Intermedia Art

New Media, Sound and Performance

Steina and Woody Vasulka   

Steina and Woody Vasulka are pioneers who have contributed enormously to the evolution of video as an artistic medium and who continue to be major practitioners.

The Vasulkas' early collaborative efforts, produced from 1970 to 1974, include phenomenological explorations that deconstruct the materiality of the electronic signal and analyze the imaging capabilities of video tools. Central to these increasingly complex exercises are explorations of the malleability of the image, the manipulation of electronic energy, and the interrelation of sound and image.

The Vasulkas' investigations into analogue and digital processes and their development of electronic imaging tools, which began in the early 1970s, place them among the primary architects of an electronic vocabulary for image-making, articulating a processual dialogue between artist and technology.

Steina's training as a violinist, and Woody Vasulka's background as an engineer and filmmaker, informed their invention of electronic devices to transform sound, image, space and time — themes that they have pursued independently in their later works. Though the Vasulkas continue to collaborate, since 1975 they have produced much of their work individually.

The Vasulkas emigrated to the United States in 1965, and began their collaborative exploration of electronic media in 1969. In 1971, they co-founded The Kitchen, a major alternative exhibition and media arts centre in New York.

The Vasulkas have broadcast and exhibited their collaborative works extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan, at institutions including The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, among many others.

Individually and collectively, they have received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Corporation for Public Service (CASP), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New Mexico Arts Division. Both received the American Film Institute Maya Deren Award in 1992 and the Siemens Media Art Prize in 1995. In 1988, Steina was an artist-in-residence in Tokyo on a U.S./Japan Friendship Commitee grant. In 1993, Woody received a Soros Foundation fellowship to lecture and present work throughout Eastern Europe.

Woody Vasulka's (b. 1937 Czechoslovakia) artistic roots lie in documentary film. Vasulka has investigated the structure and materiality of video by means of analogical and digital tools. He researched the realm of apparatuses, and with this expertise he created altogether novel kinds of images, whose machine aesthetic overpowered their filmic one. He repeatedly worked with Steina and other artists, but also together with technicians, programmers, and information technology developers. Formally as well as with respect to content, electronic image production and processing are at the centre of his interests.

Woody Vasulka's continual artistic development ran parallel to the media’s technical development - ranging from analogic through digital image manipulation to interactive, machine-directed spatial installations. Even today, Vasulka is fascinated by the tools which enable novel control and manipulation possibilities, thereby revealing each medium’s structure to the viewer.

Steina (b. 1940 Iceland) adopts a unique approach within the history of American video art. As a co-founder (along with Woody) of The Kitchen in New York she had already positioned herself in the 1970s as an influential personality within the media art scene. Up until today, Steina's artistic field of influence is based upon her enthusiasm for video, and in particular upon the potential for generating sound from images and images from sound, which is inherent in that medium.

Steina investigates the basic element of video technology - the electronic signal - as an artistic medium. In videotapes, multi-screen installations, and computer-generated arrangements of machines, up into the present she investigates the way in which the video differentiates from other media.

Steina & Woody Vasulka

Screening at Tate Modern Saturday 20 February, 2010 Highlighting early video works created in the 70s in conjunction with a presentation by the artists about their latest work.