Absence of the difference between camerafed and wavegenerated imagery increased the possibilities for maneuvering electronic imagery. Models of this new kind of "image" behavior, as exemplified in Time/Energy/Objects,
can also be found in some of Woody’s previous works: in The Matter
using the Scan Processor, and in Noisefields
(with Steina, all 1974).
Notably, The Matter
and also Soundsize
(by Woody and Steina, 1974) (c)
use the test screen pattern (crosshatch, dots, colorbar) of a Broadcast Signal Generator, which is a mathematical tool, a clock, that was needed in early television to generate the broadcast signal of NTSC. Slightly different, in Noisefields
as there was no instrument available to generate a circle, a camera was pointed at a sphere. But once the circle was created, electronic snow is keyed through the abstract shape of the circle and a Video Sequencer is used for positive/negative switching at various speeds. This imagery, which merges camerafed and camera-less input sources, is further processed through the Dual Colorizer that changes the color and its intensity. In C-Trend
(1974), Woody rescans documentary live footage and modulates the deflection line structure causing it to build a floating image object that seems to be freely moving in electronic "snow." (e)
Again, in using the deflection processes of the Scan Processor, a comparable experiment in Reminiscence
(1974) is driven by a slightly different concept. (f)
For the Vasulkas, a questioning of the medium starts with scrutinizing the performability of the machine and the control of process manipulation. The experiments deliberately abandon the human eye’s point of view and introduce "malfunction" and repetition to force the scan lines to build structures that resemble abstract objects in motion instead of recognizable representational forms: "We were introduced to the alteration of video images through the basic equipment available. We could manipulate the scan lines by changing the deflection controls of the monitor, use the recorder to freeze frames, advance or backtrack tapes manually and look into processes within a frame (Decays I, II
, 1970). (g)
We learned forced editing and asynchronous overlays on the first generation half-inch video equipment (CV) and practiced all methods of camera/monitor rescan, the only way for us to capture and preserve the violated state of standard television signal." The videotape Calligrams
involves such practice when, in the rescanned image, the horizontal drift is "deliberately maladjusted" (Steina) causing the image to repeat vertically. While the horizontal visual "violation" of stretching the image is reflected in the audio noises, the rescanning camera, set at a 90-degree angle to the screen, reinforces the electronic structure in its verticality, where the instability of the "frame" appears in transition to spatiality.
These and further experiments with the Scan Processor, Video Sequencer, and Multikeyer — to name the most important tools — demonstrate the Vasulkas’ concept of video as it departs from photographic images and narrative references and forces the electronic medium into abstraction. One aspect of using the tools for sound-processing and image-processing modes is to treat the video signal in sculptural ways, for example, to create landscape-like features through a deviation from linear scan lines and in layering with a "key-priority encoder." The Vasulkas’ interest in immediately processed and displayed video led them to the development of a vocabulary of video that includes the camerafed image as one possibility of the medium’s language. Another is an exploration of the interchangeability of electronic sound and image in signal processing. With this dual approach, the Vasulkas articulate the behavior of video to discover what is an "image" and what is specific to the medium video.
In view of this, I will discuss abstract machine operations as "performance," insofar as the image effect is directly produced. Furthermore, regarding process-oriented and process-derived video, I reserve the term performance for presentation forms that are not representations of something else. The performance can be described as distortion of sound and image through machine processes and through the shared processable activity of performer and machine. The notion of processing, first of all, refers to real-time operations. For example, it must be noted that reflexivity is always embedded in the real-time violin performances by Steina, wherein feedback is involved when the sound source affects both the image and the resulting sound. Also, reflexivity of the medium here refers to the fact that Steina is interested in displaying the image of herself in performing live, but at the same time, that image is subject to temporal and spatial disjunction. The two levels converge in the video: first, the feedback effect of the audio/video interplay; and second, the self-reflexivity of the temporal-spatial distortion, operating as an endless "mirror-effect." Regarding the close interrelationship of machine and performance, this kind of performance video can be clearly defined as a reflexive medium of its own.
By reflexivity of video, I refer in general to the essential structural condition of the medium. Because video is grounded in the transmission of electronic signals, it allows a closed circuit of camera and screen, along with immediate control and manipulation of the image. Circular structures also arise in feedback loops where the scan signal (particularly when traveling through a series of devices) is transformed, deflated, compressed, and bent. Feedback and closed circuit can be regarded as grounding forms specific for the articulation of a video vocabulary builds to more complex effects. What is decisive is the immediate character of the processes that express the fundamental open-endedness of electronic imagery. The Vasulkas have, from their early experiments on, understood the medium as a variable set of tools for forming new languages for the arts. This type of video experimentation differs from experimental photography and abstract film insofar as the Vasulkas conceive of video not simply as another recording technology in the genealogy of media, but as a technology that is literally "new" because it involves processable non-photographic imagery.