or an aurora. Elements (1971) consists of variations on video feedback that are processed through a keyer and colorizer. The Vasulkas called these tapes, as well as Key Snow (1971), Electronic Image and Sound Compositions. And in many of these works the video was a function of the audio. In the program notes to the 1971 Whitney show, they said of these tapes, "They resemble something you remember from dreams or pieces of organic nature, but they never were real objects, they have all been made artificially from various frequencies, from sounds, from inaudible pitches and their beats."
These were the kinds of tapes that - with their colorful swirls of abstract imagery - were dismissed by many critics because they looked like a moving version of modern abstract painting, which was then becoming unfashionable. For the Vasulkas, however, their work was based on various manifestations of electromagnetic energy rather than abstract art.
Other tapes from this period can be correlated with modern art, though. Home and Golden Voyage (1973) are based on bizarre juxtapositions found in Rene Magritte's paintings, which, the Vasulkas felt, were similar to the effects they were producing. Using the colorizer, multi-keyer, and switcher, as well as horizontal drift, Home consists of three sequences in which still lifes are set in motion - e.g., an apple drifting past a teapot on a kitchen stove. Golden Voyage refers directly to Magritte. It is a sort ofanimation of his painting The Golden Legend. "We were looking at this picture and we were joking about how many cameras we'd need to reproduce it," Steina explained. "Of course, three. One camera would be on the frame, one would be on the landscape, and then one camera would be on the bread." 29 These images were combined using the multi-keyer and set in motion via horizontal drift. Loaves of French bread embark on a journey. They travel across various backgrounds - a mesa, a beach, a building as well as a reclining nude woman. Initially mere loaves, the breads take on phallic connotations as they encircle the woman - an attempt at absurdist humor.
Many of their other tapes made during this time are less symbolic. For instance, in Vocabulary (1973), images of a hand and a sphere are manipulated with a keyer, colorizer, and the Rutt/Etra Scan Processor in order to "convey in a didactic form the basic energy laws of electronic imaging." The tapes 1-2-3-4 (1974) and Solo for 3 (1974) are even more didactic in that images of numbers are permutated in various foreground-background relationships determined by the programmer. In Solo for 3, three cameras focus on three different-sized images of the number three. The image planes are layered with the multi-keyer, and sequenced by a digital musical instrument. The numbers drift, controlled by the variable clock. The result in both cases is a Sesame Street-style interplay of numbers, but with a synthetic soundtrack.
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