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Woody Vasulka

Golden Voyage, 1973

Golden Voyage, 1973 (video)
Golden Voyage, 1973 (video)
For Golden Voyage (1973), the Vasulkas were inspired by Magritte's painting The Golden Legend (1958), which depicts a dream world merging landscape and still life. Magritte's pictorial approach squares perfectly with the formal concerns of the Vasulkas, who have sought to create a syntax for collage that is specific to video. Unlike photographic collage in which contrasting elements are assembled on a shared surface, electronic collage relies on the keying principle. To add an element, a zone from the background is replaced with one or more secondary video sources that still unfold separately.

In Golden Voyage, Magritte's painting becomes a pretext for exploring the possibilities of video, a medium that was still being defined at the time. The baguettes in the painting are the recurring motif in the video. The loaves of bread are manipulated electronically to change their location in the landscape.

The first image re-creates the painting rather faithfully. Gradually, however, the bread motifs migrate into backgrounds depicting alternately the desert and the ocean. The motifs seem to converge with the vanishing point of those background images. False perspectives are created as three viewpoints are superimposed through the chroma-keying principle. In this technique, a chromatic value is removed from an image on which a motif will be keyed. A backdrop or covering whose colour matches the chrominance of the background is used during the shot. This surface is replaced with a new image whose internal contours correspond to the motif being added. In other segments, the Vasulkas use George Brown's Multikeyer to duplicate the bread motif and alter its proportions. This sophisticated synthesizer enhances the keying effects, which were previously limited to superimposing two images. The device enables six video sources to be merged and placed on different planes according to a preprogrammed sequence.

Though Golden Voyage portrays a surreal space defying the laws of gravity, the videotape does not inspire the fascination generally associated with special effects. Instead, the images play up layering and fragmenting processes within a single image, an approach that has become part of the vocabulary of video.

Vincent Bonin © 2001 FDL