Ainda não começámos a pensar
                                               We have yet to start thinking
 Cinema e pensamento | On cinema and thought                                                                              @ André Dias

The Vasulkas (Birth of electronic space #8)

If we take a brief glimpse of what was happening around the same years, video technology was starting to fascinate artists by late 60’s, and Steina and Woody Vasulka, American video art pioneers from European origin, produced in 1970 a fascinating series, not unexpectedly called SKETCHES, in which they played loosely with the medium formal qualities. In these small sketches, such as the KISS, CHARLES STORY and ALFONS, there were still human figures represented, but the artists were already slowly starting to disfigure them. If these works still fascinate us today and maintain an impressive pedagogic potential, it’s perhaps because they express a precise moment, a kind of “freeze frame” on the emergence of the creative technology of video, and show us its raw unexplored formal capabilities, before they were domesticated by the artist’s will.
These first essays soon open into an electronic primitivism, the first and most revealing experiences of didactic composition and deciphering of the then emergent technology. More interested in video technology per se, they soon abandoned the destruction of the figurative to adopt an almost completely abstract approach that had lost any relation to human measure, and, in a quest for a language of the machine, privileged the expressive potentialities of the machine code itself, using video synthesizers.
In the following years, they’ve produced works that testify for a primitivism of the machine, like VOCABULARY (1973) and NOISE FIELDS (1974), attempts to work inside the machines that generate the image and the sound. The emergence of electronic space would soon turn out to be relatively unfruitful, since it is essentially dependent on violence to the perception in order to become expressive (as maybe experimental cinema itself), as if an art of the machine would only touch us through the violence of electronic noise, a kind of machine generated sublime.

[to be continued]

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