[-empyre-] Week Three Guests: Bernagozzi (x2), Bainbridge, Turim
muratnn at gmail.com
Tue Sep 29 05:56:46 AEST 2015
Hi Jason, hi Benton,
Thank you for your responses and, Benton, your generous comments. What you
both say, the issues you raise directly or by implication are so
multi-faceted and exciting (also for a poet) that I will focus on two or
three at the moment, hoping we can go to other things in the future:
a) Benton, your answer suggests that there was a greater conscious
awareness of performing, literary and art movements of the period and these
early experiments, both in their creative processes--procedural techniques
of poetry (something I was already aware of), improvisations in jazz or or
other music or even stand up comedy (something I was unaware of)--and in
the images the works created--surrealism and experimental film (Brakhage,
something more or less I suspected looking at some of the work at the
exhibit but wasn't sure). The breadth of conceptual cross-fertilizations
across media you reveal has been a very pleasant surprise for me. Some of
the photographs the exhibit displays, their anarchic/manic
spirit--primitive tv's with a plethora of wires sticking out, jerry built
stage sets for a performance, etc., etc.-- remind me The Black Mountain
School where similar collaborations among poets, musicians, dancers, etc.
Despite of all these connections and inspiration from other media, there
were still a few images that the experiments created were totally new to
me, imbued with the excitement of something that did not exist before.
b) "Signal as life force: we make music and visual music with our bodies
and instruments not to paint an illusory trompe l'oeil but to filter our
world through ourselves. (Here is a good place to mention that I think of
dance and choreography as visual music as well, I am inspired by, and often
work with, dancers but I know music much more deeply because I have a
lifetime of constant exposure to a wide range of genres and styles.)
Orange Blossom Special, Flight of the Bumblebees, and nearly every techno
song are an evocation of external or internal stimuli. Much of the work on
view at the ETC exhibit similarly taps into evocative rhythms and hues...
[More] often a second glance reveals a heartbeat control signal, the
oceanic cresting wave of a camera feedback loop or the candy-colored
process tape that looks just like... a TV tube as candy jar."
This is quite close to the Mesmer-like effect I am talking about. Every
feed back loop is an elusive series of an underwater repetitions (the
reference to the ocean is very apt). But in them, the repetition is never
the same. The difference maybe be in the receiver's mind even if what is
repeated is absolutely the same (or not). The subjective and objective
unify and become one image.
One can think of the extended, several minute long credit sequence at the
beginning of Herzog's Fata Morgana where planes keep landing one after
another at an airport in front of fixed camera (one might call that
sequence an "acoustic" digital image). In a more primal way, in 19th
century photography double-exposures are powerful mistakes. One can think
of some photographs of Civil War battle scenes in their kinetic moments
where the image does not print itself fast enough to create a "perfect,"
i.e. representational image. One has blurs, images of light itself,
c) "Bill Etra told me that, while looking at the Rutt/Etra Video
Synthesizer, Stan Brakhage asked if it could make a tree. Nam June Paik
replied, "too young! Too young."
This exchange is so puzzling to me. Brakhage's question about trees reminds
me of his wonderful piece "The Wold Shadow" which he creates by shooting I
think from the same spot a wooded area during different times as the
evening comes down and running them I suppose through a processor. The
result is symphonic (my sense is that he is referring to those trees). But
in his later work he goes in the opposite direction, if I understand it
correctly, away from mechanical processes. He applies paint directly and
manually on the film itself. The result is a greater degree of abstraction
though he often still keeps using images from nature in the titles.
What surprised me more is Nam's response. Does he really want to be more
representational when he (I mean the medium) grows up? Unless I
misunderstand him, his response suggests a linearity of purpose, a belief
that more in technology is more in art when I can find endless examples
where the reverse is true. I pointed to a few of them in this post.
On Sun, Sep 27, 2015 at 7:51 PM, Benton C Bainbridge <
bentoncbainbridge at gmail.com> wrote:
> I just spoke with Bill Etra. Nam June Paik was showing Stan Brakhage his
> Paik/Abe Wobbulators fed through the Paik/Abe Colorizer when Brakhage asked
> if it could make a tree and Paik replied "too young, still too young". Bill
> says this happened at WNET TV Lab before the 1970 report so he thinks it
> was 1969 or early 1970.
> On Sep 27, 2015 7:32 PM, "Benton C Bainbridge" <
> bentoncbainbridge at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Murat, I love your poetic perspective on the ETC exhibit. Like you and
>> Goddard I see cinema as life, not it's mirror. When those moving pictures
>> are generated in realtime from an electronic signal, well - as Jason said,
>> "Video is Reality".
>> Again, I and my collaborators turned to music - mostly improvised and/or
>> electronic - as formal, practical and philosophical inspiration for our
>> media art practice. Yes, Goddard was an important early influence. More yet
>> important was the Surrealist seed that flew across the pond and its
>> seedlings, the American late modern art movements in general and New
>> American Cinema in particular. However, music remains the central model.
>> Why is this? I feel that music has these qualities distinct from plastic
>> and film arts:
>> 1. Freedom from illusion: music may evoke vivid images, scenes or
>> beginning-to-end narratives, yet we can easily dissociate from these
>> meanings and listen abstractly. Even in musique concrete, reality becomes
>> grist for the signal mill in the hands of the synthesist/studio artist.
>> Bill Etra told me that, while looking at the Rutt/Etra Video Synthesizer,
>> Stan Brakhage asked if it could make a tree. Nam June Paik replied, "too
>> young! Too young". But even when empowered with "total plasticity of the
>> moving image" (Bill Etra's phrase for his life-long goal), the visual
>> performer/image processing/media synthesist always shapes the image. Yes,
>> Jason, I agree that the real-time electronic process is distinct from
>> illusory effects, whether optical or digital.
>> 2. Time is life / attention variability: Though traditional cinema forms
>> exist in time, the fundamentally
>> language/storytelling/information/commercial purposed uses of the medium
>> ask for a different kind of attention. In other words, a TV may be left on
>> in the background and ignored, but the content isn't enriched by being
>> lived with at different levels of attention. I should make clear that #1
>> still applies; I feel that many electronic image media works that tell a
>> story may be absorbed poetically/musically/pure-imagistically. Excerpted
>> passages of Breaking Bad may function similarly, but those exceptions prove
>> the rule.
>> Here we can find an affinity between a painting on the living room wall,
>> which is absorbed just as decoration for years or decades and studied
>> closely in quiet moments or with guests, and the way process/signal artists
>> often make and study their work - make a patch on the synth, peer
>> unblinking at every pixel as the knobs turn and volts ebb and flow, then
>> eat dinner while the patch still runs in the background. Still I think more
>> of the system and process, electronics and signal flow, and their
>> musical/poetic relation to natural phenomena, whenever I am in the presence
>> of any realtime generative/performative media artwork.
>> 3. Signal as life force: we make music and visual music with our bodies
>> and instruments not to paint an illusory trompe l'oeil but to filter our
>> world through ourselves. (Here is a good place to mention that I think of
>> dance and choreography as visual music as well, I am inspired by, and often
>> work with, dancers but I know music much more deeply because I have a
>> lifetime of constant exposure to a wide range of genres and styles.)
>> Orange Blossom Special, Flight of the Bumblebees, and nearly every techno
>> song are an evocation of external or internal stimuli. Much of the work on
>> view at the ETC exhibit similarly taps into evocative rhythms and hues.
>> Though I feel Murat is right about the shockingly new images and their
>> creators' awareness of their originality, more often a second glance
>> reveals a heartbeat control signal, the oceanic cresting wave of a camera
>> feedback loop or the candy-colored process tape that looks just like... a
>> TV tube as candy jar.
>> 4. A shared abstract language: here again I think Murat is absolutely
>> right about the self-conscious newness of media art's pioneers, but I am
>> from the second wave - the artists who grew up watching Walter Wright's
>> Scanimate spin art word twists on Electric Company, then later Nam June
>> Paik's Global Grooving on PBS. I felt this entire way of making was being
>> erased from art history as I sought to learn the language of the Signal.
>> So, why bother learning analog a/v synthesis if it had already been done,
>> or newer tech (at that time, digital/analog hybrid hardware or Amiga based
>> realtime instruments fed by miniaturized Hi8 cameras) was available? I
>> wanted to learn these instruments and formal techniques to enter into a
>> dialog with my heroes and history to see if I could still express something
>> unique to me. I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. I also wanted to
>> "jam" with my peers and our pioneers, so I had to practice.
>> Since the early 90s I preferred text-less, abstract media artmaking
>> because i wanted to connect with something universally human across all
>> bounds of language, class, religion and culture. I felt that synthesized,
>> generative, processed and performative media art would prove to be timeless
>> and able to be appreciated by nearly anyone once "the tools of electronic
>> media became as common as the pencil". Now of course, this is actually
>> happening, as the full house at HCAG for the opening seemed to reflect. Nam
>> June Paik turned to old TV robot video sculptures as a familiar frame work
>> to present radically new kinds of unseen images; the third wave of media
>> artists and their art enthusiast peers are far more electronic-visually
>> sophisticated as a generation and can easily unravel complex imagery from
>> studying a little.
>> 5. Realtime collaboration: by no means unique to music, nonetheless
>> musical collaborations have long impressed me with the fluidity of roles.
>> The leader/side musician dynamic of jazz groups was a helpful model, but
>> the Downtown improv scene was our direct inspiration. From these artists we
>> learned to solo or comp from moment to moment, not just bar to bar. Thet
>> technical demands of realtime visual performance at ETC would require us to
>> jump from behind to right in front of the camera during a brief blast of a
>> vacuum cleaner (Bainbridge/Bonner/Giles/Koontz/Stohmayer 'We Machines",
>> part of the ETC DVD), then to run to the sampler keyboard to trigger an
>> audience cheer, followed by a turn on the Jones Sequencer.
>> These are just a few reasons that music was our model, not film/TV
>> language effects. In fact, many of the 2nd wave had film and television
>> school training like myself (which was less commonly available before my
>> young adulthood) so we were consciously seeking a more flexible, modularly
>> synthetic way of making art. Many like myself had grown up with video,
>> electronics, computer, synth and sampler tech as a teen and we found ETC's
>> custom synthesis/image processing custom tools more inspiring and
>> challenging than the conventional broadcast studios where we had day jobs.
>> I could site more examples with time but I must prepare for tonight's
>> supermoon eclipse show ,I hope we all have a good viewing!
>> Cheers, Benton
>> On Sep 26, 2015 9:12 PM, "Murat Nemet-Nejat" <muratnn at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Watching the exhibits at the opening last Thursday, not as a
>>> practitioner but as an interested party (I am a poet), I was struck by two
>>> things particu;arly: first, the mesmerizing effect many of the constructs
>>> had on me. That was not very surprising to me because I was aware
>>> images,particularly repeated and detached from words, may have that effect
>>> (I did not use any of the ear phones, basically because I couldn't hear
>>> wear through them). Nevertheless, it occurred to me that perhaps in digital
>>> art that Mesmer-ly effect occupies an essential part, as in photographs. I
>>> do not know whether this is entirely true. I only want to say that this
>>> effect is different from illusion. It is rather its opposite, decomposes
>>> illusion and points to something illusion hides. A machine perhaps, again
>>> like the photograph, to dis-cover the uncanny.
>>> The second effect was perhaps more powerful. Looking at *some* of the
>>> works, I had a sense that the creators were aware that they were bringing
>>> images into existence for the first time, creating new images. Once again,
>>> these images were not illusions because they were not copying or
>>> representing anything--except as the projections of the mind. I sensed a
>>> medium that, properly used, can be the medium for a new kind of
>>> subjectivity; not particularly of feelings but of thought. Because of that
>>> the two graphs comparing how the insertion of the "computer" affected and
>>> altered the previous channels of communications constituted one of the most
>>> powerful images in the exhibit.
>>> I also would like to comment on something that I think Jason said. To
>>> call cinema a medium that creates illusion is too general and not correct.
>>> One should just think what Godard may have meant when he said "cinema *is
>>> (not imitates)* life." To consider the lens to be a medium of
>>> reproduction is totally to misunderstand it, something many people during
>>> the origin of photgraphy did. The lens, as an optical robot records things
>>> that the naked eye misses. That is its originality as a machine.
>>> On Sat, Sep 26, 2015 at 1:12 PM, Jason Bernagozzi <
>>> jason at seeinginvideo.com> wrote:
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> Sure Benton, I think that is a good idea to discuss. First, I just want
>>>> to remark that the scale and importance of this exhibition will hopefully
>>>> be talked about for quite some time. I have never been so fully engaged at
>>>> an opening, and seeing the love and support for ETC was heartwarming. I am
>>>> sure that Ralph and Sherry had smiles on their faces all night, even if
>>>> they could not be there. I also want to say that Tim and Sarah's work on
>>>> this exhibition was thoughtful, engaging and more importantly, it captured
>>>> the spirit of the center and what it represented (which is no small feat).
>>>> Congrats to everyone involved..
>>>> For those of you who are not familiar with this device, the Paik/Abe
>>>> Raster Manipulator (aka the wobbulator), was first constructed by Nam June
>>>> Paik with the guidance and expertise of video engineer Shuya Abe in the
>>>> late 60's. I am not sure why it was eventually called a wobbulator, but for
>>>> some reason I imagine this is a term that someone like Walter Wright
>>>> probably coined (sounds like him). Simply put, a wobbulator is a modified
>>>> television that has a series of larger TV yokes and hand wrapped copper
>>>> wire coils that are placed in certain areas of the back of a cathode ray
>>>> tube so that when voltage is fed through them, they become electromagnets
>>>> that cause the raster to scan in wild patterns on the screen of the
>>>> television. A good example from the Hunter exhibition is Marisa Olson's
>>>> "Black or White", found here: https://vimeo.com/110210532
>>>> Now, the reason I maintain this is an instrument instead of a prepared
>>>> television like Paik used for works like "Magnet TV" is the ability to
>>>> visually articulate a wide range of "notes" from which the user could
>>>> "play" the unit. The traditional unit had three basic functions: S,
>>>> Hotizonal and Vertical. All of these manipulations could be controlled by
>>>> the frequency of the audio or control voltage being fed into the coils of
>>>> the unit, so the range of what you could get out of a wobbulator is as
>>>> broad as you could get out of audio synthesis (which is to say, a lot!)
>>>> The wobbulator for this exhibition was created in the spirit of the
>>>> unit that was used by most of the people who came through the Experimental
>>>> Television Center. It is created from a Sony TV 760 television from 1967,
>>>> which was one of the early portable TV's that Sony made. I did leave out a
>>>> couple of features, such as the raster collapse/reverse switch, for
>>>> logistical reasons so that the gallery staff would not accidentally burn
>>>> the screen of the unit and to keep it relatively simple for them to set up.
>>>> Otherwise, most of the hardware is similar to what you would have seen on
>>>> the unit at the Experimental Television Center, except that I used a new
>>>> method that Dave Jones and I came up with over the summer for the
>>>> vertical/horizontal deflection. The TV's center's unit had a dolor
>>>> deflection yoke from a TV from the early 60's that would be used for
>>>> horizontal and vertical deflection. The problem with building this today is
>>>> that there are very few of those tv's or those size yoke available anymore.
>>>> So, our method we created this summer is a technique to use modern yokes by
>>>> detaching them from their housings and clamping the new yoke from the side
>>>> rather than having to slip it over the back of the CRT tube.
>>>> Technical details aside, the unit that I made for the exhibition is
>>>> kept behind glass for safety reasons. So, to generate the signals I simply
>>>> created a program in Max/MSP/Jitter that phased the S-coil and vertical
>>>> coil signals to be offset from one another with ramping values from 58-62
>>>> hz in order to show variability in the image manipulation. A 60 hz sine
>>>> wave will create the effect, but it won't move very fast, so having small
>>>> changes brought out the dynamism of those coils. The signal was also being
>>>> brought up and down in volume, which affected the intensity of the process
>>>> and also leaving some "breathing room" for viewers to be able to see their
>>>> unaffected image on the screen and watch it ramp up and be ripped apart by
>>>> the raster displacement. I then recorded these phasing changes for about an
>>>> hour and burned the audio to a DVD and fed that into the amplifier that is
>>>> running the wobbulator. I could have put it on a computer, but I wanted to
>>>> make this as simple as possible for the staff at Hunter to deal with since
>>>> I was not there to set the unit up, and I think it worked pretty well.
>>>> When talking about video instruments, a large part of the discussion
>>>> that is not necessarily understood by those outside of the community is
>>>> that these are not merely special effects. These signals that are being
>>>> generated and are being affected by real manipulations to circuitry.
>>>> Perhaps this goes back to the tension between film and video being seen
>>>> nowadays as the same thing, to me they could not be further apart. This is
>>>> not a value judgement, but in terms of vocabulary they represent entirely
>>>> different physical and metaphorical states of being. Film is about
>>>> illusion, light passing through celluloid to give the appearance of
>>>> something being there, a ghostly shift of light to transport a viewer to
>>>> somewhere that does not exist. Video is reality. Maybe not the reality we
>>>> perceive, but it is electronic, instantaneous, and helps us visualize
>>>> things that are not inherently visual. Yes, you can use video as illusion,
>>>> but that is because it is being used like film (which is a fine application
>>>> mind you, just not necessarily the kind you might find at this exhibition).
>>>> Special effects, to me, mean illusion. I think a better term to describe
>>>> the work seen at the Hunter exhibition is "process", something that is
>>>> occurring, being figured out and articulated in real time, giving the
>>>> artist an electronic voice from which to speak.
>>>> When you are watching a wobbulator do what it does, you are watching
>>>> magnetism happening. All kinds of things come to mind, such as the idea of
>>>> the electronic image being an eye into a spectrum of our world that we
>>>> cannot perceive without it. It calls into question our bias towards
>>>> perception as truth, and in many ways all of the instruments used at the
>>>> center expose the signal as something inherently manipulative. Paik was
>>>> aware of this, and if you understand that video synthesis in many ways can
>>>> be used as a tool to both expose media and empower people, you can see a
>>>> direct line in his body of work from cutting off ties to making Nixon
>>>> wiggle around on screen. For him, the wobbulation wasn't a cool effect, it
>>>> was a way to show that despite causal appearances and assumptions, the
>>>> monumental broadcast giants are in fact just made up of fragile,
>>>> impermanent signals. When he wobbulated the Beatles, Nixon and other media
>>>> personalities, he was showing you how little power they have over the
>>>> viewer, making them puppets that dance around and rip apart.
>>>> I'm excited to see these discussions continue, what a great month at
>>>> On Sat, Sep 26, 2015 at 11:41 AM, Benton C Bainbridge <
>>>> bentoncbainbridge at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>> I'm still "processing" ;) the abundance of art, tech and artifacts I
>>>>> enjoyed along with the huge crowd that packed the HCAG for "The
>>>>> Experimental Television Center: A History, ETC..." In advance of my empyre
>>>>> post-"ETC" exhibit post, I'd like to ask Jason Bernagozzi if he can write a
>>>>> little bit about the "Wobbulator". I'm particularly interested in how the
>>>>> control signals are being generated and fed to this modified TV to create
>>>>> the raster patterns at Hunter. Jason, your introduction to the Wobbulator
>>>>> during the Exhibition walk was informative and eloquent - could you put it
>>>>> in writing for our "Video: Behind and Beyond" discussion?
>>>>> thanks, Benton
>>>> empyre forum
>>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
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