The Vasulka Archives

The Vasulka Archive
Machine art – Exhibit of Inter-Graphics – Stan VanDerBeek

The Vasulka Archive is massive repository of documents from the pioneering days of electronic, computer and video art. Containing a staggering 27000 pages of scanned documents, replete with hand typed texts, circuit diagrams and skuzzy ink marks, I could spend the rest of the week perusing this stuff, believe me. The big names are here, Crutchfield, Conrad, Paik, Van der Beek, Youngblood etc – hand written correspondences to the Vasulka’s as well as reviews and even obituaries of each artist/scientist – but history is selective and remembers according to its own algorithm. Encouragingly, not only do we find artifacts from the so called key movers of the time but also an exhaustive list of lesser, and relatively unknown practitioners waiting to be (re)discovered.

Looking at these documents you really get a feeling for a time when electronic art was an alchemical practice, where hands on circuit bending was a necessity and not a genre. Where there was a feeling that something truly exciting was happening, where artists wrote their own software, or begged for time to used on computers during out of hours college time because a machine with a few thousand kilobytes of memory would cost tens of thousands of dollars to buy. When computer generated films would take months to make even if it was a few minutes long as each frame had to painstakingly applied to optical print.

Another thing I find interesting when scanning through these documents is the metaphysical/philosophical questions being asked in relation to these new art forms, the connection with myth, evolution… the implication of digital and electronic art not only on the art world but on the world as a whole.

Steiner and Woody Vasulka are pioneers of Video Art in their own right having produced many provocative works from the genre’s hey-day in the early 60’s. It is also notable that they were among the founders of the Kitchen in New York in 1971.

‘Through the use of complex electronic imaging tools, the Vasulka’s has been able to explore the relationship of sound to image from a variety of angles; creating pieces in which the audio is controlled by the visual, the visual is controlled by the audio, or both are controlled by an outside source. In their continual investigation of the electronic nature of video signals, the Vasulka’s morph image and sound recordings to create unsettling hybrids.

‘Electricity has made angels of us all’ – Edmund Carpenter

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