March 29, 1996, Morning
BOB RILEY: Thank you, Inge-Lise. But I have to say, I do put up a good front. Little does Inge-Lise know my despair, and my dilemma and my sort of throes of controversy about doing so much of this work. I would like to welcome everybody from the archives and the museums, and the galleries and exhibition spaces, the laboratories, etc. who've come to this talk for the weekend, because as Inge-Lise said, I did come in 1987 to establish a department for media arts at this museum for collection, exhibition, conservation and interpretation of these works of art for the collection. And so I came to face some of the real questions and some of the real issues that will be discussed during this conference, such as the moves to make to assure the long-term status of media forms in a museum collection, let alone their existence in other areas, in terms of communication, in terms of exhibition, gallery artist representation, and that system of where artists find representation. The philosophical aspects of the museum collection, how you make a reconciliation between museum practices, art, the artist, these works of art in time-based electronic media, addressing problems of acceptable levels of decay, alterations to pieces, discussions in some way that are going to incur in the damages of distortion, changing a piece or adapting a piece so it can become part of a museum collection, and when I first arrived, of course, ground had to be broken in advance of breaking ground for this building, because we started at the old place. Foundations had to be built, and I spent a long time scaring people, people in traditional disciplines of registration and collection and exhibition that it wasn't a static object, it was an experience, it was a time-based piece, what amounted to the work of art was often in opposition to what the traditional museum would think was a work of art. There was a plan, there were mechanical apparatuses, and there was the artist's original blueprint or material for presentation through projected image media, television media, electronic media, television sound, amplification, etc., so a very wide degree of work, which is why I'm here to both introduce and moderate the opening program called "The Artist's Perspective." Because the artists that are here will share with you some of their personal experiences, we'll look at some workshop situations and discuss some of those results, whether they're satisfactory or not. The idea of the mechanical apparatus in a museum is enough to send some people in a traditional museum discipline running for the hills, because it's not the machine that's the work of art, it's how the machine produces or presents the work of art, so the machine has to be part of the artwork. The material, the original versus its copy, some sort of framework for procedures of the reproducible medium, in sets of archival materials, exhibition materials, destruction of exhibition materials so they don't fall into the wrong hands after the exhibition. It's a set of protocol and procedure that had to be developed. But most of all, the most important thing to do to establish this department was to share with the entire team of the museum and the conservation department, registration, everything else, about the type of respect for this kind of art that's very important for this time in the century, in that it's not the printed word, it's not the painted surface, it's not - it is, but it's not solely the sculptural organization of material. But it's about the electronic signal, it's about the field. It's about the field of sensory information that is often physically realized, sensorially engaged, art. The notion of art in media forms. And the respect for the material that provides this kind of experience. If we were to really observe history, if we were really to respect history and what history means, we'd just let it all go. Because the manufacturer made it this way. It's too fugitive. There's too much inherent vice to the thing. It's ephemeral, it's an ephemeral medium, it's planned for obsolescence. So you think about history, that would be the way ... I feel like I'm quoting Nietzsche here, but I can't go that far. It's historical, it's unhistorical, it's monumental history. You all remember that. We could join in with the futurists of the very early years of the futurists. We could burn libraries, we could wish all history to crumble to degenerate under its own weight, under its own excess. We could do this, this is part of history. But we won't. Again, to quote Nietzsche, we'll serve history. And we'll think about the material of this nature, and how it's very important for understanding our own times, how it's very important for understanding this quickly accelerated phenomenon of our own perceptual capacities, as we've gone from the projected image in a gallery situation, to a whole socially bound culture that seems to be connected to electronic media, so we want to, of course, preserve all these early experiments for the benefit of time to come. And so ours is a time where I see more and more and more that we have to confront the disappearing of that. We are confronting the disappearing, we're putting together practices to make sure that the intellectual life doesn't completely disappear, and we're also writing the history. And what's so ironic, of course, is this is the information age. It's also the era of conflation in the information age, with the confusion of entertainment, art, news media - it's very hard to distinguish these things. Advertising media is stealing some of the charm from the visual artworks in the services of selling you headache remedies and things of that nature. It's all just so fascinating, and the information age, of course, has technical memory, because that's its commercial product, but does it have any historical memory or philosophical memory? I don't know. I'm not sure, I think not, because I see in this society that we're building monuments to memory and things like the Vietnam Memorial and the AIDS quilt, that just might be substantive artworks that echo the effects of electronic media on the civilization at large, and why those artworks take the form the way they do. I mean, as Warhol said in the middle of the century, an artist working with media, it's only art that makes the anxiety subside. So this, the most documented eras of time could be lost, and so I think we're all here to establish practices, procedures, ways to think about saving the artists' work in electronic media so that it's satisfying, it remains to hold its integrity, and these are artists that are sometimes working in opposition to the direction of communication media, exploring the nature of the medium, ways it becomes a personal recording medium, an expressive medium, and it does chart, as I say, these changes in our very nature. I'm always surprised when technology is reported in the business pages and not the front pages, how we can restore art to the front pages of news, ultimately, because of its advances and its language and its notions, its natures. So, it's my pleasure to share the stage and to moderate a program with four extraordinary artists, and I would like to introduce each one and have them come on stage. Philip Mallory Jones, who's at Arizona State University doing a research program called "The First World," and this is in order of the presentations, Mary Lucier, in fact we have one of her pieces in our collection here, "Dawn Burn," it's a restoration project. Sadly, it's not on view right now. It has been on view - when I talk about the dangers of distortion and the acceptable degree of alterations, Mary Lucier's "Dawn Burn" - just to stimulate some controversy - of course, it's a seven channel piece. It was made in 1973. We had to purposefully underscan some of the monitors that are commercially available now to simulate the monitor screen sizes that were available in 1973. (gasp!) Devil/angel - you be the judge. And also Dan Graham's piece, "Opposing Mirrors and Video Monitors on Time Delay" - it's no longer a tape loop situation, it's a digital time delay. Ooh. All these things were discussed with the artists and the original piece is documented as is the contemporary plan at the time of its acquisition and presentation at the museum. So, the history, we're trying to at least stay somewhat... official. Woody Vasulka is here to talk about his work, and "The Show Machine Media," Steina and Woody Vasulka, is on view on the fourth floor for the duration of the conference. It actually closes on Monday, but it will be seen again at the Fine Arts Museums of New Mexico in October. Parts of it will be seen at the reorganization of the downtown Guggenheim in New York. As you know, they're changing the exhibition program to feature, and to conserve, present and collect electronic media in their downtown SoHo space, opening in the end of May, beginning of June. And, Bruce Yonemoto is joining us with a presentation about identity and representation. So, may I welcome the artists to the stage. Thank you. This being the first presentation... we kept everybody waiting in the lobby for a longer coffee break because we need to set up a little bit of technological support for the artists. So this is the first run-through, and please forgive us for any glitches or waiting, but this will be the only time you'll suffer such inconveniences.
PHILIP MALLORY JONES: Good morning. My name is Philip Mallory Jones. I've been working in video as art form since 1969, and since 1990, I've incorporated computers into that work. And, since 90, 91, have been working on a project which I will speak briefly about this morning and run, at the same time, some video without sound, because it would be jangling, that is from the program "First World Order," which is also the name of the larger project that I'm engaged in. The video will run as a reference for some of these ideas that I want to present at this time. The "First World Order" project in general is, in some ways, a repository for symbolic language and the codes of ritual practice. Essentially, the project has to do with defining a presence in the world, a global community that's based on modes of expression, modes of perception, and the symbolic language, and symbolic systems of communication that first world peoples have used for thousands of years. I think it's possible to redefine how we look at who's in the world by these modes, rather than distinctions based on notions of ethnicity, race, nationality. We can talk about ways of looking at a global presence by the way people think, and the way they express themselves. These modes are contained in the symbolic languages of what I refer to as first world peoples. Dance, other kinds of ritual movement and gesture... music, drama, ritual practice, architecture, textile design, graphic imagery, sculpture, all these things are codes, and hold the knowledge systems of first world societies. So, the project that I'm engaged in, "First World Order," for the last five years and for years into the future, is involved with finding these codes, holding them in video and digital forms, reinterpreting them, transposing them through these forms, for presentation, use, study, understanding in the present and the near-future. This necessarily and inevitably involves interpretation and, therefore, the chances for misinterpretation, misunderstanding, of course they're always there. The tools used to gather and hold and reconfigure these codes and systems necessarily imposed their own sorts of change on them. This is problematic, but it's not unusual. It's just what we have to deal with. One of the things that I have to deal with in this process, as other artists working in these fields do, is format obsolescence. Really, this project began in '75 with a trip to Haiti, when I was shooting an AV portapack, open reel, black and white video, all of that material is lost at this point. It's either deteriorated, or I don't know where it is, or I left it somewhere. And besides, the machines are obsolete and very few of them even exist. So, as I'm working to move ancient communication systems from the past into the present and the near future, I'm also faced with moving the information to viable formats constantly, and this, I'm usually a little bit behind this effort as well. So the data actually has to float through media, in order to remain viable and alive. This also changes it. And this need to float the material through media is accelerating as formats become obsolete at a faster rate. I think that, in a lot of ways, we're moving towards a nonmaterial archival state. And so this proposes a number of kinds of challenges in terms of the kind of changes that are forced on the material, but also some other kinds of opportunities. For instance, the "First World Order" project, aside from resulting in this program which is intended for broadcast, and may see broadcast in this year some time - I actually finished it in late '94, but that's not unusual. The project is also involved with reconfiguring information or data, images and sound in different forms for different audiences, different platforms. Again, addressing the need to float material in various media. So the "First World Order" project is also reconfigured as the "First World Order" resource site on the World Wide Web, and is in constant evolution in that form, and as a three dimensional virtual model environment that will be accessible through the website sometime in the near future, but also in other kinds of digital forms. I think what we might be moving towards as well, in terms of archiving and repository, is a decentralized state, given the possibilities of Internet and Web and other kinds of digital distribution. There is the growing presence of spread out archives and shared archives, and a network of archives. Also, with the growth of digital forms and the demise of the physical object from time and other kinds of deterioration, questions about the reviability of the object are raised. But also with that comes the change. There are a lot of things that I have been dealing with in developing this project, "First World Order," that don't exist any more, physically, are only memories, are questionable and varying interpretations at this point, and they become, as Bob was referring to, recreated, reinterpreted in a viable form at this time. That remains, certainly an issue and a question, and a problem. We are changing all kinds of things. I change any number of forms and practices inadvertently or intentionally in the process of archiving and then reassembling these things for presentation and use in viable media in the present. I feel like I sit sort of in the middle of the concerns of this gathering, in that a lot of work that I did in the 70s, say, doesn't exist any more. It either rotted in a basement or a closet or an attic, or I lost it somewhere, or somebody else lost it somewhere. The machines that used to be able to play it are only in a very few places these days. There's a lot of material that doesn't exist, and at the same time, I'm engaged in this effort to move much older forms into this new world, and so we are faced with a number of perplexing and challenging issues here. And, we will go on.
BOB RILEY: Yes, we will go on. Thank you for - thank you, Philip. It's a wonderful thing to look at, particularly when you're bringing morphing into the equation as a metaphor for shifting time and iconography. We got off to a late start, I will be happy to turn the program over now to Mary Lucier.
MARY LUCIER: Could we have the slides up, please? Philip, I really was impressed by your paradigm of cultural morphing and technological morphing as a paradigm of preservation, both of cultures and of technology. I think that's a very important issue to come up at the beginning of this entire symposium. My paradigm is somewhat different - of course I deal primarily in installation, and installation is what I'm going to talk about. And it involves not only the arena of the electronic particle, but the equally unstable arena of temporary objects and environments devised to contain and add meaning to the electronic transmission of the information that has been gathered as part of the memory of the environment, the narrative of that environment. And what I would like to stress as my operative paradigm is that of the environment, in fact. The environment, both as we know in its endangered status in the greater world out there, whether it's in the Amazon or just outside of San Francisco, or is in the City itself. And the environment that can be seen to be created in fact by a video installation or by video itself. You can think of video having a life and a breath, a pulse, a rhythm. It has a life. It is sort of a living, breathing thing. It has a life, it has a life span. It has a memory. It has a body. It has anthropomorphic suggestions. All these things that speak to us in a particular way and spoke to us in the 60s and 70s as artists who were searching for a medium that we could use to somehow communicate some sense of our own belief or our own terror, or our own knowledge of our ephemerality, the ephemerality of cultures, the ephemerality of the environment itself. And I'm just going to go very quickly through these slides, not commenting directly on them. These are slides from my own work over the past 22 years, and as I go through these, many of them, you'll see an evolution from earlier work to more recent work, but all of them have, I think, as their preoccupation, this subject of ephemerality. And trying to deal with it, not only by fixing it or by surrounding it with a more substantial kind of object, but also by embedding in the electronics itself a sense of memory, and whether that memory is, in this case, the burning of what is now a dinosaur, the artifact of the Vidicon tube, and its scar tissue that it bears with it for the rest of its life, however long that may be. That kind of memory is one sort of memory that resides within the technology and certainly, if the technology can be thought of as, in fact, having a memory, that is where it lives. And, the analogy, again the anthropomorphic analogy between the human eye, the lens, the retina, the brain, equivalent to the lens, the tube, the tape, which in those days, 1974-75, we were dealing with open reel systems that bore this comparison to - at least, we thought, which is somewhat now maybe an archaic model, and maybe the electromagnetic chip, the microchip, in some way is a better analogy for the human brain. I'm not entirely sure about that. But, my interest in memory progressed from a concern with what the technology itself was capable of registering in its inherent properties, as in burn or as in noise or as in its response to light - the light which creates the image is also that which can destroy the image, or that which can damage the technology. The burns on the Vidicon tube, as in "Dawn Burn" or "Firewriting" or "Untitled Display System," are very literal and become separate artifacts once they're removed from the process of the making of them. These pieces become more metaphorical, more attuned to storytelling, though storytelling in a form that is, at least at this stage, still not spoken in the voice, the human voice, nor does it depict the human figure. And there is a movement in all of this work, and its anthropomorphic concerns from the scarring of the technology, from using the technology to register memory, to comment on the environment, to lend its own ephemerality to the concerns of environmentalists about the ephemerality of this somewhat fragile, but at the same time, incredibly tough planet, to concerns about the human body itself, and culminating in a piece called "Noah's Raven," which is deeply about a comparison between the scarring of the human body and the scarring of the land, and the ways in which, in order to truly experience empathy with the environment, you must be able to project something of your own identification, the identification of your self, your physical body, your physical being in the world, out to the landscape, and then back again. And that certainly has been my attempt since the early 80s in most of these pieces. The issue - I made a list here of just some of the first words that came to mind of things that we're all going to be talking about in the next couple of days. I broke it down into nouns of survival and verbs of extinction, and the nouns of survival are preservation, conservation, restoration, resuscitation, reconstitution, recreation, recovery, renewal. And all of that, to me, adds to a sort of life support system, to carry the analogy into the medical arena. The notion of life support for these works, the idea of establishing some sort of medical protocol to preserve, reclaim, reconstitute, recover, renew, to rebirth these works, as well as to guarantee their survival, their continuity, their existence. And the verbs of extinction are decay, destroy, degrade, disintegrate, dissipate, evaporate, degauss, disappear, disassemble, dismantle, dematerialize, and this is a kind of euthanasia, can be thought of, in a way, as a form of suicide, too. I mean, those of us who chose this medium at such an early time, as Philip was saying, some of his tapes - they got destroyed by sitting in a basement that was too damp, or an attic that was too hot, or he lost them We all have had this experience, so there was a certain amount of, certainly not planned obsolescence, but unintentional euthanasia, for those of us who are committed to the ephemerality of the medium. And now we find ourselves in this very ironic position, 20, 25 years later, of attempting to rematerialize, to remake in a material form, these works that, for us, were valuable at that time, precisely because of their ephemerality. So, one of the things that needs to be preserved in the reconstituting of these pieces and in the preserving of them, is the sense of their ephemerality. I mean, we mustn't make them over-weighty in their object-ness, while at the same time, we do have to reconstitute and preserve them. We need to retain that sort of vitality that was there when we were, at that time, rebelling against the art object, and the art. It's completely ironic that here we are, in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and we are now all engaged in this process of bringing back to life pieces that are lost, and preserving pieces that will be lost from an ethic and aesthetic that originally wanted them to be lost. Anyone who made work at that time knows precisely what I'm talking about. So we all find ourselves somehow trying to bridge this gap of where we are conceptually in our understanding of the totality of what we've done, and how we have changed and the work has changed, and the necessity of the moment, that history, the needs of history, which involve this act of preservation. This piece is particularly germane to my basic metaphor of human scarring, scarring of the land, takes me back to the scarring of the Vidicon tube and brings it all full cycle, with the technology. That the technologies that are both preserving and destructive are often one and the same. There's a great deal in this piece about surgery, in which surgery is seen as both benign and as - evil is too exaggerated a word - but destructive, where surgery on the land, in some instances is seen as absolutely necessary and proper and correct. Farming, for example. The hero of this piece is a rubber tapper, who cuts the tree just enough so that every year, he can harvest the sap, but he never kills the tree. He doesn't cut the tree so much as to kill it. He cuts it just enough so that year after year he can farm it. And the Serengaro in the Amazon Basin in Brazil lives in harmony with the forest, and the extraordinary alliance that took place there between the union of rubber tappers and the ecologists to preserve the standing forest, I think, is sort of a paradigm of a model that we need to establish as we go forward and try to make alliances with corporations, with foundations and with other institutions to preserve the standing forests, because the preservation of these works, and the preservation of the forest ultimately is far greater more to our advantage than the letting go of them. Than letting them fall into disarray, than letting the trees be burned in order to grow grass for one year and then have what was the rainforest turn into arid desert. And a lot of these pieces are as we come up to the present time. This is a piece from 1995 called "Last Rites Positano," where I tried - and the last one you just saw, called "Oblique House Valdez." In these pieces, the voices of the people who have experienced catastrophe, who have experienced either personal catastrophe or catastrophe in the landscape, is heard in my work for the first time. So rather than making the landscape convey the metaphor for this sort of catastrophic life within an environment, the people begin to speak for themselves. This is an interactive installation, takes my work a little further into the more sophisticated technological realms of interactivity - I like to call it responsive, it's a responsive system, it's not deeply interactive. But this allows the viewer, it empowers the viewer, it empowers the speakers, and it places the voice, the human figure, and the human memory within the landscape, giving them an equal balance and an equal weight. So, from this sort of rambling set of ideas, I want to just extract these few notions that we must think of video and especially video installation as an ecosystem of sorts, that it needs to be thought of as having a life and a breath, and how best to preserve that, how best to approach that, the way we would approach, in fact, a forest that is at risk or a particular area of landscape that needs resuscitation, or a culture that needs preservation, needs both to go forward and have its histories recorded and preserved, and I call on the institutions to take the lead. We artists are right now the primary repositories of our own work. And in some cases, this is becoming inordinately burdensome - as you look at these slides go by, you see how much stuff there is. It isn't just a bunch of laser discs, or a bunch of videotapes that need to be preserved. It also the conceptual arrangement and the physical embodiment of that arrangement in a sculptural form. And I do believe that as public funding fails us, increasingly, that the institutions, from museums to media centers to universities and any other foundations that are interested in this - these are going to be the people who are going to work side by side with us to preserve and to provide a home for and a future for these projects. What we will do in the future, in order to continue making work, is also a major problem, and that's a different kind of survival, and that's a different sort of restoration and that's about the survival of the artist and the artist's life. But we're not here really to talk about that. We're really here to talk about - we will deal with that. But what we need you to help us with now is how to keep these works alive, so that memory is not lost. Thank you.
BOB RILEY: Woody Vasulka.
WOODY VASULKA: I guess I'm discovering a lot for myself here. Especially the style between ephemeral and, I would say, the physical. On one hand, my kind, I'm talking actually for the family, the state I mean when I say "we," that means the family, and our kind means our tribe that was involved in this new definition of the material. These electronically organized images and sound and so forth. We achieved one total victory in discovering or formulating this material aesthetically in a purely metaphysical fashion. It was a time, an energy that made these images. And so we kind of felt this is what we did - we eliminated the physicality of the image, we have departed also through this organizational principle from photography and film, so we have truly the new thing. And on the other hand, very soon we realized that our language - a very ambiguous term, is located very much in the instrument as photography and film was sort of located in its photographic or camera obscura principle, and the organizing principle was the pinhole. Suddenly we realized there is nothing ephemeral. Only the tape, or the record, the evidence which we produced as a visual structure, or as audio structure, became this perishable librarian subject, as we all got here for. The rest is a vast array of machinery that produced these things. So very early, we started to not only associate ourselves with people that would create these structures, technological structures, the machines, but also we started subconsciously, or consciously collecting them. And as it is now, there's virtually only one person we know in this great nation, it's Ralph Hocking, that has a private depository of these ancient machines from [unintelligible] to anything new. And people now voluntarily send him this stuff for free, because there is no other place. And to ask Ralph, happened a very peculiar thing, in 1991, we received this call from Peter Vible, which some may know, who was in charge of [unintelligible] Electronica programming in Linz, Austria, and he asked us this very pertinent question which we expected, but never got, like, would you produce a live machine, early video machine show for Linz [unintelligible] Electronica in 1992? And of course, we said yes, which we never fully recovered financially from that event. And so we started this very interesting anthropological, I would say, archaeological dig. We found some of the devices in the basements that were sort of covered with webs, and so we brushed them off and put insurance value, like $40,000 on these objects, which was a very euphoric moment. But then we came across very tragic moments with early machines, as early as 1962, 1963, essential to the history of a new electronic image structuring, have disappeared just a year before we got our hands on it. It was simply taken to a dump, dumped out, like Animac, one of the early devices by Reed Harrison, which is very important electronic animation machine that simply disappeared forever. On the other hand, we could salvage certain things, and people volunteered, so we made what you call dead end show, without really clearing up any of those, and from our vast private archive of early experiments with these phenomenologies of electronic image, we put together this unusual, for us, and I guess, for the rest of the people there. And in fact, here, nobody has asked for it, so it was sent back to the original places. So Steina put together - we always record everything we do, so this is none of the private recordings, Steina assisted with this project, put her own narration to it. It's recorded our way, so it's very rapid movement. If you feel nauseous, close your eyes for a while. And after the wide angle is over, you can return. So let's run the tape, maybe we can talk about it later.
[ Audio from Vasulka video: ]
Steina Vasulka: The show in Linz, Austria for Ars Electronica called [unintelligible]. It started with a call in November from Peter Vible, who curated the show, and once we said yes, we started activating our staff and getting on the task. First, came the site visits. The first was to Lee Harrison, and he was a great source of written material, some of it in a catalogue and show materials that are both on the disks, and in the tape show. Unfortunately, he didn't have a machine because that one got destroyed. Next we went to see Glen Southworth in Boulder, and his machines are in the show. This is the CDI Data camera, being manipulated. The week after visiting Glen and Lee Harrison, we went to New York, and first we stopped off at Electronic Arts Intermix, to track down history and information specifically on Eric Siegel, and then we went to Bill Etroff.
MAN: This has a future. For people that live in large house, even if there nothing particularly impaired, this is a...
2nd MAN: No - I'm already designing the computer interface with the thing in the wall, so you can just push a button and go to the bathroom...
STEINA: And the next day on to Binghamton, New York, to Sherry and Ralph Hocking. Come to think of it, in retrospect, this is how we were hoping the show would look like, this is how in our mind's eye, we envisioned the show in Linz to be. And then Woody went on to California with David Dunn to see Eric Siegel, and then later, also, Steve Beck.
MAN: ...I was building this, and I don't even want to say when I started doing the third incarnation of this thing, but it was way before there was Super VHS, and I needed to have high quality, high resolution pictures, and there was no Super VHS, so that's why I was building this - this was direct color recording...
2nd MAN: ...Plexiglass panels, so, the ideal environment is a relatively dark or dimly lit space, and this would be backlit from inside, and there might be a spotlight on the camera view position, maybe have a feedback setup on the second camera. That might be nice - to have feedback. So that could be...
WOODY: O.K. Very good...
STEINA: And then it was on to Iowa City, Iowa, where everything was collected and put into boxes. This is the Nam June Paik device, these are the amplifiers for it, and that's garbage can. This is Dave Miller, and he has one of the remote controls. This was for the Southworth device. Here is Retetra. Let's look at it better from the panel, and this is the display unit, and here is more Retetra, and more Retetra again, and these are the cameras, cables, [unintelligible] and box, I don't know, and this is the Sherry MacArthur, this is first Portapack, early Portapack, David again, and this is the camera of Southworth, and this is the Hearn medium monitor displays, and on top of it is the Putney with the keyboard. Monitor and oscilloscope on the bottom, more cameras, more remote controls. More cables, and this is the George Brown sequencer, and this is the 16 level digitizer for the camera, and these are camera controls and all the remotes, computer terminal, Siegel's [unintelligible] colorizer ... This is SAID, or the Spatial and Intensity Digitizer by Don MacArthur, and George Brown Multikeyer. [unintelligible] synthesizer, Dave Jones' frame buffer with that ominous red push button, and another Retetra control unit, more cameras, Retetra sequencer, and the so-called modulator on the top of the cart. Now this is later, when it had all been modified. Barbecue on the way. And this is again still later, when they have taken some of those mummies and put them into the boxes. And here is Carol and Dan Miller, enjoying their steak...
[ Several people speak at once ]
STEINA: And in no time at all, the book was produced.
MAN: Here's an idea for the cover...
[ Vasulka video ends ]
WOODY VASULKA: You know, this goes on forever. So maybe, should we terminate it now? Or let it run? Maybe you could kill the sound, and I'll just do a summary here. Basically, this was a one time event. The catalogue was produced with it and this catalogue contains Bob Barkwood sequences which were interfaced with laser disc stations - there were ten laserdisc stations. There were five laserdiscs produced, and this is our producer. They always ask for money and we couldn't get it. But anyway, so, Steina is mocking her a little bit. So, eventually, this was sort of a - it was also a byproduct of five hours of video tape. So this all was sort of staged and put up and it was there for about five or eight days only, and then it all came back, and since we had no destination... ??? offered to intercept it and buy it, but his offer didn't even cover the insurance costs. So, we just had to bring it back and send it to the original owners, so to speak. But anyway, if there's more interest in it, I would be delighted to point out where this all could be found again. And just for information, the show probably cost altogether close to $150,000. It was produced through Austria. We received for our part about $75,000. The catalogue costs about $30,000, complete, and then the local work might have cost another $25 or $50,000. I don't think it could be done for the same money again, but it probably would cost about $200,000 or $300,000 now. Thank you.
BOB RILEY: In the exhibition upstairs, many of you will witness the kind of video, the engineering of the video image that is the artifact of these kind of originally engineered machines. And now, I ask Bruce Yonemoto to close with a few thoughts.
BRUCE YONEMOTO: My experience with preservation consists basically of transferring my work to a more stable format: reel-to-reel to 3/4 inch, 3/4 to Betacam, to digital, to laser disc, etc. I have participated in saving some classics, at least in my mind, classic tapes, one of which is called "The Enema Bandit." But more recently, I have been involved in material in various film archives around the U.S. and Brazil, and I can freely admit that I am an archive junkie. The older, more rare the picture, the more I get turned on. But what I get turned on by are the possibilities of reinterpreting this seemingly randomly saved film material. But upon closer inspection, this seemingly benign archival material usually takes on the cultural interpretation of the person behind the camera. More often than not, a European or American industry cameraman. The false mirror, Hollywood cinematic narrative once again rears its ugly reflection. In other words, these archives represent to me a treasure trove of material that has been preserved so that artists can revise it. But let's return to the issue of preservation as it pertains to my field of vision, which is video art. And one aspect of video art that has always impressed me, is the way this work can act critically, reflexively, and even politically. The traditional alegorical methods of confiscation, superimposition, and fragmentation have been used by artists from Johnny Hartfeld, his anti-Nazi collages, of course, are unforgettable, to Dara Birnbaum for Bruce Conner, Paper Tiger and the work of my brother Norman and myself. The appropriation and depletion of meaning, fragmentation and dialectical juxtaposition of fragments, yes, fragments of television and film, have served video artists as tools in the continuing critique of the media. To be critical of the television screen, which is said to have become the new historical site for the domination of human behavior by ideology, this practice should not be taken lightly. Where else can we find this discourse of visual critique besides, perhaps, in a critical theory classroom. The small window through which we all here have seen, is work constructed of - may I say the words - copyrighted images of television and the movies. This brings me to the question I would like to pose. Does preservation actually mean perpetuation? Perpetuation of traditional film structures, racist stereotypes, or even bad TV shows. From my own experience, it is budgetarily prohibitive to buy the rights to images that structure our collective perceptual experience. So if we preserve and copyright all images, even the images created by artists, does this mean that the small window of media criticality will be closed forever? Since the costs of production and preservation is what essentially is driving the ownership of imagery, perhaps we can create a space, maybe a sponsored space on the Internet, let's say, somewhere where images can be quoted freely. Perhaps we can create a niche that resembles that space of video art and artists have fought to preserve. This material I was able to obtain which are outtakes of movies depicting the war in the Pacific, anti-Jap movies, and I was able to obtain it from Pierce Rafferty, who had this collection, before he sold it to the collection of a major image bank. Now, I would have to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 a second, and from my experience, every time a classic film is restored, it is recopyrighted, and consequently taken out of the public domain, so even historical quotation is no longer possible.
I would like to make a little statement about the situation that's happening in Southern California at the Long Beach Museum of Art. The Media Arts Program at the Long Beach Museum of Art is in jeopardy of becoming extinct. Since its inception in the early 1970s by David Ross, Long Beach has not only developed one of the largest video art archives in the world, but its continuity of media arts curators have made Long Beach's video exhibition program one of the most important in the nation. The present director, Mr. Harold Nelson, has not only eliminated the position of Media Arts Curator, one of only four or five in the entire country, but also plans to close the Video Production Annex. The fabled video art collection has not been available to the public for the last three years. It is claimed that the collection is undergoing a process for preservation, but it is clear to those of us in the media community of Southern California that preservation means neglect and, worse, disintegration. And so what I've done is I've drafted this letter, and also the addresses of the board members of the Long Beach Museum of Art and they'll be available on the table outside. So if you feel any inspiration, perhaps people can write letters to try to help preserve not only the collection, but also the position of Media Arts Curator, which of course is so important to us all. Thank you.
BOB RILEY: Thank you, Bruce. And in closing, I'd like to thank the artists for their generous remarks, which outline for all of us these facets of conservation and preservation that are urgent, if not already too late, and the issues that are about them, both bound in the work and outside the work in terms of industry interests in artists' material, or commercial industry interests in things that prohibit the artist's critique, as Bruce says. These are all issues in conservation, and this is what I believe we'll be discussing for the next two days. I don't know if we have any time for questions on the way to the next discussion of science and material. Thank you very much, and join me in thanking the artists for their presentations.