Steina Vasulka b. 1940, Borealis, 1993; 4 video projections on translucent screens, dimensions variable; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Museum Purchase
Steina: Involving People Into This Magic
Presented by Cannon Design with support from the National Endowment for the Arts
On View Friday, June 10–Sunday, September 25, 2011
Steina is a pioneer of what we now consider routine in daily visual experience. Born in Iceland, Steina brings a uniquely musical visual approach with complex experimentation in electronic imaging to her art. This exhibition included seven of Steina's seminal video installations spanning her 40 year career.
Steina's love affair with art began as a young girl growing up in Reykjavik, Iceland. She began playing violin and attended every concert, play, opera, and gallery she could. In 1959, she received a scholarship from the Czechoslovak Ministry of Culture to attend the State Music Conservatory in Prague. While studying in Prague, she met Woody Vasulka and the couple married in 1964. In 1965, they moved to New York City where Steina worked as a freelance musician and Woody worked as filmmaker.
Through his film contacts, Woody came across video in 1969. Of that discovery Steina states: Both our lives where changed forever. Woody introduced me to his new discovery — what a rush! It was like falling in love; I never looked back. As soon as I had a video camera in my hand — as soon as I had that majestic flow of time in my control — I knew I had my medium.
For the Vasulkas, in the early days of video, everything was an installation or an environment. These environments included "live cameras" or "live switching of tapes" and featured multiple screens that were typically stacks of monitors along with several tape players. Steina and Woody created machines that allowed cameras to find images that humans could not. With the development of video projectors and computer imagery, these environments expanded the transformation of image and sound to larger, more diverse settings. Artists now had additional media — monitors, film screens, translucent surfaces, walls of various skins — through which to present their work.
Involving People Into This Magic explored this variety of distinct viewing opportunities. Surveillance, engineering, and physics were utilized to capture and present compositions of extreme complexity and create environments of compelling beauty. Sound counterpointed image, resulting in a magical aural and optical journey.