This system can take two video inputs, digitize these, and then perform a series of operations on those two images based on logic functions derived from Arithmetic Logic Unit (a standard computer component). Depending on which logic function is operating, the numerical codes - and hence the images - are combined in different, but absolutely predictable ways. Such combinations revealed the system's inner structure to the Vasulkas, and also constituted what Woody has called syntax.
What was surprising to me was to find that the table of logic functions can be interpreted as a table of syntaxes - syntactical relationships which are not normally thought of as being related to abstract logic functions. Because the logic functions are abstract, they can be applied to anything. That means they become a unified language, outside of any one discipline. 38
To illustrate his ideas, Woody organized a set of grids - just as he had in 1975 with analog images - which represent the precise visual manifestations of this syntactic structure.
In video terms, however, an important property of the Imager was its capacity to perform these and other operations in real time. This was substantial, since a video signal could now be digitally processed as it passed through the Imager - practically instantaneously - contrasted to the kind of computer imaging which a program is entered and one must wait minutes or hours, depending on the program's complexity, for the computer to perform the operation.
Artifacts (1980) is a sort of demonstration tape that uses the logic of the computer to combine real-time, digitized, camera-generated images and texture so that effects like keying, zooming, and multiplication of the image are achieved. Woody described the tape as a "collection of images initiated by basic algorithmical procedures, to verify the functional operation of a newly created tool." Artifacts reiterates the Vasulkas' analogy of their work as dialogue with a tool. In the tape, Woody explains,"By artifacts, I mean that I have to share the creative process with the machine. It is responsible for too may elements in this work. These images come to you as they came to me - in a spirit of exploration."
Steina also utilizes the digital system, but with much less theoretical constraints. In several tapes, among them Selected Treecuts (1980), she juxtaposes variations of trees through programmed switching - digitized and non-digitized. This "rhythmic collage," as she describes it, is paradoxical in that it not only mesmerizes, but directs the viewer's attention to two different representations - analog and digital - of the same reality.
Woody's project of using a linguistic model for imaging is hardly novel; rather, much of his thinking proceeds from his film background. A number of film semioticians have examined, in Christian Metz's words, "the ordering and functioning of the main signifying units used in the film message." 39
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