Steina and Woody Vasulka: Machine Vision at Raven Row in London

Steina and Woody Vasulka, Noisefields (still), 1974. Video, 7:07 minutes.
Courtesy the artists and Vasulka Chamber, the National Gallery of Iceland.

 

Steina and Woody Vasulka are pioneers of electronic and digital image production. In their ongoing dialogue with machines — from cathode-ray televisions to digital computer systems — they consider the electronic signal as artistic medium.

Meeting in Prague in 1962, the Vasulkas relocated to New York in 1965 where, by the early 1970s, they began working almost entirely with machine-generated imagery. Their early technical studies were produced in what they described as “states of unsupervised performance,” with the artists adjusting and altering sound and image waveforms in real time to create illusory images in virtual space. Often collaborating with a close network engineers, musicians and artists, they invented new electronic and digital devices to realise video environments such as Noisefields (1974).

Woody initially worked as a filmmaker, while Steina trained as a classical violinist, and their respective visual styles are seen in their individual practices. In the exhibition, Steina’s electro-optical-mechanical installation Machine Vision (1978) implicates the body of the viewer and demonstrates her poetic conception of time, while Woody’s scientific analysis of video technology is evident in his Waveform Studies (1977–2016).

At Raven Row, examples of their analogue videos and experiments with lens-based media and digital processors from the early 1970s to the early 80s reveal how the Vasulkas’ methods anticipated the virtual modes of image-making that are dominant today.

The exhibition is curated by Amy Budd, Deputy Director, Raven Row, and Kristín Scheving, Head of Vasulka Chamber.

Raven Row – 56 Artillery Lane London E1 7LS UK
19 May – 5 June 2016