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© 1996 The Solomon R. 
Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 
and ZKM/Center for Art and Media 
Karlsruhe. All rights reserved 

ISBN 0-89207-172-9 

Guggenheim Museum Publications 
1071 Fifth Avenue 
New York, NY 10128 

Guggenheim Museum S0H0 
June 14-September 15, 1996 

Mediascape is organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in 
association with ZKM/Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe. 

This exhibition is sponsored by Deutsche Telekom. 

Additional support is provided by ArtView. The media sponsor for this 
exhibition is Wired Magazine. 

Design Consultant: 
Frankfurt Balkind Partners 

Deutsche H"1 

Telekom T 

Printed in the U.S.A. by 
Hull Printing 

"Video Art" by Heinrich Klotz 
translated from the German by 
Jurgen Riehle 

Texts by Ursula Frohne, 
Oliver Seifert, and Annika Blunck 
translated from the German by 
Bernhard Geyer 

Photo credits: pp. 12-13, |n go 
Gunther; pp. 16-17, David Regen, 
courtesy of Barbara Gladstone 
Gallery, New York; p. 20, Markus 
Hauser; p. 21, Toshio Iwai; p. 28, 
Giorgio Colombo, courtesy of 
Panza Archives; pp. 30-31, 32, 
Douglas M. Parker; pp. 34-35, 
Thomas Goldschmidt; pp. 46-47, 
Jeffrey Shaw; pp. 50-51, 52-53, 
Ben Blackwell, courtesy of San 
Francisco Museum of Modern Art; 
pp. 56-57, Kira Perov; p. 59, 
Per-Anders Allsten; pp. 60-61, 
Markus Hauser 




Thomas Krens 7 


Heinrich Klotz 8 












Art is communication; it creates understanding across frontiers. In many 
respects, Deutsche Telekom has already turned this truth into reality. For 
Deutsche Telekom, art's beauty is much more than what lies in the eye of 
the beholder. Art is intended to stimulate the mind and to encourage the 
observer to examine new viewpoints and ideas. Art has always been a 
seismograph registering social change. Indeed, throughout history, artists 
have depicted processes of change and their consequences for humankind. 

At Deutsche Telekom, we focus on innovative concepts that unite 
research, technology, and new media. For this reason, we attach great 
importance to our collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum. The 
Guggenheim has a long history of bringing art to audiences in the United 
States, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Deutsche Telekom is establishing itself 
as a global telecommunications player, with a growing number of offices, 
partnerships, and activities throughout the world. The symbiotic relationship 
between art and telecommunications enables the Guggenheim Museum 
and Deutsche Telekom to share a global vision of people communicating 
without borders. 

Our sponsorship of the Guggenheim Museum concentrates on 
multimedia art, the most innovative art form of our time. Mediascape, the 
first exhibition in our collaboration, displays its broad scope. Mediascape 
brings together, for the first time, works by renowned multimedia artists 
such as Marie-jo Lafontaine, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, and Bill Viola. 

The exhibition takes place, in part, in the newly designated 
Deutsche Telekom Galleries in the Guggenheim Museum SoHo. These 
galleries, which are dedicated primarily to the presentation of works of 
multimedia and interactive art from the collections of the Guggenheim 
Museum and ZKM/Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, reflect the changing 
structure of society. 

Deutsche Telekom is committed to assuming a pioneering role in 
creating understanding and trust in the opportunities offered by future- 
directed technologies. Telecommunications will be among the key 
technologies of the next century. Not only will telecommunications have a 
lasting impact on the transfer of information, they will change the very way 
we work and how we enjoy our leisure time. In short, telecommunications 
will transform our way of living and will restructure society itself. 

Deutsche Telekom is already playing a leading role in industrial 
society's metamorphosis into an information-based communications society. 
We are acutely aware of the enormous responsibility that accompanies this 
role. Our partnership with the Guggenheim Museum is an example of our 
commitment to fulfilling this responsibility. 

On behalf of Deutsche Telekom, I hope that you enjoy this 
publication and the exhibition that it accompanies. I also wish you a 
pleasant journey into the information age. 

Dr. Ron Sommer 

Chairman of the Management Board 

Deutsche Telekom 


Mediascape, the exhibition that marks the reopening of the Guggenheim 
Museum SoHo, offers cause for celebration on many fronts. It announces the 
Guggenheim's commitment to exploring the relationship between technology 
and culture; it initiates a long-term collaboration between the Guggenheim 
Museum and ZKM/Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany; and, 
finally, the exhibition establishes collaborations with corporate partners who 
are providing both financial assistance and significant, long-term access to 
technology and expertise, which will enable the museum to realize complex 
and unusually demanding exhibitions of multimedia art. 

This is an interesting moment in history, one that resembles the 
Italian Renaissance in its commingling of science, art, and the humanities. In 
contemporary society, the traditional notions of time and space have been 
transformed by advances in technology, telecommunications, and information 
transfer. Virtual communities have emerged, collapsing long-standing 
geographical boundaries and localized codes of cultural identity. The mass 
manufacturing and distribution of video and computer equipment has 
generated entirely new forms of cultural production. In unprecedented 
numbers, and with a sophistication born of easy access to complex 
technologies, artists are using these devices as aesthetic tools to develop a 
new syntax and structure for art making. Mediascape, which is drawn largely 
from the collections of ZKM and the Guggenheim, offers what its title 
suggests: a view of what new media have to offer, from sculptural formats 
and immersive environments to more recent interactive digital projects. 

The seeds for a collaboration with ZKM were planted more than a 
decade ago, while Heinrich Klotz, now the Executive Director and Chairman 
of ZKM, was a visiting professor at Williams College in Williamstown, 
Massachusetts, and we taught a course together. Over the years, our 
professional relationship evolved into a close friendship, and we spent many 
hours discussing the potential impact of technology on the culture of the 
late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. When the opportunities 
afforded by the Guggenheim's presence in SoHo intersected with the 
museum's new partnership with Deutsche Telekom, the collaboration with 
ZKM became a reality. Mediascape is the first of a long series of exhibitions 
planned to investigate the enormous potential of the alliance between high 
technology and high culture. 

This exhibition and its accompanying publication have been a 
team effort from beginning to end. I am most grateful to Professor Klotz 
and his staff at ZKM, including Curator of Contemporary Art Ursula Frohne; 
General Manager Gerd Schwandner; Registrar Marianne Meister; Curatorial 
Assistant Oliver Seifert; Research Assistant Annika Blunck; and Technical 
Assistants Hartmut Bruckner and Adolf Mathias, as their participation in this 
project has been central to its success. From the Guggenheim, Associate 
Curator Nancy Spector and Assistant Curator for Research Matthew Drutt 
have done an exemplary job in giving shape to a complex project. They 
were ably assisted by Exhibition Coordinator Jon Ippolito, who handled 
myriad details of this undertaking. Curatorial interns Miren )aio, Amy Kao, 
and Ursula Tax provided essential research assistance along the way. I also 
thank Lisa Dennison, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, for her 
thoughtful counsel and assistance in managing various aspects of the 
project. Paul Kuranko and Mark McLoughlin, Multimedia Technical-Design 
Coordinators, have provided invaluable technical supervision, acting as the 
museum's liaison to many of the artists in the exhibition. The various 
details of installing this project were masterminded by Dennis Vermeulen, 
Senior Exhibition Technician; Michael Lavin, Head of Technical Services; Peter 
Costa, Project Services Manager/Exhibition Design Coordinator; Peter Read, 
Production Services Manager/Exhibition Design Coordinator; Jocelyn Groom, 
Exhibition Technician/Administrative Assistant; Christopher Skura, Museum 
Technician; Adrienne Shulman, Lighting Technician; and Ali Hbcek of Hbcek 
Sweeny Walter. Head Registrar for Collections and Exhibitions Suzanne 
Quigley arranged for the safe passage of works to the museum from their 

various points of origin, and Director of Education Marilyn |S Goodman has 
developed a number of public programs that make the exhibition more 
accessible to the diverse audiences that visit the Guggenheim. 

This catalogue was handsomely produced under the guidance of 
Director of Publications Anthony Calnek, together with Managing Editor 
Elizabeth Levy, Assistant Editor Jennifer Knox White, and intern Jose Ramiro 
Higuera. We are indebted to Lester Chin, Kent Hunter, and Saeri Yoo Park of 
Frankfurt Balkind Partners, design consultants for this publication. 
Ms. Blunck, Mr. Drutt, and Mr. Seifert prepared the artists' biographies, 
and Mr. Drutt, Ms. Frohne, and Mr. Seifert compiled the bibliographies. We 
wish to thank all the authors for their thoughtful texts. 

On behalf of our two institutions, I extend my gratitude to the 
artists themselves, for their enthusiastic participation in the planning and 
installation of this exhibition. Nam June Paik generously made available his 
spectacular video wall Megatron. We are grateful to him, and to Jung Sung 
Lee and his assistant Sung Koo Joh, who programmed this work for exhibition 
at the Guggenheim. I would also like to thank Steina and Woody Vasulka for 
lending their important early work Matrix I to the exhibition. Toshio Iwai and 
Bill Seaman lent their own artworks, both of which were developed during 
residencies at the Institute for Image Media at ZKM. Ingo Gunther refabricated 
key elements necessary to realize his installation. I must also thank Morton 
and Marlene Meyerson for lending Jenny Holzer's untitled installation from the 
1990 Venice Biennale. I am most appreciative to Vasif Kortun, Director of the 
Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, for generously agreeing to lend Bill 
Viola's The City of Man from the center's Rivendell Collection of Late 
Twentieth-Century Art. The artists' assistants and technicians must also be 
thanked for their invaluable contributions to the success of this project: Paul 
Miller of Sunrise Systems, and Jen Rork, assistant to Jenny Holzer; Sukae 
Suzuki, assistant to Mr. Iwai; Jochen Saueracker, assistant to Marie-Jo 
Lafontaine, and Dion Kliner and James Sheppard, who fabricated her work for 
this exhibition; Juliet Myers, assistant to Bruce Nauman; John McEvers, Blair 
Thurman, Andrew Norton, and John Huffman of Mr. Paik's studio; Bruce 
Hamilton, assistant to the Vasulkas; and Kira Perov, Claire Johnston, and Tom 
Piglin of Mr. Viola's studio. 

Numerous people have provided vital counsel and support during 
the realization of this exhibition, including Jeanne Greenberg; Frederick B. 
Henry, President, The Bohen Foundation; Jean-Claude Meyer; Adrianne 
Wortzel; Robert Riley, Curator of Media Arts, San Francisco Museum of 
Modern Art; Holly Solomon, Holly Solomon Gallery; and Lori Zippay, Director, 
Electronic Arts Intermix. 

Equipment and services for Mediascape have been provided by 
ArtView; Yamaha Corporation of America Keyboard Division; Silicon Graphics, 
Inc.; and Reuters America, Inc. Fine Arts Risk Management, New York, 
provided insurance for much of the equipment. We are also pleased to 
welcome Wired Magazine as the media sponsor for the exhibition. 

Finally, and most importantly, this exhibition and the collaboration 
between the Guggenheim and ZKM have been made possible only through 
the participation of Deutsche Telekom. The third-largest telecommunications 
carrier worldwide, Deutsche Telekom has long fulfilled its beliefs that art is 
communication and that art unites people. Under the guidance of Dr. Ron 
Sommer, Chairman of the Management Board, the company remains 
determined to enhance its position as a global leader in high technology 
and telecommunications. By providing the resources for galleries at the 
Guggenheim Museum SoHo to be dedicated to multimedia art, and by 
providing access to new and exciting technologies for cultural applications, 
Deutsche Telekom has made a commitment to contemporary art and society 
that will resonate for many years to come. 

Thomas Krens 

Director, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation 



c n 



As early as 1958, Wolf Vostell used technical and electronic devices in his 
"de-coil/ages ," incorporating flickering TV screens into his artworks. But the 
true birth of video art occurred in 1963, with an exhibition of Nam June 
Paik's works incorporating manipulated TV sets at Galerie Parnass in 
Wuppertal, Germany, and with Vostell's 6 TV De-Coll/ages, shown at Smolin 
Gallery in New York the same year.' 

These early examples of video art grew out of the artists' 
involvement with Fluxus. Paik and Vostell were both members of this 
international group of artists, participating in Fluxus performances in 
Wiesbaden and Dusseldorf in the first years of the 1960s. Rebellious yet 
unabashedly playful, the Fluxus group reveled in provocative gestures. Its 
members undoubtedly encouraged Paik and Vostell to undertake their 
challenging experiments in mixed-media installations. 

Another important influence on Paik was Karl Otto Gdtz, 
an exponent of Art Informel who taught at the Dusseldorf Kunstakademie. 
Since 1935, Gotz had been engaged in experimental filmmaking; like Hans 
Richter and Viking Eggeling, he had used the medium to set abstract forms 
in rapid motion. Gbtz's films may well be the most important link between 
the historical avant-garde's experimental films and the moving images of 
video art. Edith Decker recalls that at the opening of his 1963 show at 
Galerie Parnass, Paik explicitly thanked Gotz for providing a crucial impulse 
toward the use of kinetic images. 2 

The two contemporary artists Paik most admired and drew 
inspiration from were Joseph Beuys, who was beginning to draw attention in 
Dusseldorf at the same time as the Fluxus group, and John Cage. Paik first 
met Cage in 1958, during the International Fereinkursen fur Neue Musik 
(international summer courses for new music) in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt. 
Paik learned from Cage a new concept of communication, which redefined 
and expanded the audience's participation in the performance of a work of 
art. Even more important, however, were Cage's principles of chance and 
indeterminacy. (Explaining one of his compositions, for instance, Cage stated 
that the "notes were determined by imperfections in the paper upon which 
the music was written. The number of imperfections was determined by 
chance." 3 ) Chance provided Paik and many other artists of the 1960s with 
the conceptual foundations of a new aesthetics. Embracing chance as an 
aesthetic principle produced results similar to those of classical Modernism: 
in music, the abandonment of a tonal sequence predicated on harmony; in 
painting, the espousal of abstraction, which, rejecting mimetic 
representation, frees color from "objective" standards of "correctness." Paik 
has used chance to determine the rapid sequences of abstract shapes in 
many of his video works. 


During the 1960s, the development of video sculpture remained tied to Paik, 
who moved from Germany to New York in 1964. When he exhibited his TV 
Cross at the Tekniska Museet in Stockholm in 1966, video sculpture came 
into its own as a new art form. A cruciform arrangement of eight video 

Heinrich Klotz 

monitors displaying abstract shapes in rapid succession, the work was 
shown two years later at Galleria Bonino in New York. It may have been the 
first appearance of a video sculpture in an exhibition space dedicated to the 
fine arts. 

It took a long time for other artists to realize the potential of video 
installations, and it took even longer for a large audience to accept and even 
embrace the new art form. Video's moving images share an obvious affinity 
with those of television, and this fosters among audiences a tendency, 
however unjustified, to implicate video art in the sins and platitudes of 
commercial broadcasting. In the past ten years, however, there has been a 
marked shift in attitude, which, like the history of video art as a whole, is 
intertwined with the development of new technologies, among them those 
enabling closed-circuit video and large-screen projections. 

With closed-circuit video, an image of the viewer is included in the 
video picture that he or she views. Thus, closed-circuit can suggest an 
identity between the space of the viewer and the realm of the artwork. 
During the early stages of the technology's development the image appeared 
only after a slight delay, but now it can appear in real time. This innovation 
marked a significant step toward interactivity, which has decisively changed 
the nature of video art. 

Beginning around 1982, Jeffrey Shaw and other video artists have 
created works using large-screen projections of viewer-manipulated images, 
and this development has led to a fundamental shift in our perception of 
images and our understanding of what constitutes a work of art. 
Interactivity and large-screen projection, which today often complement each 
other, started out as separate phenomena — Lynn Hershman's first interactive 
installation, Lorna (1979-83), for instance, used an ordinary TV screen. The 
contemplative calm of the viewer who stands before the static image of 
traditional art has been replaced by the viewer's active intervention in the 
dynamic images of the electronic age. 


Video art demands that we redefine our modes of aesthetic perception. This 
is due to several inherent characteristics and possibilities of video: 

1. The continuous changing of the moving image. The moving image does 
not permit contemplative absorption; rather, as we follow the constantly 
changing images, our attention focuses on drama, narrative, or the 
variations of mutable forms. Thus, with video art, the nineteenth-century 
ideal of delimitation and transcendence of self through aesthetic 
contemplation is no longer possible. 

2. The linking of numerous images and the dispersal of vision. The parallel 
screening of different videotapes on stacked monitors presents a multiplicity 
of synchronous images, fostering a nervous tension and a dispersion, or 
dissipation, of the gaze instead of focused concentration. (Works that 
display the same image in uniform synchronicity on multiple monitors, on 
the other hand, may induce a sense of calm.) 

3. The unfolding of sequences of images over time. In this aspect, video art 
corresponds to the aesthetics of film — an aesthetics of narrative and 
development rather than one of perception at a glance. The static being- 
there of the immutable image is replaced by an evolving image sequence, 
and the work of art becomes a journey rather than a presence that can be 
encompassed in one glance. Video is distinguished from film, however, by 
the simplicity of its use: like paint and brush, its cassette format allows a 
spontaneous approach. 

4. Spatial simulation. Video and electronic images permit the implementation 
of spatial effects, and the result is a heightening of the illusion of depth, far 
beyond that achieved by perspective painting. This path toward a simulated 
perceptual reality leads to the immersive environments of virtual reality. 

5. The immateriality of the images. Unlike paintings, media images do not 
exist in a largely unaltered state, but as pixellated possibilities that need to 
be "switched on." The media image makes its appearance in the monitor's 
rays, without being there with any permanence. Mechanically produced and 
reproduced, it is "cold" — a technological image that bears no trace of its 
production. The media image possesses no "aura," to use Walter Benjamin's 
term. This is not to say that the cold, technological image cannot be a work 
of art. Its artistic essence emerges over the duration of its narrative, its 
composed sequence of images. 

As it is immaterial and devoid of aura, the technological image 
can be endlessly multiplied without being robbed of its "authenticity." By 
nature reproducible, the media artwork exists only in "copies," quite like an 
engraving or woodcut, and the number of copies that are made is strictly 
arbitrary. Indeed, a video's master tape will fade, only to be renewed Jn its 
copies. Since it cannot be appraised as a unique, "original" object, a video's 
value as a work of art eludes the traditional standards that are applied to a 
collector's — or investor's — object. 

6. The capability of the viewer to influence the image interactively. 
Interactivity alters the traditional conception of the artistic image as an 
object on display. The interactive image does not ask to be silently 
contemplated but demands some form of action. As with all moving images, 
the conventional notion of aesthetic perception as "disinterested 
contemplation" (to use Arthur Schopenhauer's term) is dispersed, and the 
awed silence of pure looking makes way for the joyful exploration of an 
interactive world. The viewer becomes a player, enjoying the freedom of 
intellectual and sensual games. A playful modification of the given within 
limited possibilities, interactivity makes reference to the limits of what is 
visually set in motion, the limits of the work of art, the limits of fiction. It 
approaches reality but is never reality itself. 


The characteristics of video art that distinguish it from what came before 
underscore the fact that a new art form has emerged, one with its own 

rules and concepts — the latest form in the long history of art mediums and 
their applications. The true significance of the moving image and its 
technologies is revealed when we relate video to the larger history of 
artistic image making. 

The history of Western art forms begins with the emancipation of 
the painted image from a fixed support, a development that would 
ultimately lead to the autonomous image as an aesthetic object. 
Around 1180, the first movable panel paintings emerged, in the form of 
altarpieces painted on wood — surrogates for the golden tablets of the early 
Middle Ages. Over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the image 
separated from the altar, eventually to become paintings on canvas. Also in 
the fifteenth century, along with the birth of movable type in 1445, was the 
invention of the woodcut (ca. 1400) and engraving (ca. 1430-40). For the 
first time, images were able to be reproduced in sizable quantities. In 
contrast to paintings, which were commissioned by individual patrons, 
woodcuts and engravings addressed a general audience, and they 
contributed significantly to the formation of public opinion. Although the 
works were still inscribed with the traces of manual production, a technical 
process mediated between the hand-cut image on the plate and its 
multiple prints; thus, these forms marked the first step toward 
mechanical reproduction. Another new medium was born in the late 1790s, 
with Aloys Senefelder's invention of lithography, which allowed the artist's 
brushstroke to be transferred onto a print, thus adding a dimension of 
gestural spontaneity. 

The development of photography in the first half of the nineteenth 
century introduced a new quality to art making, for in the photochemical 
production process, direct, physical human touch is entirely absent. For this 
reason, the photograph was thought of as a "cold" mechanical image, and 
until recent times was precluded from being considered a medium of 
genuine art. 

With the invention of cinematography at the end of the nineteenth 
century, the concept of the image expanded further, as images began to 
move. The rise of Modernism was interconnected with the rise of the motion 
picture; while perspective — the great invention of the Renaissance — had 
added the appearance of space to the flat image surface, movies added the 
dimension of time, turning narrative development into an unfolding image. 

The late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries brought 
further variations on the photographic image: the three-dimensional 
stereoscopic photograph, the backlit transparency, and the color photograph. 
At the same time, photomechanical printing created a new type of image 
reproduction, which caused a revolution in the way images were perceived 
by the public. Broken down into dots and reconstructed by the viewer's 
eye, the machine-reproduced photograph anticipated the pixellated electronic 
image. The latter's most pervasive form is undoubtedly television, which has 
arguably triggered the most intensive image consumption in history. (Given 
that a person in the industrialized world spends, on average, three to four 
hours a day looking at a TV screen, one can gauge to what degree this 
form of image perception has conditioned the contemporary mind.) 

Today's information technologies have provided a multitude of new 
image types, many of which are based on digital data processing. Now, in 
addition to traditional mediums such as oil painting, engraving and woodcut, 
etching, mosaic, lithography, photography, film, and halftone reproduction 
and process printing, we have many kinds of electronic images, with 
different forms of dissemination: television and video images, computer- 
generated images, video animation, scanned images, images stored on 
CD-ROM or traveling through the Internet, and so on. The most intense 
experience of image perception, however, is provided by the artificial, 
interactive spaces of virtual reality, in which, immersed in a simulated 
environment projected onto the LCD screens of 3-D goggles, the viewer uses 
his or her body's responses to navigate through the space at will. 

This brief history clearly shows that the creation of image types 
and the corresponding changes in image perception are among the most 
important themes of cultural development. 


Art has always responded to new technologies, appropriating the materials 
of culture in different ways. The material of video art is the monitor image 
or, more accurately, the television picture, which, since the 1950s, has 
been available to a mass audience. Yet video artists have generally 
assumed a critical stance toward the television picture, adopting the 
technology while challenging its contents. By employing a commonly used 
technological material in a subversive way, they present a critical 
counterforce to entertainment and advertising, the most popular forms of 
communication today. 

Video art is nonetheless subjected to the same skepticism 
and critical scrutiny that we bring to bear on television, as our 
annoyance at the glut of television imagery has come to determine our 
attitude toward anything a monitor shows. It is therefore not surprising that 
video artworks sometimes use aesthetically reconfigured responses 
to television, but their critical nature is not always understood by audiences. 

Paik's was the first and most immediate artistic response to 
television's moving images. In his work, he "took revenge" on television by 
speeding up its pictures until they became barely decipherable flickering 
shapes. Oscillations between figurative and abstract images, they suggest, 
nonetheless, a compositional intent, a kind of longing for order amid 
complete disarray. 

Bill Viola's response has been quite the opposite: Viola resists 
television's constant motion by almost arresting it. In his video installation 

Threshold (1995), an LED signboard is mounted on the outer walls of a 
room; messages carrying the latest news flash across it in nervous haste. 
Passing through an opening that intersects the LED display, one enters a 
darkened space where two-meter-high images of human heads are projected 
on three walls. One expects movement, but nothing stirs; the heads simply 
lie there, on pillows, immobile, seemingly dead. Startled, one looks for a 
flinch, a twitch, a sign of life. Only after one has all but given up, 
apparently confronted with the stillness of death, does one recognize that 
these people are breathing, their chests moving up and down ever so 
slightly. They are sleeping: it is a joyful discovery, and one clings to the 
barely perceptible movement, grateful that these pictures are, after all, 
moving, that the stillness is not complete. The scene's power lies in this 
contrast; it is an aesthetics of antithesis and defiance, an aesthetics of the 
unexpected. The human images, which appear in photographic form, credibly 
assure us that we are still there, that we exist. Outside of the room, we 
experience the actuality of changing events, with the rapidly moving LED 
letters carrying the superficiality of countless occurrences, but on the inside, 
we are confronted with the state of stillness, of sleep, of eternity. 


Threshold breaks a near-taboo of recent art— the taboo against the direct 
representation of the human figure. Video art emerged at a critical juncture 
in art discourse, lending a renewed viability to fictional narratives, and 
linking these narratives to the representation of the human image. 

Like Viola, Paik has invented images that are completely alien, even 
antithetical, to television, human images of superb strangeness. In his well- 
known work Beuys, which was included in Documenta 8, he inserted scenes 
from a performance by Beuys into rapid image sequences. The scenes show 
Beuys transformed into a screaming coyote; struggling for words, howling, he 
fights to regain language, in order to metamorphose back into a human 
being; he is a man turned beast, grasping in vain for human expression. 
Certainly not the stuff for television broadcasts, this is the expression of a 
profound dissent, a desperate quest to reconnect to humanity. 

The image of man at the outer limits of humanity is a recurring 
theme in the work of many important video artists. In Nauman's Raw 
Material: Brrr, video projections show a human face uttering nothing but 
nonsensical sounds. It is the image of a stupid, slobbering, abject, and 
antihuman figure, the very opposite of television's usual telegenic glamor. 
Nauman depicts humanity after the so-called "loss of center"— the brutish 
human being of the twentieth century, who has shed the "beautiful soul" of 
Romanticism and the humanist ideals of classical antiquity. In his work, we 

experience the vision of humanity introduced by Francisco de Goya and 
elaborated by the Surrealists: man at his most remote from God's image, from 
an ideal whose very absence makes it the work's most urgent reference. 

This is the only way left to articulate the human image. The 
representational figure has lost all credibility in painting, but what has 
ceased to be acceptable in other art forms, what has caused the 
embarrassment associated with insipidity or the discomfort of deja-vu, can 
now be expressed in a new way and with elemental directness. Video art 
has expanded our range of expression and reintroduced subjects that had 
been excluded from most artistic representation. 

The aesthetics of the historical avant-garde, which attempted to 
open the border between art and life and to suspend the difference 
between reality and art, has been supplanted by fictional narratives. The 
more television imagery has tried to fraternize with reality, the more video 
imagery has stressed the difference. Although it often references reality, 
video art emphatically maintains its own narrative worlds. 


All of video's narratives can be related to the classical categories of 
aesthetics. It is possible, in fact, to establish a new poetic typology. 

When video takes the place of film, it is commonly used not for 
long epics but for short subjects, for which film would be inappropriate, as 
in Das Zersprungene Glas {The Broken Glass) by Dieter Kiessling. The video's 
opening title, "Dieter Kiessling— Das Zersprungene Glas," is displayed 
vertically on the screen, but while we read it, the glass plate bearing the 
title suddenly drops to the floor and shatters as the camera tilts to capture 
its fall. That is all. The title keeps its promise with unexpected immediacy, 
for it is the whole work, its own story. This is the shortest form of 
storytelling, the most concise version of narration. By classical categories, 
the work is a video poem or perhaps a video aphorism. 

While the epic novel has remained the domain of the movies, 
video tends toward brevity, a tersely made point, sparse hints. Videos 
usually take the form of interpolation, annotation, even haiku. With video, 
there is a broad range of expressive possibilities that supplement, expand, 
and enrich earlier techniques of art. As with photography and film before 
video, these new forms of expression will not destroy the traditional arts, 
but will open up new forms of representation. 

classical poetics: interactive media art, artworks that are intrinsically 
interactive. How can this possibly be art? Hasn't art always been made for 
the purpose of contemplation; doesn't the ultimate fulfillment of art lie in 
its quiet presence before the eyes of the beholder? There is a suspicion that 
interactive art is appropriating the performing arts to create an indigestible 
mixture that defies all proper categorization. 

One example: I am sitting on a bicycle facing a large projection 
screen. On the screen, I see the streets of Manhattan, with its buildings 
transformed into giant letters. I am pedaling through the city, steering with 
the handlebar, riding through the canyons of midtown and down Fifth 
Avenue. The three-and-a-half-meter-tall screen pulls me in, inviting me to 
navigate along the corridors of letters: down Broadway, toward the World 
Trade Center, left on Wall Street, and on to the Seaport. The colorful scenery 
of letters, streets, and sky is an artificial world, a fictional city, a vision, a 
surreal environment of forms. With my own bodily movements I am 
constantly changing the image before me, determining and altering its form 
through my active intervention. It is a playful experience. In this installation 
by Shaw, The Legible City (1988-89), the work of art turns into play, the 
viewer into a homo ludens. To question whether this is still art becomes 
meaningless: in The Legible City, we trespass boundaries, move freely 
across categories, and liberate ourselves from definitions. 

1. Edith Decker has discussed the beginnings of video art in Paik — Video (Cologne: DuMont, 

2. Ibid., p. 21. 

3. John Cage, Silence (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1973; 1979), 
p. 27. 

4. Hans Belting, Bild und Kunst: Zur Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst 
(Munich: C. H. Beck, 1990). 


There is a type of media art that completely evades all traditional 
classifications and can no longer be addressed within the framework of 





IM BEREICH DER W E S T - W I N D - W E L T , 1991 

Two flags hoisted on metal staffs flap in an artificial wind, approaching 
each other without ever touching. In place of the emblem that usually 
identifies a piece of fabric's symbolic meaning as a flag, here each rectangle 
of pure-white material is vividly colored by projected images, virtual 
patterns and signs. Intentionally left blank, their neutral surfaces offer 
themselves as projection screens for a variety of national emblems, 
ideological symbols, and portraits of leaders of every political coloration. On 
the flag to the left, photographs of outer space and fighter jets blend with 
a projection of the American flag's stars and stripes. They constitute a 
symbolic compound, signifying the basic tenets of democracy and the world 
influence of the United States. The other flag displays a hammer and sickle 
on a red background, the graphic emblem of Soviet Communism. This image 
appears in sequence with portraits of Mikhail Gorbachev, the personification 
of perestroika, which was in full bloom in the year the work was made. The 
blankness of the fabric, together with the constant changing of the 
projected images, suggest the fundamental interchangeability of political 
programs and ideological values. 

For Ingo Gunther, political events have a fascinating aura, for 
while they are experienced as complex occurrences in "real time," they 
acquire a historical dimension almost immediately. Many of Giinther's 
installations are based on current political tendencies and their global 
impact. After a series of early video works dealing primarily with the 
phenomenon of movement, he began to explore in greater detail the 
possibilities of the electronic media in the visual arts. In his research, he 
encountered the codified language of the military, a metalanguage that is 
intentionally made incomprehensible to outsiders. The complex interaction 
between communication and control— the different means of transferring 
information and the strict censorship of such data; the obstruction of 
communication and the role of the military as an agent of control in the 
distribution of information; the justification of covert action as the legal 
instrument of the government's defense of national and ideological 
identity— opened up a wide field of possible artistic strategies confronting 
the military/industrial information and technology monopolies. In the 1980s, 
Gunther began to experiment with satellite images taken from outer space. 
These images show the effect of human activity on the climate and ecology 
of the earth, but also reveal military data and strategic positions. He 
transposed them into a computer-controlled three-dimensional projection, in 
which political power structures and their strategic planning are exposed as 
a self-governing system; the work suggests that each power block's constant 
surveillance of its own positions and those of the enemy is completely 
disconnected from any individual experience of reality. 1 

Im Bereich der West-Wind-Welt continues themes found in 
Giinther's earlier work, adopting a critical position in relation to the power 
of the state and its representatives, its systems and insignias, its ideological 
programs and political subjects. The opposing flags, symbolizing the two 
superpowers and the polarized hostility that characterized their relationship 
for decades, represent Gunther's reaction to the shifts in world politics that 
were occurring as he conceived the installation. Gunther responded to the 
easing of tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union — 
to a large degree, the outcome of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost 
politics— with a formulation that is less emphatic than the approval with 
which the situation was generally met; believing that it could be judged 
only from a historical perspective, he created a work that represents an 
ambivalent response. That the media played a crucial role in this 
development— even in the Soviet Union, under the strict censorship of 
Communist rule — is suggested in Gunther's installation by the many images 
drawn from both the rhetoric of Communist propaganda and the Western 
media. Thus it would seem that the fall of the Iron Curtain could also be 
interpreted as a victory of the media over the proclaimed integrity of 
political programs. 

E R 

Oriented toward each other, the ideological banners evoke the 
rapprochement of the Soviet Union and the United States. Historically, the 
waving flag has served as a symbol of rebellion and the willingness to 
fight; in this sense, it seems to represent a mindset counter to political 
accord. Yet the thawing of relations between former political enemies is in 
itself a revolutionary event. The main impulse behind this revolution, 
however, was not the Utopian vision of the Communist International, which 
once tried to unify the masses, but, in the Soviet Union, the concrete 
promise of joining the capitalist world— the world where the "West wind" 
blows. The opposing flags in Gunther's installation, with their simulacra of 
the media world, illustrate the easing of tensions and the dissolution of 
ideological differences, leading to globalization. 

Gunther's casting of current events in symbolic form, despite their 
short-lived relevance in periods of political and social change, gives 
evidence of the artist's concern for capturing the figurative sense of the 
historic value and significance of complex developments and processes that 
cannot be captured through documentary photographs. Thus, the artist 
plays the role of Walter Benjamin's metaphorical angel, who flies through 
time, driven by the wind of history, with its back toward the future, facing 
the past. 

In the clusters of projected images and also in the work's themes, 
Im Bereich der West-Wind-Welt can be compared to Robert Rauschenberg's 
silk-screen paintings. In them, Rauschenberg uses existing photographs— 
that is, he reproduces reproductions; similarly, Gunther projects onto his 
"canvases" images he has taken from the media. Rauschenberg's 
manipulation of images— taken from different viewpoints, mounted next to 
each other, and sometimes repeated — is similar to the way Gunther cuts 
and superimposes his video projections. Projected onto a surface that is 
itself in motion, the moving images in Gunther's work appear partially 
blurred, thereby communicating their media character; in Rauschenberg's 
silk-screens, the grainy quality of the magazine pictures serves the same 
purpose. In both cases, the visual quality of the images forces the viewer to 
remain aware of their illusionary character. Both works also contain gestic 
attributes— the application of paint in Rauschenberg's case, the moving 
flags in Gunther's installation — and use vibrant television-type colors; while 
Rauschenberg enhanced his colors with special inks, the effect is similar to 
the vibrant colors of the video projections on Gunther's flags. The 
interaction between images that appear to merge in the viewer's perception 
brings the works of Rauschenberg and Gunther very close to abstraction. 

It is inconceivable that Gunther, who has lived in the United 
States for over ten years, could employ the symbolically and emotionally 
charged motif of the flag in an almost abstract sense without having the 
Pop art icons of Jasper Johns in mind. The question so frequently asked in 
front of the work of the American painter— "Is it a flag or a painting?" — 
could thus be rephrased for Gunther's installation: "Is it a flag or is it an 

1. See Jurgen Schweinebraden, "C3: Command-Communication-Control and Intelligence," in 
Documents 8, exh. cat. (Kassel: Documenta, 1987), vol. 2, p. 90. 

Ursula Frohne 



pages 12-13: Ingo Gunther, 
Im Bereich der West-Wind -Welt 
{In the Realm of the West-Wind- 
World), 1991. Two-channel video 
installation, 30 minutes, color; 
installation space variable, 
approximately 4x5x6m. 
ZKM/Center for Art and Media 

Ingo Gunther was born in 1957 
near Hannover, Germany. He 
studied ethnology and cultural 
anthropology at the Johann- 
Wolfgang-Goethe-Universitat in 
Frankfurt in 1977. From 1978, 
he attended the Diisseldorf 
Kunstakademie, where he studied 
with Fritz Schwegler, Gunther 
Uecker, and Nam June Paik, 
graduating with a Master of Arts 
in 1983. 

During the 1970s, Gunther traveled 
extensively in North Africa, North 
and Central America, and Asia. In 
1983, he received a stipend from 
the Diisseldorf Kunstakademie for 
a residency at P.S.i in New York. 
He received a DAAD grant in 1984, 
and a Kunstfond grant in 1987. In 
1988, he was awarded the Preis 
des Kulturkreises des Bundes der 
Deutschen Industrie, and in 1996, 
he was presented with a 
Stankowski Award. Between 1990 
and 1994, Gunther was a professor 
at the Kunsthochschule fiir 
Medien, Cologne. 

Gunther's early work in video led 
him to pursue media- and 
journalism-oriented projects in 
print, television, and art He -has 
worked with NHK TV in japan as 
an artist, correspondent, and 
writer, and in 1989, he founded 
Kanal X, the first independent 
television station in Eastern 

Works by Gunther were shown at 
the Nationalgalerie Berlin, 1983 
and 1985; Venice Biennale, 1984; 
Documents, Kassel, Germany, 
1987; Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria, 
1991; Centra Cultural de Belem, 
Lisbon, 1994; and Hiroshima City 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 

Documents 8. Kassel: Documents, 

Universalpoesien. Hamburg: 
Kunstverein Hamburg, 1988. 

Arbeit in Geschichte - Geschichte 
in Arbeit. Hamburg: Kunsthaus und 
Kunstverein, 1988. 

World Processor - Das andere Bild 
der Erde. Hamburg: 
Produzentengalerie, 1989. 

Video-Skulptur: Retrospektiv und 
Aktuell, 1963-1989. Cologne: 
Kolnischer Kunstverein and 
DuMont Kunsthalle, 1989. 

World Processor. Tokyo: 
Shogukukan, 1990. 

Ars Electronica 91. Linz: Ars 
Electronica, 1991. 

6a/f;'c Biennal. Rostock: Kunsthalle 
Rostock, 1992. 

The Binary Era. Brussels: Musee 
d'lssel, 1992. 

Moving Image: Electronic Art. 
Karlsruhe: ZKM; Munich and 
Stuttgart: Oktagon, 1992. 

Humpty Dumpt/s Kaleidoscope. 
Sydney: Museum of Contemporary 
Art, 1992. 

Global Change/Erdsicht. Bonn: 
Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der 
Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1992. 

Kunst im Weltmasstab. Kiel, 
Germany: Kunsthalle zu Kiel, 1993. 

Integral. Berlin: NGBK, 1993. 

MultiMediale 3. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 

40th International Short Film 
Festival. Oberhausen, 1994. 

Multiple Dimensions. Lisbon: 
Centra Cultural de Belem, 1994. 

Fotofest 94. Houston: George 
Brown Convention Center, 1994. 

Wdeo Skulptur in Deutschland. 
Stuttgart: Institut fur 
Auslandsbeziehungen, 1995. 

After Hiroshima. Hiroshima: 
Hiroshima City Museum of 
Contemporary Art, 1995. 





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Since the late 1970s, Jenny Holzer has explored in her art strategies of 
public address and the production of knowledge, using language as her 
primary means of expression. Rejecting the pictorial and formal systems of 
painting, her works appropriate the technological devices of the mass 
media to examine the construction of social relations and political 
ideology. Beginning with inexpensively printed posters and stickers, Holzer's 
art has steadily evolved in sophistication, expanding into a lexicon that 
includes manufactured brass plaques, advertising billboards, television, 
radio, electronic signs, clothing, benches, and sarcophagi. For much of her 
career, Holzer has presented her work both inside and outside the 
traditional locations for art; it has often appeared in public spaces, 
including parks, bus shelters, airports, and bank windows. Recently, in 
gallery and museum installations, Holzer has created contemplative 
environments reminiscent of chapels or burial chambers, introducing into 
her investigation of how we define ourselves the role of religious 

Holzer's two earliest series were Truisms (1977-79) and 
Inflammatory Essays (1979-82). Composed of a litany of one-line 
statements, the Truisms are pithy, cynical observations on behavior and 
desire (such us children are the cruelest of all, children are the hope of the 
future, and protect me from what 1 want). The Inflammatory Essays are 
paragraph-long texts, many of which are angry or passionate exhortations 
(a cruel but ancient law demands an eye for an eye. murder must be answered by 
execution. only god has the right to take a life and when someone breaks this law 
he will be punished. . . . ) Both series were initially produced as offset posters 
and pasted anonymously to the facades of buildings, at construction sites, 
in subways, and in other locations where a profusion of graffiti and 
weathered commercial ephemera is found. 

A turning point in Holzer's art occurred in 1982, when, through 
the auspices of the Public Art Fund, the Truisms were broadcast on the 
Spectacolor electronic signboard in New York's Times Square. Situated in the 
midst of the world's most famous site for electronic signage, Holzer's art 
was a jarring intervention into the more mundane flow of news reports and 
seductive commercial messages. From that point forward, electronic 
technology became a key medium for her work, both as an aesthetic device 
and as a subject of investigation. 

Holzer's award-winning installation at the 1990 Venice Biennale, 
for which Untitled was first created, offers a summation of the artist's work 
to that point. Two antechambers, situated on opposite sides of the rotunda 
of the U.S. Pavilion, were installed with marble benches lining the 
perimeters of the rooms and diamond-patterned marble floors; both the 
benches and the floors were inscribed with various texts by the artist. 

These antechambers led to two additional rooms, which were flooded by 
the searing lights of multicolored LED signs affixed to the walls. She likens 
the reflective surfaces of the marble floors to the waters of Venice, and 
explains, "The idea for the antechambers, with my texts on the floors, 
came from the old doge palaces, where you waited for your fate to be 
decided. And my texts about life and death — I know that sounds 
pretentious, but that's what my work's always been about— fit right into 
that worried atmosphere.'" 

Untitled is the most lively and least brooding of the rooms in the 
original installation. Eleven horizontal LED signs are situated on the far wall 
as one enters the room, and are flanked by another five horizontal signs on 
each side wall. The work brings together selections from earlier projects by 
the artist— Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, The Living Series (1980-82), The 
Survival Series (1983-85), Under a Rock (1985-86), Laments (1988-89), and 
Child Text (1989-1990) — programmed in English, French, German, Italian, 
and Spanish. A veritable Tower of Babel, where dissonant languages and 
statements clash in a cacophony of color, the installation offers an overview 
of Holzer's different voices, from her scathing meditations on everyday life 
(such us abuse of power comes as no surprise) to more reflective expositions 
(for example, if you're considered useless no one will feed you any more). The 
images of the signs mirrored in the highly polished floors (in the current 
exhibition the floor is wood, rather than the marble surface of the Biennale 
installation) creates a state of suspension or dislocation, enveloping viewers 
in a sea of light and language. 

1. Jenny Holzer, quoted in Stephen Henry Maddoff, "Venice: Site Specific," Art News 89, 
no. 7 (September 1990), p. 177. 

Matthew Drutt 



jenny HoLzer was born in 1950 in 
Gallipolis, Ohio. She received a 
Bachelor of Fine Arts in 
printmaking and painting from 
Ohio University, Athens, in 1972, 
and in 1975, she entered the 
Master of Fine Arts painting 
program at the Rhode Island 
School of Design. While there, she 
began to introduce language into 
her work. Holzer moved to New 
York after earning her degree at 
R.I.S.D. in 1977, and enrolled in 
the Whitney Museum of American 
Art's Independent Study Program. 
That year, she created her first all- 
text works, the Truisms series, 
printing them on paper, which she 
pasted up anonymously around 
the city. 

Holzer has been the recipient of 
several important awards, 
including the Blair Award, 
presented by the Art Institute of 
Chicago, 1982, and the award for 
best pavilion at the Venice 
Biennale, 1990. 

In addition to the numerous solo 
and group exhibitions in which her 
work has appeared, Holzer has 
created many public projects, 
among them a Truisms display on 
the Spectacolor Board in Times 
Square in 1982, sponsored by the 
Public Art Fund, and a series of 
public spots for MTV in 1989. She 
has also published several books, 
including A Little Knowledge, 
1979; Black Book, 1980; Hotel 
(with Peter Nadin), 1980; Living 
(with Nadin), 1980; Eating Friends 
(with Nadin), 1981; Eating Through 
Living (with Nadin), 1981; and 
Truisms and Essays, 1983. 

pages 16-17: Jenny Holzer, 
Untitled, 1990. Three-color LED 
signs; ten units, each .14 x 6.1 x 
.1 m; eleven units, each .24 x 
4.47 x .11 m; installation area 
variable, approximately 6.45 x 
10 m. Collection of Morton and 
Marlene Meyerson. 


Jenny Holzer: Signs. Des Moines: 
Des Moines Art Center, 1986. 

Jenny Holzer: Signs and Benches. 
Brooklyn: Brooklyn Museum, 1988. 

Jenny Holzer: Messages. London: 
Institute of Contemporary Arts, 

Jenny Holzer. New York: Solomon 
R. Guggenheim Museum, 1989. 

The Venice Installation. Buffalo, 
N.Y.: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 

Jenny Holzer. Mito, Japan: 
Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower 
Mito, 1994. 


Jenny Holzer, Cindy Sherman: 
Personae. Cincinnati: Contemporary 
Arts Center, 1986. 

Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger. 
Jerusalem: Israel Museum, 1986. 

Documenta 8. Kassel: Documents, 

Digital Visions: Computers in Art. 
Syracuse, N.Y.: Everson Museum of 
Art, 1987. 

Committed to Print: Social and 
Political Themes in Recent 
American Printed Art. New York: 
Museum of Modern Art, 1988. 

A Forest of Signs: Art in the Crisis 
of Representation. Los Angeles: 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 

Image World: Art and Media 
Culture. New York: Whitney 
Museum of American Art, 1989. 

Making Their Mark: Women Artists 
Move into the Mainstream, 
1970-1985. Cincinnati: Cincinnati 
Art Museum, 1989. 

Art et Publicite 1890-1990. Paris: 
Grande Galerie and Centre Georges 
Pompidou, 1990. 

Culture and Commentary: An 
Eighties Perspective. Washington, 
D.C.: Hirshhorn Museum and 
Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian 
Institution, 1990. 

High and Low: Modern Art and 
Popular Culture. New York: 
Museum of Modern Art, 1990. 

Beyond the Frame: American Art 
1960-1990. Tokyo: Setagaya Art 
Museum, 1991. 

Dev/7 on the Stairs: Looking Back 
on the Eighties. Philadelphia: 
Institute of Contemporary Art, 
University of Pennsylvania, 1991. 

Metropolis. Berlin: Walter-Gropius- 
Bau, 1991. 

The Words and the Images. 
Utrecht: Centraal Museum, 1991. 

Allegories of Modernism: 
Contemporary Drawing. New York: 
Museum of Modern Art, 1992. 

Territorium Artis. Bonn: Kunst- und 
Ausstellungshalle der 
Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1992. 

Amerikanische Kunst im 20. 
Jahrhundert: Malerei und Plastik 
1913-1993. Berlin: Martin-Gropius- 
Bau; Munich: Prestel, 1993. 

Rosebud: Jenny Holzer, Matt 
Mullican, Lawrence Weiner. 
Munich: Kunstbau Lenbachhaus 
Miinchen, 1994. 

Transformers. New York: 
Independent Curators Incorporated, 

In a Different Light. Berkeley: 
University Art Museum, 1995. 

Feminin-masculin: Le Sens de I'art. 
Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 





.10 . . 


Toshio Iwai's Piano— As Image Media combines a real grand piano with 
virtual images. The player uses a trackball to place luminous points, 
representing musical notes, on a horizontal projection plane. The points — 
MIDI signals that control the piano's strings— travel slowly toward the 
keyboard. Accelerating shortly before they reach their goal, they generate 
musical notes as they appear to hit the keys. Simultaneously, a computer- 
generated image rises from each "struck" key, projected by a video beamer 
onto a semitransparent projection plane mounted vertically above the 
keyboard. As the sound fades, the illuminated image loses speed and, 
rotating slowly, turns into a starlike crystal. 

With all of the piano keys freely accessible via the trackball, the 
player can easily compose melodies. Not all melodies are possible, however: 
the structure of the virtual-manipulation device allows single notes, sound 
ornaments, clusters, and bizarre chords to be produced, but it is almost 
impossible to intentionally modulate the staccato of the sound explosions, and 
the length of the notes cannot be controlled. There is also no way to play 
melodies in accordance with the principles of counterpoint and classical laws 
of harmony, but "hybrid" melodies— for instance, those generated by rapidly 
firing the incandescent trace, like a handwritten signature, onto the projection 
plane— can be made. Thus the instrument can convert handwriting into a 
sound image, the luminous points constituting a notation that conforms with 
the laws of grammar or gesture rather than with those of music. 

Iwai's declared goal is to open up a new field of experience by 
"combining physical objects and virtual images," a project that has 
particular significance "in a time when the new digital technologies supplant 
our physical experiences with virtual, media-ted ones." 1 This objective is 
markedly different from that of synesthesia. The notion of sound as a 
synesthetic medium is centuries old. It originated with the Pythagoreans, 
who translated musical chords into numerical proportions, and tried to 
deduct the ideal harmony of the celestial spheres from the movement of the 
planets. Revived by the Neo-Platonists during the Renaissance, it was 
immortalized in the theory of the different temperaments of musical 
expression (Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, and so on). Nicolas Poussin, 
among other artists, tried to apply this theory to the world of colors, an 
endeavor that has continued to the present day; Vasily Kandinsky was one 
of its most prominent advocates, with his idea of a "color piano" and theory 
of "color tones," which he developed in the early part of this century. The 
underlying impulse of this pursuit has always been the search for a 
universal world harmony that would prove the divine nature of the origin of 
the cosmos. 

This is not Iwai's intention. We know that harmonic melodies are 
not possible on his piano; indeed, melody plays only a secondary role. The 

main purpose of Iwai's piece is to make the invisible processes of 
technology— which have become incomprehensible to us— visible again, to 
bring them back into the realm of the humanly perceptible. This method, 
which could be called the "principle of de-involution," is a theme that runs 
through Iwai's entire oeuvre. In his Video Books (1984), for example, 
television sequences were printed out image by image via a video printer, 
and these images were then reassembled into a flip book. 

Iwai's method is only partly ironic. His work gives us the chance 
to perceive and experience things, and therefore it has a humanizing effect. 
We begin to play and to discover new correlations (like the discovery of 
different possible types of notation). As in all successful interactive 
artworks, the skillful "composition" of the technical environment sets the 
stage for the actions of the observer. These "instruments" do not require 
virtuosity— they invite us to play, to leave behind the Homo sapiens in favor 
of the Homo ludens. This effect might be the cause of Piano— As Image 
Media's strangely sympathetic air, which makes us hear a scherzo in even 
the most chaotic staccato of sounds, and which invests the cold splendor of 
its blooming light crystals with warmth. 

1. Toshio Iwai, "Piano— As an Image Media," in MultiMediale 4, exh. cat. (Karlsruhe: ZKM, 
1995). P- 39- 

Oliver Seifert 





Toshio Iwai was born in 1962 in 
Aichi, Japan. He studied sculpture 
and mixed-media art at the 
University of Tsukuba, Japan, 
graduating with a Master of Arts 
degree in 1987. In 1992, he was 
artist-in-residence at the 
Exploratorium in San Francisco, 
and in 1994-95 was a guest artist 
at ZKM Karlsruhe. 

Iwai created his first experimental 
animations in 1981, before turning 
to precinematic devices like flip 
books and zoetropes. Beginning in 
1986, he became interested in 
computer games. In Japan, he is 
well known not only as a media 
artist, but also for the computer- 
generated virtual sets he made in 
1990-91 for the science program 
Einstein on Fuji Television. 

Iwai has participated in numerous 
international festivals and 
exhibitions, including Images du 
Futur, Montreal, 1987; Artec, 
Nagoya, 1989; EXPO '92, Seville, 
1992; Interactive Media Festival, 
Los Angeles, 1994; MultiMediale 4, 
ZKM Karlsruhe, 1995; and Le 
Biennale d'Art Contemporain de 
Lyon, 1995-96. In 1994. ZKM 
Karlsruhe organized a survey 
exhibition of his works entitled 
Toshio Iwai, which traveled to 
Helsinki and Amsterdam. 


Toshio Iwai: Exhibition-Machine for 
Trinity. Tokyo: Laforet Museum 
Espace; Fukuoka: Art Gallery 
Artium, 1990. 

Toshio Iwai. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 1994. 


Tracing Time. San Francisco: 
Exploratorium, 1991. 

MultiMediale 4. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 

Le Biennale d'Art Contemporain de 
Lyon: Installation, Cinema, Video, 
Informatique. Lyon: Musee d'Art 
Contemporain, 1995. 

Phantasmagoria: Pre-Cinema to 
Virtuality. Sydney: Museum of 
Contemporary Art, 1996. 





A R I 



Marie-Jo Lafontaine is best known for her video installations, but her artistic 
point of departure was painting. Inspired by the work of Robert Ryman and 
Brice Marden, she began to examine the material quality of color when she 
was a student at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture et des Arts 
Visuels "La Cambre" in Brussels. She used dyed cotton woven into canvas, 
which was then attached to stretchers, to create black monochrome 
paintings. Iconlike objects in which color and canvas merge, these works 
seem to embody Kazimir Malevich's concept of essential painting; Lafontaine 
applied Malevich's metaphysical ideas of expression to the production 
process, turning the medium itself into the works' formal theme. The 
strongly emphasized weave structure of these paintings permits color and 
texture to act together as a conceptualized monolithic unit. The subtle 
oscillation across borders of classification that is already present in these 
works grew, in the following years, into an interest in all the different forms 
of visual art. She began making multimedia installations that bring together 
sculpture, photography, painting, and video. 

Lafontaine's monumental video sculpture Les Larmes d'acier was 
first shown at Documenta 8 in Kassel, Germany, in 1987. It is the 
continuation of a frequent theme in the artist's work— the contradiction of 
Western culture after the demise of its stabilizing traditions, exemplified 
here in the pairing of Eros and Thanatos, violence and passion, power and 
pain, beauty and terror. Three athletic young men— embodiments, in their 
physiognomy, of cloned masculinity— are shown on the installation's twenty- 
seven monitors performing power-training exercises. The camera pans slowly 
across their faces; frozen into masks of stoic self-reference, they reveal the 
power trainers' determination to go to the limit and their attempts to 
suppress their pain. The camera moves gradually over mechanically 
contracting muscles, fixing finally on the steel skeleton of the weight 
machines, which seem to govern the monotonous rhythm of the men's 
movements. Their bodies are naked and sculpturelike; the machine appears 
to replace the self. This "mechanical ballet" of masculine bodies is 
accompanied by the music of Vincenzo Bellini's Casta Diva; the opera's 
dramatic intensity contrasts with the monotony of the physical exercise and 
acts simultaneously as a suggestive layer. At its climactic moment, the 
music's inner dynamic provides an exciting, contrapuntal echo to the men's 
weight-lifting routine. As the voice of Maria Callas reaches its highest pitch, 
the athlete bites his lower lip in response to his effort; agony and ecstasy 
converge, the pain of exertion turns into lust for exertion, agony is 
transformed into passion. The emotional expressiveness of the singing 
compounds the appearance of strength of the men's bodies, turning them 
into symbols of power; what enables the body to endure the regimen of 
discipline and pain, the work suggests, also enables it to exercise male 
dominance. When accompanied by the passionate sound of a female voice, 
exercising on the machine becomes a surrogate for love-making. In the 
tension between the severe, formal rigidity of the masculine stance and the 
emotional release of the female voice, a game of seduction unfolds, staged 
by Lafontaine as an equally erotic and ideological theme. 

Les Larmes d'acier plays a key role in Lafontaine's oeuvre, 
because it projects a complex constellation of ideas onto a simple surrogate 
action: under the dictate of beauty, man, machine, power, and sexuality are 
transmuted into a totalitarian scheme. The music plays a crucial role, not 
only because of its ironic dismantling of empty pathos, but also because of 
its complicity with the entire composition. Apollo mistakes himself for 
Dionysus; and Narcissus aspires to become the Ubermensch; we watch the 


stages of this metamorphosis on the screens, where, the artist confesses, 
she is playing with our "most extreme fantasies": 

1. the double meaning of the objectified body and the eroticized machine: a 
myth of male sexuality; 

2. the double meaning of statue and model: the identification with an 
absolute aesthetics, which has become a myth itself; 

3. the affront of escalating violence; a borderline situation, where pleasure 
and play turn into a horrible outburst of passion; 

4. the acceleration of this rage to the point where sexual power surrenders 
to the dangers of a glorious transgression.' 

Les larmes d'acier, or "tears of steel," was the name given to the German 
bombs that rained upon Europe in World War II. (Evocative of the suffering 
caused by the bombing, the phrase also sounds similar to les armes 
d'acier, or "arms of steel.") With this reference in mind, it soon becomes 
clear that the young trainers— who perform a ritual of power, absorbed in 
their labor in the service of beauty— have a disturbing resemblance to the 
battle-hardened heroes of the National Socialist sculptor Arno Breker and 
the Rassemenschen of Leni Riefenstahl's films. But despite all its intentional 
historical-political references, Les Larmes d'acier is not a political manifesto. 
Lafontaine challenges the stigmatized ideal of heroic strength and beauty, 
while alluding to our fascination with terror. The athlete-turned-machine 
finally collapses under the sound of air-raid sirens, as the pose of 
dominance surrenders to the ideology it has created. In those moments 
where the music's power does not overcome the ideological hubris but 
rather mocks it in feigned reflection, the ritual performed by the three 
athletes is reduced to an empty mannerism. 

By evoking the suggestive vortex of collective repressions and 
ideological taboos in her installations, Lafontaine touches upon similar 
issues to those treated by Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Merz. With its 
monumental architecture, and the impression of sacredness this lends to its 
video images, Les Larmes d'acier is also a commentary on the idea of the 
Gesamtkunstwerk. "This time," states Lafontaine, "the monochrome 
seduction of all the previous installations is fully realized and serves as a 
protection." Embedded in a construction supported by gigantic buttresses, 
the layout of the monitors repeats the triptych configuration of an 
altarpiece; the installation criticizes both monumentality and monism 
through this juxtaposition. The work's references to Gothic cathedrals and 
expressionistic cinema architecture represent the helpless, pathetic attempt 
to build an isolated and autonomous cultural prerogative from the 
ideological "remnants of beauty," nature and culture being abused in the 
construction of a "great ideal." Because of its inherent tendency to eliminate 
differences and its propensity for totalitarian excesses, the striving for 
absolute perfection is becoming ever more violent, transforming men's 
bodies into unshaped masses of flesh through the extreme exaltation of 
ideal human proportions. Lafontaine brings this inclination to full fruition in 
the rhetoric of the work's different mediums and the gender roles it 
describes. Her ant\-Gesamtkunstwerk visualizes how barbarism began with 
beauty's arrogant emancipation. 

1. Marie-Jo Lafontaine, "Les Larmes d'acier," in Documenta 8, exh. cat. (Kassel: Documenta, 
1987), vol. 2, p. 140. 

Ursula Frohne 



pages 24-25: Marie-Jo Lafontaine, 
Les Larmes d'acier (Tears of 
Steel), 1987. Six-channel video 
and one-channel sound 
installation, approximately 
20 minutes, black and white, 
3-33 x 7.75 x 2.7 m. ZKM/Center 
for Art and Media Karlsruhe, 
On permanent loan from the Land 
Baden Wurttemberg. 

Marie-Jo Lafontaine was born in 
1950 in Antwerp, Belgium. From 
1975 to 1979, she studied at the 
Ecole Nationale Superieure 
d'Architecture et des Arts Visuels 
"La Cambre" in Brussels. 

In 1977, she was awarded the Prix 
de la Jeune Peinture Beige, and in 

1979, the Prix de la Critique. Since 

1980, she has been integrating 
video into her sculptures and 
environments. She won the Grand 
Prix de la Litterature Argielienne 
de Pierre Restany in 1981, and the 
Meatball Video Award the following 
year. She received a 1985 grant 
from the Institute of Arts and 
Humanities in Boston, and in 1986 
was presented with a fiacre 
stipend from the French Ministry of 
Culture. In 1990, she was a guest 
professor at the Sommerakademie 
in Salzburg, Austria, and since 
1992, she has been a professor of 
sculpture and multimedia at the 
Staatliche Hochschule fur 
Gestattung, Karlsruhe. 

Solo exhibitions of Lafontaine's 
work have been held at the 
Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, 
and Whitechapel Art Gallery, 
London, 1989; and Salzburger 
Kunstverein, 1990. Her work has 
appeared in many group 
exhibitions, including the Biennale 
de Paris, 1980, and Documenta, 
Kassel, Germany, 1987. 


Des Jeux pour rejouir le regard des 
dieux. Marseille: Musee Cantini, 

A las cinco de la tarde. Hannover: 
Sprengel Museum, 1986. 

L'lnterdit Desire. Bourg-en-Bresse: 
Musee de Brou, 1987. 

Marie-jo Lafontaine. Los Angeles: 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 

Museum fur Gegenwartskunst 
Basel: Marie-jo Lafontaine: Les 
Larmes d'acier. Basel: Offentliche 
Kunstsammlung, 1988. 

Marie-Jo Lafontaine. Hamburg: 
Weisses Haus, 1989. 

Marie-Jo Lafontaine. London: 
Whitechapel Art Gallery; 
Edinburgh: Fruitmarket Gallery, 

Passio. Salzburg: Salzburger 
Kunstverein, 1990. 

Marie-Jo Lafontaine. Munich: W. 
Storms, 1991. 

Marie-Jo Lafontaine. Deventer, The 
Netherlands: Bergkirche Kunst, 

History Is Against Forgiveness. 
Brussels: Goethe Institut, 1992. 

Wer, wenn ich schriee, hdrte mich 
denn aus der Engel Ordnungen. 
Kassel, 1993. 

Savoir retenir et fixer ce qui est 
sublime. Long Beach: California 
State University Art Museum, 1994. 

Jeder Engel ist schrecklich. 
Oberhausen, Germany: Gasometer, 


Documenta 8. Kassel: Documenta, 

Arbeit in Geschichte - Geschichte 
in Arbeit. Hamburg: Kunsthaus und 
Kunstverein, 1988. 

Video-Skulptur: Retrospektiv und 
Aktuell, 1963-1989. Cologne: 
Kolnischer Kunstverein and 
DuMont Kunsthalle, 1989. 

Wiener Diwan. Vienna: Museum 
des 20. jahrhunderts, 1989. 

Zur Sache Selbst. Wiesbaden: 
Kunstmuseum, 1990. 

The Readymade Boomerang: 
Certain Relations in Twentieth 
Century Art: The Eighth Biennale of 
Sydney. Sydney: Biennale of 
Sydney, 1990. 

MultiMediale 2. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 

Kunst Videnskab. Copenhagen: 
Charlottenborg, 1992. 

Moving Image: Electronic Art. 
Karlsruhe: ZKM; Munich and 
Stuttgart: Oktagon, 1992. 

Feuer, Wasser, Erde, Luft: Die 
vier Elemente. Hamburg: 
Deichtorhallen, 1993. 

Retrospectives Installations Videos. 
Antwerp: MUHKA, 1993. 

Philips Electronic Art. Berlin: I FA, 

Confrontation. Brussels: Musee 
d'lssel, 1994. 

Himmel und Hblle. Helsinki: 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 

Ich Phoenix. Oberhausen: 
Gasometer, 1996. 





Defying the conventions of traditional artistic practice, Bruce Nauman has 
worked in almost every conceivable medium since 1965. In mixed-media and 
neon sculptures, photographs, films, and videos, he has engaged in an 
examination of the self, using language and the body to ruminate upon 
issues of anxiety, constraint, and aggression. Like Man Ray and Marcel 
Duchamp, whose works are sources of inspiration, Nauman has produced 
"unfinished" artworks that depend on a viewer for completion; they pose 
existential questions of meaning and comprehension inspired by the artist's 
interest in the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein. 

Video Surveillance Piece (Public Room, Private Room) consists of 
two spaces. The "Private Room" is an enclosed space containing no entrance, in 
which a monitor sits in one corner and a video camera is suspended 
diagonally across from it. The "Public Room" is the same size as the Private 
Room, with a similar configuration; in this space, the camera sits on the floor 
and the monitor is suspended, and an opening allows the viewer to enter. The 
cameras in both spaces sweep in a horizontal arc, relaying their images to 
the monitor in the other room; what the camera sees in the Private Room 
appears on the monitor in the Public Room and vice versa. 

Nauman's installation suggests the way in which video's 
increasingly ubiquitous presence in everyday life has begun to shift the 
balance between privacy and the observation of behavior. By turning the 
viewer into the subject of the camera's gaze, the work creates a sense of 
discomfort and insecurity in relation to the experience of space. Like other 
video works of the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as those by Ant Farm, it 
also explores the role of the mass media as an apparatus of the state. 

Video Surveillance Piece (Public Room, Private Room) brings 
together two kinds of information — physical and intellectual — and places 
them in a strained relationship. The Private Room, a real space, is turned 
into a kind of imaginary one; viewers must complete the picture of it in 
their minds from the partial information they are offered by the video feed. 
Moreover, the image that viewers see on the monitor in the Public Room is 
of a space into which they can enter only by having their image broadcast 
into it. These various levels of observation and withholding of information 
reinforce the work's disarming atmosphere, foregrounding a dystopic rather 
than Utopian view of technology. 

Matthew Drutt 


A moment of surprise, followed by irritation, then aggression, and finally 
the desire to withdraw— this is the usual response to Bruce Nauman's Raw 
Material installations. As in other works from this series, the elements of 
Raw Material: Brrr are organized to provoke a strong emotional reaction. On 
two stacked monitors, and on a large-scale projection on an adjacent wall 
of the same room, the same face — that of the artist— appears in three 
different recorded versions. In all three videos its only action is to utter 
"brrr," with its lips pressed together and eyes closed. The face appears 
sideways, rotated ninety degrees from its usual orientation on TV screens; 
this introduces a slightly alienating effect, which is joined by more irritating 
elements after longer observation. The face trembles with the effort to 
produce sounds; its facial expression— with its childishly pursed lips, 
repeatedly uttering the same annoying and numbing "brrr" — turns into a 

grotesque mask of human regression. Equally obtrusive, sound and image 
are closely interwoven, each intensifying the other to such a degree that 
they project a monumental presence. An aggressive inferno grows in the 
mind of the observer as the compulsive actions of this person become 
physically and psychically tormenting. 

Without any explanatory accessories, the person who appears in 
the videos seems to be caught up in a form of autism, and the serial 
repetition of screens in the installation compounds the confrontational effect 
of the video recordings. In contrast to the clearly functional character of the 
installation's mechanical equipment, which seems almost to be transformed 
into stage props, his foolish actions seem an embodiment of the 
unconscious. This scenic framework lets the observer become aware of his 
or her voyeuristic role, but it also implicates the viewer as an actor within a 
play reminiscent of Samuel Beckett's Endgame. 

The disturbing grimace of the face in Raw Material: Brrr is similar 
to the features of some of the wax heads Nauman used in earlier works, 
and quite possibly derives from the make-up mask of a clown, the theme of 
an earlier series of video installations. Although Nauman makes intentional 
reference to the cliched nature of the clown's pain-stricken face, it cannot 
be read entirely as parody in his work; these clown figures, like the 
grimacing expression in Raw Material: Brrr, need to be interpreted in both a 
literal and a metaphorical sense. Almost like successors of the clownish 
parts in Beckett's plays, they reproduce and parody, in their bare, self- 
indulgent actions, the plainly comic aspects of their character. In one sense, 
they can be understood simply as a structural phenomenon, but they also 
impersonate an uncertainty of human experience: that of being lost in an 
impersonal and transindividual codification. The clowns personify fear, 
exposure, aggression, and suffering— the socio-anthropological categories 
that are the "raw material" of Nauman's installations. 

As a vital part of the raw material of human expressive behavior, 
language plays a significant role in Nauman's artistic repertoire. Nauman 
sees language as a combination of sign systems and patterns of behavior, 
functioning as a variable continuum beyond the strictly verbal. His earlier 
neon sculptures, with their laconic litanies, assert that language itself is a 
plastic material. In his Raw Material installations, Nauman began to 
incorporate the sound of language as well. By emphasizing sound vibrations, 
he turned language into both a material and a physical experience. In Raw 
Material: Brrr, he operates with a hieroglyphic, compressed form of 
language — the "raw material" of linguistic communication — that contrasts 
with the concise messages of the earlier works, such as "Speak and Die/Lie 
and Die/Hear and Die." If we take the minutely organized word games of 
Nauman's neon sculptures and apply them to the title of Raw Material: Brrr, 
we can rearrange the letters of "raw," treating it as an anagram of "war"; 
"brrr" can also be interpreted as the garbled pronunciation or regressive 
stammering of the first letters of the artist's given name, Bruce. What the 
title implies through this latent double meaning becomes more legible in 
terms of the complete "text" of the installation. The seemingly harmless 
image of the infantile man and his utterances, which appear meaningless at 
first, turn, in their obsessive repetitiveness, into an act of potential 
aggression. Like the litanies of Nauman's sober neon sculptures, the 
primitive expressive behavior here culminates in an emotional confrontation, 
as the man's detonations of sound begin to reveal deeper connotations. By 
attacking the viewer's emotions while yet appealing to archaic levels of 
perception, the work gives meaning to its apparently nonsensical sounds. 



M »t* »Mn»m *mM U 4>» um»» M mn * mn * nw> t m 

page 28: Bruce Nauman, Video 
Surveillance Piece (Public Room, 
Private Room), 1969-70. Two video 
cameras on oscillating mounts, and 
two video monitors, installed in 
two rooms; installation area 
variable. Solomon R. Guggenheim 
Museum, New York, Panza 
Collection 92.4167. 

left and following page: Bruce 
Nauman, Raw Material: Brrr, 1990. 
Two-channel video and two- 
channel sound installation, 
60 minutes, color; installation area 
variable, approximately 7.5 x 
6.25 m. ZKM Center for Art and 
Media Karlsruhe. 


In 1965, when Nauman started his career, Minimalism was 
becoming increasingly influential in the art world. Instead of formulating his 
adherence or opposition to this movement, Nauman chose the path of self- 
confrontation in the isolation of his studio. The title "Withdrawal as an Art 
Form," which he chose for one of a series of "notes and projects" published 
in Artforum in 1970, is an indication of his determination to use self- 
referential methods and of his retreat into the metaphorical vacuum of the 
studio. At that early stage, Nauman already understood his personal 
experiences to be founded on collective patterns of perception and reaction. 
Based on this, it can be said that individuality is a concrete manifestation 
of a greater totality, and that every individual action can be interpreted on a 
more universal level. Nauman began to use his body as a medium to 
communicate ideas, documenting his actions, without aesthetic or narrative 
references, in photography, film, and video. With these technological 
extensions, he undertook a systematic exploration of self-consciousness 
through self-observation, as in his Video Surveillance Piece {Public Room, 
Private Room) (1969-70). In marked contrast to public performance — a 
predominant artistic practice of the time — Nauman used his video camera in 
the privacy of his studio to film a series of daily routines, supplementing it 
regularly to create a type of encyclopedia of human behavior. In the mid- 
1980s, Nauman began to experiment more rigorously with the plastic 
possibilities of video. In 1987, he started projecting videos directly onto 
walls, using these large-scale projections together with multiple monitors set 
up in different parts of the room. In these installations, including Raw 
Material: Brrr, the content of the video images and the formal composition 
of the various elements reintroduced a theme from Nauman's earlier 
catalogue of topics: the capacity of the body and language for social 

Nauman owes his precise artistic language primarily to his early 
contact with the work of Jasper Johns. From the wax casts of body parts to 
the words and furniture fragments that became predominant themes in 
Nauman's drawings, sculptures, and installations, the intellectual rigor of 
Johns's assemblages proved to be a far more congenial source of inspiration 
than the ironic detachment of Marcel Duchamp's surrealist found objects. 

Human and animal body parts, cast in wax or aluminum and 
heaped into piles; grimacing heads, suspended on wires from the ceiling 
like macabre references to Alexander Calder's mobiles, or shown spinning 
ceaselessly on video monitors; these elements of Nauman's earlier work are 
no doubt related to the head that appears in Raw Material: Brrr. Caught in 
an incurable fixation of self-expression, it seems to bear witness to the 
overwhelming inner conflicts that are carried out in the unconscious. Its 
behavior is reminiscent of a catatonic's convulsions and involuntary 
contractions, compulsive symptoms that are the result of a psychic 
instability manifested as physical reactions. This form of confinement is 
analogous to the human subjection to patterns of behavior and perception 
beyond the sphere of the individual, which Nauman describes as 
anthropological factors. Despite his distanced artistic stance and his 
dissecting observation of this existential predicament, he also places himself 
in a fully exposed position in this vivisection of the human condition. The 
viewer might begin to feel the emotional substance of Nauman's work only 
after experiencing dismay in reaction to its themes, but, nevertheless, it is 
this human aspect of Nauman's artistic approach that reveals the deep 
seriousness that runs through all of his work. 

Ursula Frohne 





Bruce Nauman was born in 1941 in 
Fort Wayne, Indiana. From i960, he 
studied mathematics, physics, and 
art at the University of Wisconsin 
in Madison, receiving a Bachelor of 
Arts degree in 1964. He went on to 
study under William T. Wiley and 
Robert Arneson at the University of 
California at Davis, graduating with 
a Master of Arts degree in 1966. 

In 1964, Nauman gave up painting 
and began working in sculpture 
and performance art; he also 
began experimenting with film. He 
received an Artist Fellowship Award 
from the National Endowment for 
the Arts in 1968. In 1970, he 
taught a spring course at the 
University of California at Irvine, 
and in the same year, he received 
a grant from the Aspen Institute 
for Humanistic Studies. He was 
awarded an Honorary Doctor of 
Fine Arts degree from the San 
Francisco Art Institute in 1989, and 
in 1990, he received the Max 
Beckmann Preis from the City of 

In 1972, the Los Angeles County 
Museum of Art and the Whitney 
Museum of American Art, New 
York, organized the first 
retrospective exhibition of 
Nauman's work. From 1986 to 
1988, an exhibition of Nauman's 
drawings traveled through 
museums in Europe and the United 
States. Between 1990 and 1992, 
sculptures and installations were 
shown at Museum fur 
Gegenwartskunst, Basel; 
Stadtische Galerie, Frankfurt am 
Main; and Musee Cantonal des 
Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. The most 
recent Nauman retrospective 
traveled to the Museo Nacional 
Centra de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; 
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the 
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los 
Angeles; Hirshhorn Museum and 
Sculpture Garden, Washington, 
D.C.; and the Museum of Modern 
Art, New York, from 1993 to 1995. 
The numerous group exhibitions in 
which Nauman's work has 
appeared include Documenta, 
Kassel, Germany, 1968, 1972, 
1977. 1982, and 1992; Tokyo 
Biennale '70; Biennale de Paris, 
1971; Venice Biennale, 1978 and 
1980; and Amerikanische Kunst im 
20. Jahrhundert, Martin-Gropius- 
Bau, Berlin, and Royal Academy of 
Arts, London, 1993. 

Bruce Nauman. London: 
Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1986. 

Bruce Nauman: Prints, 1970-80: A 
Catalogue Raisonne. New York: 
Castelli Graphics, 1989. 

Bruce Nauman: Skulpturen und 
Installationen, 1085-1990. Basel: 
Museum fiir Gegenwartskunst; 
Cologne: DuMont, 1990. 

Bruce Nauman. Minneapolis: 
Walker Art Center, 1994. 

1987 Biennial Exhibition. New York: 
Whitney Museum of American Art, 

Carnegie International 1988. 
Pittsburgh: Museum of Art, 
Carnegie Institute, 1988. 

Zeitlos. Berlin: Hamburger 
Bahnhof, 1988. 

Image World: Art and Media 
Culture. New York: Whitney 
Museum of American Art, 1989. 

L'Art des annees soixante et 
soixante-dix: La Collection Panza. 
Saint-Etienne, France: Musee d'Art 
Moderne, 1989. 

Video-Skulptur: Retrospektiv und 
Aktuell, 1963-1989. Cologne: 
Kolnischer Kunstverein and 
DuMont Kunsthalle, 1989. 

The Readymade Boomerang: 
Certain Relations in Twentieth 
Century Art: The Eighth Biennale of 
Sydney. Sydney: Biennale of 
Sydney, 1990. 

Carnegie International 1991. 
Pittsburgh: Museum of Art, 
Carnegie Institute, 1991. 

Devil on the Stairs: Looking Back 
on the Eighties. Philadelphia: 
Institute of Contemporary Art, 
University of Pennsylvania, 1991. 

Dislocations. New York: Museum of 
Modern Art, 1991. 

Metropolis-International Art 
Exhibition Berlin 1991. Berlin: 
Martin-Gropius-Bau, 1991. 

Motion and Document— Sequence 
and Time: Eadweard Muybridge 
and Contemporary American 
Photography. Andover: Addison 
Gallery of American Art, Phillips 
Academy, 1991. 

The Pleasure Machine: Recent 
American Video. Milwaukee: 
Milwaukee Art Museum, 1991. 

Documenta 9. Kassel: Documenta, 

Moving Image: Electronic Art. 
Karlsruhe: ZKM; Munich and 
Stuttgart: Oktagon, 1992. 

Transform: BildObjektSkulptur im 
20. jahrhundert. Basel: 
Kunstmuseum Basel and 
Kunsthalle Basel, 1992. 

Amerikanische Kunst im 20. 
Jahrhundert: Malerei und Plastik 
1913-1993. Berlin: Martin-Gropius- 
Bau; Munich: Prestel, 1993. 

Gravity and Grace: The Changing 
Condition of Sculpture 1965-1975. 
London: Hayward Gallery and Arts 
Council of Great Britain, 1993. 

Self/Made Self/Conscious: Janine 
Antoni and Bruce Nauman. Boston: 
Museum of Fine Arts, 1994. 

Le Biennale d'Art Contemporain de 
Lyon: Installation, Cinema, Video, 
Informatique. Lyon: Musee d'Art 
Contemporain, 1995. 

Feminin-masculin: Le Sens de I' art. 
Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 

1965-1975: Reconsidering the 
Object of Art. Los Angeles: 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 





PASSAGE, 1986 

It is tempting to see Nam June Paik's Passage as the Gates of Hell of the 
twentieth century. The comparison to Auguste Rodin's masterwork might 
seem surprising, but if one looks beyond the more obvious differences, the 
similarities that lie beneath the surface become clear. 

The main portal structure of Passage is composed of old TV 
cabinets. The doors of these outdated models are left partially open, their 
inside surfaces covered with mysterious characters from various sources, 
including prehistoric rock engravings, hieroglyphics, cuneiform writing, and 
Sanskrit, Syri-Hittite, and ancient Greek scripts. Each of these "doorposts" 
consists of three stacked cabinets, crowned by a seventeen-inch Motorola 
set from 1953. The "architrave" is a plain metal construction with a 1949 
RCA Victor chassis on either side, below which round speakers are 
mounted in the triangular spandrels. In the center of the architrave, in place 
of the escutcheon of Baroque doorways, is the square screen of a 
seemingly free-floating, caseless monitor, pulsating with a frantic storm of 
images and framed by a mandala of eight 1948 Motorola chassis with 
circular Braun tubes. 

Everything in this ephemeral structure, pieced together from an 
old collection of objects as though by children, seems to mock Rodin's awe- 
inspiring bronze doors. In place of bronze, the aes aeternum, there are 
prefabricated consumer products, and instead of sculptural forms there are 
the immaterial images that flicker on the TV screens. 

Nevertheless, these two works have in common movement, a 
"storm of images." In discourse about media art, the temporal dimension of 
pictures in motion is frequently cited as the primary feature that 
differentiates the new mediums from traditional visual art. While this is 
undoubtedly true, another important factor is frequently overlooked: as 
Thomas Mann remarked in connection with his novel about time, The Magic 
Mountain, it is not at all the case that images exist only synchronously, and 
texts only in a sequence of time, for images, too, are "read" piece by piece, 
and memory condenses stories and plots into one complete sensation. The 
comparison between Passage and The Gates of Hell confirms this 
observation in terms of still and moving images. Although they are 
physically static, it would be absurd to say that the dramatic reliefs of 
Rodin's work are without motion. Their endless stream of ecstatic bodies 
threatens to overflow the surrounding architecture; the planes vibrate with a 
movement that is eternalized, not frozen. In Paik's work, however, the 
movement is just opposite: flickering video images chase each other, 
creating a hypnotic vortex. 

By entering the deeper structure of the images, we discover 
further similarities between these two works. Using a video synthesizer 
developed by Shuya Abe, Paik manipulated his video images at the 
electron-beam level, then edited the altered material into rapid image 
cascades. Each shot appears just long enough to attract the eye, but the 
cuts are too fast to give the viewer a clear understanding of the images. 
Two different programs run simultaneously on the nine screens, overloading 
the viewer's attention as it shifts constantly between them. By presenting 
the images in this way, Paik made it virtually impossible for the viewer to 
discern a narrative. Because of the cuts and the simultaneity of the 
programs, the strict linear progress of time breaks down and branches off— 
perhaps it even stops altogether. 

Rodin engaged in similar processes. Although his figures were 
modeled by hand, almost none of them was "original" in the classical 
sense -the work is a complex montage, an editing together of a great 

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number of distinct pictorial inventions that Rodin used repeatedly 
throughout his career. Even within individual figures, Rodin employed this 
technique of combining disparate parts. The impulse of the human eye to 
integrate the dislocated elements triggers a sense of movement. Thus, the 
artist achieved in the work an eternalized motion, which is constantly 
revived by the observer. 

The shape of the two works leads us to a third comparison. As 
entranceways, both are strangely nonfunctional. Rodin's gateway cannot be 
opened and, like Paik's, leads from nowhere to nowhere— they are entries 
without buildings, relics of what was once a totality. If Rodin's gateway is 
the secular heir of the church portal, with scenes of Judgment Day gracing 
the tympanum, Paik's Passage may be compared to the torana of a Hindu 
temple, or the entrance to a Buddhist stupa. The arches of the temples of 
Shiva often carry a mandala or a lion's mask, which represents the sun and 
serves as a reference to time, death, and the cosmic fire that will consume 
all; it is therefore no coincidence that Paik has placed a TV-mantra in that 
very spot. In its shape and materials, Passage is also evocative of Shinto 
structures. Shinto shrines are usually situated in parks, which are entered 
through a torii— a free-standing gateway composed of wooden beams. 
Passage reflects the form of the torii, and its TV cabinets are reminiscent of 
the shrines themselves, in which a mirror— a direct parallel to the TV 
monitor— is kept as a symbol of the sun goddess Amaterasu. 

With The Gates of Hell, Rodin subjectively recast Dante's 
description of Inferno, presenting a personal, un-Christian view of worldly 
life as eternal judgment. Rodin's subjectivity contrasts with the 
depersonalized attitude of Paik, but both positions meet in their aspiration 
toward the same goal. Referring not to Christianity but to the teachings — 
and forms— of Hinduism, Zen-Buddhism, and even Taoism, and combining 
them with the artistic ideas of the Fluxus movement ("passage" is, after all, 
just another word for "Fluxus"), Paik criticizes the linear logic of the West. 
This logic is manifest in the "one-way time" of television, which Paik 
subverts by applying ancient meditation techniques to the medium: as he 
stated in 1963, "To observe the parallel streams of various independent 
movements simultaneously is a classical technique to grasp eternity."' The 
video cuts, the parallel display of separate programs, and the resulting 
unpredictability of the visual processes in Passage all appear to be a literal 
translation of this statement, and the cryptic characters inside the TV 
cabinets are further signs of the departure from an imperative to follow 
linear codes. 

1. Nam June Paik, "Nachspiel zur austellung des experimentelien fernsehens, Marz 1963, Galerie 
Parnass," in Paik, Niederschriften eines Kulturnomaden, Aphorismen, Briefe, Texte, ed. Edith 
Decker (Cologne: DuMont, 1992), p. 106. 

Oliver Seifert 

MEG AT RON, 1995 

A pioneer of video art, Nam June Paik is widely considered to be a 
preeminent figure in the medium's evolution. Since the early 1960s, he has 
manipulated television — its images and its physical apparatus— in almost 
every imaginable way: reconfiguring its electronic signal, emptying it of its 
circuitry, filling it with different artifacts, and fashioning it into sculptural 
arrangements. He belongs to the early generation of artists whose work was 
both a celebration and a critique of the language of television; these artists 
transformed television from a quotidian device of popular culture into an 
alternative means of artistic expression. 

Paik's approach to video is informed by myriad impulses. His 
performances and video works are characterized by satire and an almost 
reckless will to defy convention, attitudes that are typical of the works of 

the Fluxus group, which counted Paik as a member. Treating the television 
as a kind of canvas, he has attempted to develop an electronic language 
analogous to painting. He deploys an improvisational approach that has its 
roots in his musical training and his appreciation for both classical and 
avant-garde compositions. In particular, the sound variations of John Cage, 
with whom Paik became friends in the late 1950s, have been a long-lasting 
influence, which is evident in Paik's affinity for generating random, cyclical 
patterns of imagery. 

In his earliest experiments with cathode-ray tubes, Paik converted 
the electronic image into an abstract form, distorting the television's signal 
into wavelike gyrations that could occasionally be manipulated by the 
viewer. By 1968, Paik had developed, with his colleague Shuya Abe, a 
mechanism called the Video Synthesizer, a modified colorizer that turns 
stable images into swirling explosions of form and color. Further 
destabilizing the veneer of reality offered by the telecast image, Paik then 
developed his characteristic style of splicing together images from disparate 
sources in rapid and random succession, a technique that is associated 
today with the aesthetic of music videos. 

Megatron is Paik's most ambitious statement to date. Composed 
of two adjoining video walls— the rectangular 150-monitor Megatron and the 
square sixty-five-monitor Matrix— the piece is fed by an array of laser-disc 
players and controlled by several computers. The two works play off one 
another, occasionally sharing imagery but generally functioning as 
independent, yet synchronized, elements. As is characteristic of many of 
Paik's recent works, Megatron reintroduces elements from earlier projects, 
such as his Fluxus performances and collaborations with Charlotte Moorman 
and Joseph Beuys. These works, which by now have an air of familiarity to 
them, are placed in a context rich with iconic images from both Eastern and 
Western popular culture. At one moment, pictures from the Seoul Olympic 
Games flash across the screen; in another, Merce Cunningham pirouettes in 
a pure, white space. Scenes of traditional Korean rituals are interrupted by 
David Bowie in concert. Live video dissolves into electronic distortions, 
which are punctuated by computer-generated animation. Images of war and 
of love assault the viewer, as rocket explosions are displaced by images of 
nude women reclining provocatively on sofas. Periodically, the entire wall 
becomes the flag of Norway, Iceland, Japan, or any other country, 
emphasizing the degree to which the work celebrates a fusion of 
international sources. The visual tumult of Megatron is rivaled only by the 
cacophony of its audio tracks, which bump and grind with the cadence of 
the video transformations. 

Megatron appears to constantly reinvent itself; its cycle of images 
seldom repeats. To achieve this effect, Paik used sophisticated digital 
sequencers that generate random patterns of images. Even more 
spectacular, however, is Megatron's technical breakthrough of fusing 
animation and live video. For example, a large animated bird — a recurrent 
motif— flies across the monitors, sometimes overlaying video tracks and at 
other times incorporating them within its contours. Paik has juxtaposed 
animation and live video in the past, and has turned live video into a barely 
recognizable distortion, but in Megatron, video and animation become one. 

Megatron is compelling in scale, scope, and technical prowess. It 
embodies an array of contrasting qualities that create a kind of unity 
through disunity. Visually imposing, even confusing, it manages to create a 
state of hypnotic serenity, calling to mind the wry image of a Buddha 
seated in front of a TV, a recurring image in the artist's work and one of 
Paik's most acerbic commentaries on spectatorship. 

Matthew Drutt 



pages 34-35: Nam June Paik, 
Passage, 1986. Two-channel video 
installation, 30 minutes, color, 
3.48 x 4.31 x .61 m. ZKM/Center 
for Art and Media Karlsruhe. 

pages 36-39: Nam June Paik, 
Megatron, 1995 (five views). 
Eight-channel video and two- 
channel sound installation, color; 
two parts: Megatron, 3.62 x 
6.85 x .6 m; Matrix, 3.25 x 
3.25 x .6 m. Courtesy of Holly 
Solomon Gallery, New York. 

Nam June Paik was born in 1932 in 
Seoul. From 1953 to 1956, he 
studied music history, art history, 
and philosophy at the University of 
Tokyo, writing a dissertation on 
Arnold Schonberg. Subsequently, 
he went to Germany, continuing 
his studies in music history and 
composition under Wolfgang 
Fortner in Munich and at the 
Hochschule fur Musik in 
Freiburg. During 1957 and 
1958, he took part in the 
Internationalen Ferienkursen fiir 
Neue Musik in Darmstadt, where 
he met John Cage. 

In 1958, Paik worked with 
Karlheinz Stockhausen at the 
Studio fiir Elektronische Musik of 
the broadcasting station WDR, and 
in 1962, he performed at the 
Fluxus Internationale Festspiele 
Neuester Musik in Wiesbaden. 
Paik's first works incorporating 
manipulated TV sets were shown 
at the Galerie Parnass in 
Wuppertal in 1963. In 1964, he 
moved to New York City. Two years 
later, he built his first video 
sculpture, titled TV Cross, and 
between 1970 and 1971, together 
with Shuya Abe, he developed the 
first video synthesizer. Since 1979, 
Paik has been a professor at the 
Kunstakademie Dusseldorf. During 
the 1980s, for a number of works, 
including Good Morning Mr. 
Orwell, he organized large-scale 
live exchanges of electronic 
images between Europe, Asia, and 
the United States. In 1987, he 
became a member of the Akademie 
der Bildenden Kunste, Berlin. 

Paik's work has appeared in many 
individual and group exhibitions in 
the United States, Germany, 
Austria, Switzerland, and Japan. 
Most recently, his work has been 
shown at the Kunstmuseum 
Wolfsburg, Germany, and at the 
Biennale d'Art Contemporain de 
Lyon, 1995-96. 


Nam June Paik: Video Works 
1963-88. London: Hayward Gallery, 

Nam June Paik: Eine Kerze. 
Frankfurt: Portikus, 1989. 

Nam June Paik: La Fee 
electronique. Paris: Musee d'Art 
Moderne de (a Ville de Paris, 1989. 

Nam June Paik: Beuys Vox 
1061-86. Seoul: Won Gallery and 
Hyundai Gallery, 1990. 

Nam June Paik: A Pas de loup—De 
Seoul a Budapest. Seoul: Won 
Gallery and Hyundai Gallery, 1991. 

Nam June Paik: Video Time - 
Video Space. Stuttgart: Cantz, 

Nam June Paik: Video and Paper 
with Allen Ginsberg. Seoul: Gallery 
Meegun, 1992. 

Electro-Symbio Phonics for 
Phoenix. Knokke, Belgium: Casino 
Knokke, 1992. 

Feedback and Feedforth. Tokyo: 
Watari Museum of Contemporary 
Art, 1993. 

Stuttgart: Cantz, 1993. 

Artist as Nomad. Venice, 1993. 

The Electronic Superhighway: Nam 
June Paik in the Nineties. New 
York: Holly Solomon Gallery and 
Hyundai Gallery; Fort Lauderdale: 
Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, 


1987 Biennial Exhibition. New York: 
Whitney Museum of American Art, 

Digital Visions: Computers in Art. 
Syracuse, N.Y: Everson Museum of 
Art, 1987. 

L'Epoque, la mode, la morale, la 
passion .-Paris: Centre Georges 
Pompidou, 1987. 

Video Art: Expanded Forms. New 
York: Whitney Museum of American 
Art, 1988. 

Image World: Art and Media 
Culture. New York: Whitney 
Museum of American Art, 1989. 

Video-Skulptur: Retrospektiv und 
Aktuell, 1963-1989. Cologne: 
Kolnischer Kunstverein and 
DuMont Kunsthalle, 1989. 

Moving Image: Electronic Art. 
Karlsruhe: ZKM; Munich and 
Stuttgart: Oktagon, 1992. 

Fluxus. Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, 

Le Biennale d'Art Contemporain de 
Lyon: Installation, Cinema, Video, 
Informatique. Lyon: Musee d'Art 
Contemporain, 1995. 



3? . ;• 

. . . 






' * » • 




Bill Seaman's Passage Sets/One Pulls Pivots at the Tip of the Tongue is 
essentially a poem generator. It can be run automatically, or it can be 
controlled by the viewer, who may assemble poems from given phrases or 
use photo images to navigate through an inventory of words. Texts, still 
images, and video scenes appear on three adjacent projection planes; music 
plays and, from time to time, a sonorous voice recites the mysterious 
poems. The viewer is connected, via a trackball, to the central projection 
plane, on which a grid of 150 randomly mixed image segments is imposed. 
The images are details lifted from eight panorama photographs taken at 
various locations in Australia. At this point, the viewer has two options. The 
first is to zoom into one of the images and, by moving the trackball, 
explore the full picture. Each image is overlayed with several words, 
haikulike fragments from the collection of words in the computer's memory. 
The images are thus transformed into sites of poetry, and the poem 
acquires an architectural/spatial structure. The second option is to access a 
"poem generator" by clicking on a word on the central projection plane. 
Four lists appear, containing a total of 800 text fragments, each of which is 
connected to one of the 150 cropped images. Here again the viewer has two 
options: either choosing words from the lists to create a verse, or "visiting" 
the location of a text fragment within its original context, at which point the 
computer program returns to the image that contains that particular word. 

By clicking on one of the 150 photos (or on the word "passage" at 
the bottom of the projection plane), a specific video sequence on the 
projection plane on the right is activated; a female and a male actor 
appear, performing a series of abstract gestures recorded in slow motion. 
The viewer can now choose to have a poem read aloud. On the projection 
plane to the left, only words appear. A separate, completely autonomous 
and noninteractive poem generator operates here, continuously rearranging 
the words that appear in the four lists in the central field. 

Seaman's installation is a reflection on the theme of traveling. At 
the most immediate level, the images, which were made in Tokyo and 
Karlsruhe, are evocative of foreign places. But here, "to travel" stands also 
for the notion of identity and motion in cyberspace. The bodiless passage 
through the various image and text spaces of the poetic architecture is 
contrasted with the apparent sensuality of a gestic language. Before the 
eyes and under the hand of the viewer, a network of associations between 
images, places, poetic language, and the viewer's own memories grows, 
which ultimately can be read as a model of the creation of meaning through 
the accumulation of associations. 

From a formal viewpoint, the visual output generated by Seaman's 
machine could be seen to stand in the tradition of the emblem; it produces 
interactive emblems, consisting not only of moving images but also of 

variable text passages. In an emblem, an image is associated with a motto, 
aphorism, proverb, or short, pointed poem. The philosopher Francis Bacon 
wrote in 1605, "The emblem reduceth conceits intellectual to images 
sensible"; he stressed the value of emblems as memory aids, summarizing 
the art of memorizing using the principles of mnemonics, a tradition 
Seaman has explicitly referred to by quoting from Francis Yates's book The 
Art of Memory.' Yet the texts and images of Passage Sets are markedly 
different from those of an emblem in a number of ways: the work has none 
of the emblem's pointed character, and it opens, through variation, 
recombination, and associative connotation, a virtually endless field of 
vague and subtle recollections and feelings. With Seaman's work, we enter 
a space that is completely devoid of purpose. 

Like Jeffrey Shaw and Toshio Iwai, Seaman does not use the 
computer— the most powerful artificial memory yet created— for pragmatic 
or scientific ends. To the contrary, he employs the machine to play games. 
By offering the wide range of choices made possible by the computer, his 
work alters the conventional relationship between art and viewer. The 
meanings of his images are not predetermined, but are established as the 
viewer experiences the work. As in all interactive art, the process of 
reinterpretation is not only experienced passively, as it is in traditional 
painting, but is turned into a material condition for the very existence of the 
work. The "open work of art," to use Umberto Eco's phrase, has become a 
physical reality— Passage Sets is an emblem of ever-changing memory, an 
emblem of the very state of emblemlessness. 

i. Level 2 Project, exh. broch. (Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1995). 
Oliver Seifert 



pages 42-43: Bill Seaman, 
Passage Sets/One Pulls Pivots at 
the Tip of the Tongue, 1994-95. 
Interactive audiovisual installation; 
three screens, each approximately 
1.5 x 2 m; installation area 
variable, approximately 7.5 x 
6.4 m. Programming by 
Christian Ziegler. Saxophone by 
Tony Wheeler. Cello by 
Catherine Hewgill. Produced at 
ZKM/Center for Art and Media 
Karlsruhe with funds provided by 
the Siemens Stipend and the 
Intercommunication Centre, Tokyo. 
Collection of the artist 

Bill Seaman was born in 1956 in 
Kennet, Missouri. He received a 
Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from 
the San Francisco Art Institute, and 
a Master of Science in visual 
studies from M.I.T., Cambridge, 

He has received a number of 
stipends and awards, among them 
a Rockefeller Foundation Visual 
Arts Award, 1986; a Massachusetts 
State Council Artist Fellowship, 
1989; a Siemens-Projektstipendium 
from ZKM Karlsruhe, 1994; and the 
Prix Ars Electronica, 1992 and 

Seaman's video works and 
interactive installations have been 
shown in several international 
exhibitions and festivals, including 
The Biennale of Sydney, 1992; 
Siggraph, Anaheim, 1993; M.I.T. 
Twenty-Five-Year Retrospective, 
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1994; 
MultiMediale 4, ZKM Karlsruhe, 
1995; and International 
Symposium on Electronic Art, 
Montreal, 1995; and at the Art 
Gallery of New South Wales, 
Sydney, 1995. 

From 1992 to 1995, Seaman taught 
media art at the College of Fine Art 
of the University of New South 
Wales in Sydney. Since 1996, he 
has taught at the University of 
Maryland in Baltimore. 


The Boundary Rider: The Ninth 
Biennale of Sydney. Sydney: Art 
Gallery of New South Wales, 1992. 

MultiMediale 4. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 

European Media Art Festival. 
Osnabruck, 1995. 






J F_ F F R E Y 

' * sVaw 


7"/re Legible City fuses the experience of the city with the experience of 
reading. The viewer sits on a stationary bicycle, using the handlebar and 
pedals to "ride" through the scale simulation of a city that appears on a 
large projection screen. The city's "buildings" are computer-generated letters, 
which form words and sentences lining the city's streets. The handlebar and 
pedals of the bicycle are connected to a Silicon Graphics workstation that 
calculates the viewer's position within the simulated city, allows the viewer 
to control the route and speed of his or her tour, and modifies the projected 
image in real time, according to the viewer's movements. An additional 
small monitor in front of the bicycle displays a map of the city, where a 
cursor indicates the current location of the cyclist. 

Shaw has created three different versions of The Legible City. 
Each is based on a real-life cityscape, the downtown areas of Karlsruhe, 
Amsterdam, and New York serving as his models. With each version, Shaw 
used texts that relate directly to the history of that city. In the Manhattan 
version (created in 1988-89), which represents the area between Thirty- 
fourth and Sixty-sixth streets and Park and Eleventh avenues, the viewer 
can follow eight independent narratives: fictional monologues by Ed Koch, 
Frank Lloyd Wright, Donald Trump, Noah Webster, a tourist, a con man, an 
ambassador, and a cab driver, all written by Shaw's collaborator Dirk 
Groeneveld. Each text appears in a different color, so the cyclist can easily 
choose a certain story line and follow it through the streets. 

The historical texts in the Amsterdam version (1990) were selected 
by Groeneveld from fifteenth- to nineteenth-century sources, and they 
appear, in the simulated city, at the very place where the events they 
describe actually occurred. The texts in the Karlsruhe version (1991), too, 
are largely based on historical incidents. They include references to notable 
former inhabitants of the city, such as Karl von Drais, the inventor of the 
Laufrad, a precursor of the bicycle. Tourist information published by the 
municipal administration is also quoted. 

While the immediate experience of The Legible City— being able to 
move freely through an artificial world — is compelling, the complex 
metaphorical possibilities that arise from the work are equally startling. 
There is a sensual contrast between the real bicycle and the virtual space. 
The cyclist can pedal hard enough to run out of breath, but will always 
remain physically in the same place, while at the same time he or she 
traverses the virtual city bodiless, perhaps even cutting through the 
buildings' walls. 

The piece also involves the superimposition of subjective memory 
onto the objective reality of city architecture. Only those visitors to the 
simulated cities who are familiar with their factual counterparts will be able 
to uncover all the work's treasures; they will experience the familiar in an 

unfamiliar guise, and this breach provides a measure of our perceptual 

Beyond these two aspects of The Legible City, the phenomena of 
language and writing add other layers of meaning to the work. If the viewer 
could do nothing more than ride aimlessly through the cities, The Legible 
City would be no more than a kind of video game. And if the objective were 
simply to alter the appearance of a given city, why would an artist create a 
real-time simulation? Only the presence of writing makes it clear that a city 
is not only a geographical agglomeration of architecture, but also an 
immaterial pattern of experiences. The content of the texts, which can be 
perceived only when the viewer performs the activities of cycling and 
reading, reveals that the inhabitants' history plays an important role in 
shaping the identity of a place. The effort it takes the viewer to synthesize 
the slowly approaching, extremely foreshortened letters into phrases while 
cycling gives evidence of the fact that, in spite of the immateriality of the 
virtual city, a new reality is being formed in the viewer's mind. 

When writing literally becomes architecture, as it does in this 
installation, it somehow transcends its own linearity. As a network of 
"streets," the text of The Legible City puts in visual form the hypertext links 
that thread their way through the Internet. And as a "city," the work is a 
materialized metaphor, a model of the process of perception. 

Oliver Seifert 



pages 46-47: Jeffrey Shaw, The 
Legible City, 1988-91. Interactive 
computer-graphic installation; 
screen approximately 3.5 x 5 m; 
installation area variable, 
approximately 5.5 x 8.8 m. Text 
by Dirk Groeneveld. Programming 
by Gideon May. ZKM/Center for Art 
and Media Karlsruhe. 

Jeffrey Shaw was born in 1944 in 
Melbourne, Australia. From 1963, 
he studied architecture and later 
art history at the University of 
Melbourne. In 1965, he continued 
his education in the visual arts at 
the Brera Art Academy in Milan 
and at the St Martin's School of 
Art in London. At the end of the 
1980s, Shaw taught at the 
Academie van Beeldende Kunsten 
Rotterdam and in 1990 at the 
Rietveld Akademie in Amsterdam. 
Since 1991, he has been director 
of the Institute for Image Media at 
ZKM Karlsruhe. 

For his interactive installations, 
Shaw received an award at 
L'lmmagine Elettronica festival, 
Ferrara, Italy, and a Prix Ars 
Electronica, both in 1990. 

Shaw's work has been shown at 
the Biennale de Paris, 1975; 
Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, 
The Netherlands, 1988; 
International Art and Science 
Exhibition, Kanagawa Science 
Center Kawasaki-Shi, Kawasaki, 
Japan, 1989; Musee d'lssel, 
Brussels, 1992; Ars Electronica, 
Linz, 1994; and Le Biennale d'Art 
Contemporain de Lyon, 1995-96. A 
solo exhibition of his computer 
installations was shown at Neue 
Galerie am Landesmuseum 
Joanneum Graz, Austria, 1995. 


E X H I B I T I ? 

Moving Image: Electronic Art. 
Karlsruhe: Zentrum fur Kunst und 
Medientechnologie; Munich and 
Stuttgart: Oktagon, 1992. 

The Boundary Rider: The Ninth 
Biennale of Sydney. Sydney: Art 
Gallery of New South Wales, 1992. 

MultiMediale 3. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 

Ars Electronica 94. Linz, 1994. 

Interface 2, Weltbilder - 
Bildwelten, Computergestutzte 
Visionen. Hamburg, 1995. 

MultiMediale 4. Karlsruhe: ZKM, 

FotograRe nach der Fotografie. 
Munich: Aktionsforum Praterinsel, 

ie Biennale d'Art Contemporain de 
Lyon: Installation, Cinema, Video, 
Informatique. Lyon: Musee d'Art 
Contemporain, 1995. 

The Butterfly Effect. Budapest: 
Soros Foundation, 1996. 



~ — J 


a mw 

MATRIX I , 1970-72 

Steina and Woody Vasulka began working in the pioneering days of video 
art in the 1960s and 1970s, when artists interested in the medium were 
largely concerned with the social and political implications of television. In 
an era when "the establishment" as a political body was generally under 
attack, the seamless flow of commercial and institutional information in the 
form of broadcast images, texts, and sound was subject to intense scrutiny 
and criticism. Artists took possession of the television medium to generate 
alternative strategies of production, offering it as a site for aesthetic 
investigation rather than as a space for commercial entertainment and 
institutional authority. 

In contrast to many of their peers, the Vasulkas focused on the 
technological infrastructure of television, rather than on the social issues 
surrounding it. Four years after their arrival in the United States in 1965 
(they met in Prague in the early 1960s), they began creating collaborative 
works that utilized their respective skills: his as an engineer and film editor, 
hers as a musician. In 1971, along with Andres Mannik, they founded the 
Kitchen, an alternative space in New York where artists could experiment 
with sound and electronic images. With a more scientific than intuitive 
approach, the Vasulkas began testing the limits of existing technologies to 
explore the formal properties of digital and analog imagery, the materiality 
of electronic signals, and the temporal relations between audio and video. 

Matrix I represents their first attempt to formalize many of these 
early experiments. A twenty-screen video array (or configuration of multiple 
monitors) that knits together a selection of the Vasulkas' investigations into 
the phenomenology of sound and vision, Matrix I brings together a selection 
from the artists' 1970-72 Matrix series of video-array projects.' The Vasulkas 
were early proponents of multimonitor video configurations, an initial 
departure from the convention of single-channel works that would 
eventually lead to video installations. 

For the Matrix series, the Vasulkas worked with engineer George 
Brown, a frequent collaborator in these years, in adapting a keyer— a device 
that regulates the combination of two visual signals — into an apparatus 
capable of layering multiple images; this approach is typical of the artists' 
interest in modifying technology for aesthetic ends. The sound in Matrix I is 
generated, in part, by patterns of random electronic signals. These signals 
also generate images, which themselves generate sound. The result is a 
sequence of pulsing abstract forms that move horizontally across the video 
monitors; although the same image appears on each screen, the impression 
is of synchronized waves moving across the field of monitors. This 
horizontal movement, which might seem mundane to the sophisticated 
viewer of the 1990s, was another technical breakthrough; up until that 
point, experiments in scrolling and simulating the passage of images 
between different screens had been limited to vertical movement, as in 
Joan Jonas's Vertical Roll (1972). 

In some respects, the abstract, geometric character of Matrix I is 
reminiscent of the experiments in film and nonobjective form conducted by 
artists in the 1920s. In the work of Hans Richter and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, 
for example, abstract shapes are manipulated into moving compositions that 
simulate rhythm, musical harmony, and the contrasting values of opacity 
and transparency. The desire to create form from technical process is an 
inherently Modernist impulse. While acknowledging a general interest in 
such aesthetics, however, the Vasulkas credit the less austere painterly 
investigations of Salvador Dali and Maurits Cornelis Escher, with their 
distortions of visual perception, as more immediate influences. The artists 


■ ■ 






pages 50-51: Steina and Woody 
Vasulka, Matrix I, 1970-72. One- 
channel video and two-channel 
sound installation, 30 minutes, 
black and white, 1.63 x 3.18 x 
.48 m. Collection of the artists. 

left: Steina Vasulka, Borealis, 1993. 
Two-channel video and four- 
channel sound installation, 
10 minutes, color; installation 
space variable, approximately 5 x 
9-75 x 9.75 m. ZKM/Center for Art 
and Media Karlsruhe. 

also cite the significance of Bela Jules, whose essays on the nature of 
"Cyclopean vision" — the fusion of left- and right-eye cognition to create a 
third-eye viewpoint — bear specifically on the effects achieved in Matrix I, 2 
where multiple camera setups were employed to create an overall 
composite image. 

i. While the Matrix series includes experiments in both black-and-white and color, Matrix I 
includes monochrome images only. A second work, Matrix II, which is not in this exhibition, 
is a twelve-monitor video wall that incorporates their experiments from this series in color. 
2. Conversation with the author, April 1996. 

Matthew Drutt 


Steina Vasulka uses rotating cameras in her installations as instruments to 
explore the phenomena of time and space, recording her surroundings 
without any interference to create documents of given forms and sounds. In 
Borealis, Vasulka establishes a spatial relationship between the visual and 
acoustic elements of nature. Fragmented landscape images, which the artist 
recorded in her country of origin, Iceland, in 1992, appear on four free- 
standing, transparent screens in a darkened room. Two mirrors set up in 
conjunction with two projectors disseminate the images to the screens; 
because of the screens' translucent material, the images are visible on both 
sides. The viewer is surrounded by a play of recorded sounds and moving, 
free-floating depictions of water, rock surfaces, and soil, becoming 
captivated by the images of natural phenomena and experiencing a direct 
confrontation with the physical power of the elements. 

The electronic manipulations employed by Vasulka and her 
husband, Woody, in both their collaborative and individual projects, produce 
strange effects that seem to subvert natural laws, confusing our perceptual 
beliefs. In Borealis, the video material is manipulated in such a way that we 
see the flow of water in reverse, returning to its source; through cross- 
fading, minute shifts in the soil appear to swell to the size of avalanches; 
and precise superimpositions transform natural rock formations into 
complex, virtual sedimentations. The main theme of Borealis is the 
movement and flow of nature. Because of the open arrangement of the 
large screens, the visitor can feel entrapped by the power of nature in the 
gaps that are left between them. The enhanced visual and acoustic presence 
of the recordings allows the viewer to participate in a visual and sensual 
experience while being drawn closer to the textures of the natural elements. 

Borealis incorporates landscape within an architectural 
configuration, fusing both elements to create a new, artifical genre made 
possible by the medium of video. The projections on the screens interact 
with the space around them, while the planes themselves, in their random 
placement and their orientation toward the projectors, create their own 
spaces— they act as an incidentally arranged subarchitecture, offering both 
fixed and changing scenes in which the viewer has no option but to react 
to the ceaseless movement of the images. Despite the material presence of 
the screens, the motion of the images suggests a purely illusionary 
tectonics of planes. The architecture of the floating screens seems to fade 
under the immateriality of the images. In contrast, the projected images fill 
the space with their extraordinary mass, the emphasized materiality of their 
content superceding their virtual character. Close-ups of small sections of 
landscape and enlargements of detailed surface textures grow in the video 
projections into towering formations. Concentrated fragments of nature can 
turn into mountain ranges and landscape panoramas. Their monumentality 
represents their ability to withstand the forces of time, climate, and 
evolution. As architecture and landscape interact, each simultaneously 
constructs and deconstructs the other. 

Since her move to New Mexico in 1980, Vasulka has drawn on the 
landscape as a recurring theme in her work. It is not the romantic 
implication of this traditional artistic motif that interests her, but the 
influence of machines on geographical and geological conditions. Unimpeded 
by the art-historical associations of the landscape genre, Vasulka views the 
scenery she encounters in the Southwest quite pragmatically, as an 
extension of spatial dimensions and perspectives that allows her to expand 
her artistic configurations. The whole of the Southwest, she has said, now 
serves as her studio.' This impulse to move the studio outside, into nature, 
evokes a long succession of plein-air movements with widely varying artistic 
intentions, from Impressionism in the nineteenth century to the earthworks 
of the 1960s and 1970s. Vasulka's manipulations of nature are most closely 
related to Robert Smithson's large-scale landscape interventions, some of 
which were only accessible through the mediums of film and photography. 
Like Smithson, who called himself a "site-seer," Vasulka uses her camera to 
penetrate deep into the geological and physical structures of earth, stone, 
and water. Works such as Summer Salt (1982), The West (1983), and 
Geomania (1989), which are based on an optically deconstructed 
approximation of detailed landscape textures, bring to mind Smithson's 
approach to natural realities. While Smithson used heavy machinery to move 
large amounts of earth, in Vasulka's work this feat is accomplished by her 
use of video. Like Smithson's earthworks, Borealis is composed of a number 
of precisely choreographed pieces of nature that reorganize geological 
processes; in Vasulka's work, this is accomplished by means of depth 
adjustments, optical echoes and reversal effects, superimpositions, and 
other electronic manipulations. Borealis seems to tell the history of the 
earth in a fragmented text composed of the sediments of time. The viewer's 
experience is that of a traveler, who, via the real-time projections, develops 
a sense of the duration of an observation. While Process and performance 
art of the late 1960s and early 1970s brought real time into the galleries 
and museums, Borealis employs geological and paleontological measures of 
time, which leave little space for human intervention. The pixellated 
structure of Vasulka's medium— the digital image— relates to the geological 
and archeological structures of the subject of her recordings. Like a 
cartographer, she documents the graphic and structural elements of natural 
sites, her digitalized projections forming "maps" of the landscape. 

Smithson did not consider his inclination toward earthworks as 
biographically predetermined, and Vasulka, also, though her work is 
concerned with the landscape of her birthplace and immediate surroundings, 
resists a mythical/female or purely aesthetic interpretation. Her landscape 
adaptations underscore the phenomenological interest of a place where pre- 
and posthistorical aspects meet in one material formation. Vasulka leaves 
behind painting, sculpture, and architecture, using video to enter a timeless 
world of ideas where she transposes history and entropy, material and 
erosion into the transparency of a visual language. 

1. Steina Vasulka, quoted in Marita Sturken, "Steina and Woody Vasulka: In Dialogue with 
the Machine," in Steina and Woody Vasulka: Machine Media, exh. cat. (San Francisco: San 
Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1996), p. 46. 

Ursula Frohne 



Steina Vasulka was born Steinunn 
Briem Bjarnadottir in 1940 in 
Reykjavik, Iceland. She studied 
violin and musical theory, and in 
*959. she received a scholarship 
from the Czechoslovak Ministry of 
Culture to attend the music 
conservatory in Prague. In 1964, 
she joined the Icelandic 
Symphony Orchestra. 

Woody Vasulka was born 
Bohuslav Peter Vasulka in 1937 in 
Brno, Czechoslovakia. He studied 
metal technology and hydraulic 
mechanics at the School of 
Industrial Engineering in Brno, 
where he received a baccalaureate 
degree in 1956. Later, he attended 
the Academy of the Performing 
Arts in Prague, where he directed 
and produced several short films. 

The Vasulkas met in Prague in the 
early 1960s. They were married in 

1964, and moved to New York in 

1965. There, Steina worked as a 
free-lance musician and Woody as 
a multiscreen film editor. In 1971, 
together with Andreas Mannik, 
they founded the Kitchen, a 
performance space for the media 
arts in New York. During these 
years, they collaborated 
extensively on investigations into 
the electronic nature of video and 
sound, to produce documentaries 
about theater, dance, and music. 
In 1974, the Vasulkas moved to 
Buffalo, New York, where they 
joined the faculty of the Center for 
Media Study at the State 
University of New York. At this 

point, their interests diverged. 
Woody turned his attention to the 
Rutt/Etra Scan Processor, and in 
1976, worked with Don MacArthur 
and then Jeffrey Schier to build 
the Digital Image Articulator. Steina 
began experimenting with the 
camera as an autonomous imaging 
instrument in work that would 
later become the Machine Vision 
series. Since 1980, the Vasulkas 
have lived in Santa Fe, New 

The Vasulkas have been artists-in- 
residence at the National Center for 
Experiments in Television at KQED 
in San Francisco, and at 
WNET/Thirteen in New York. 
Individually and collectively, they 
have received funding from the 
New York Council on the Arts, 
Creative Artists Public Service, the 
National Endowment for the Arts, 
the Corporation for Public 
Broadcasting, the John Simon 
Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 
and the New Mexico Arts Division. 
Both received the American Film 
Institute Maya Deren Award in 
1992 and the Siemens- 
Medienkunstpreis from ZKM 
Karlsruhe in 1995. In 1988, Steina 
was an artist-in-residence in Tokyo 
on a U.S. /Japan Friendship 
Commission grant In 1993, Woody 
received a Soros Foundation 
fellowship to lecture and present 
work throughout Eastern Europe. 

Among the exhibitions that have 
been devoted to the Vasulkas' 
work are The West, Centre Georges 

Pompidou, Paris, 1984; Focus: The 
Vasulkas, Institute of 
Contemporary Art, Boston, 1986; 
Steina & Woody Vasulka, Hitachi 
Showroom, Tokyo, 1988; and 
Woody and Steina Vasulka: 
Machine Media, San Francisco 
Museum of Modern Art, 1996. 
Group exhibitions in which their 
work has appeared include 
Projected Video, Whitney Museum 
of American Art, New York, 1975; 
Festival International d'Art Video, 
Locarno, Switzerland, 1984; and 
Biennial Exhibition, Whitney 
Museum of American Art, 1989. In 
1992, the Vasulkas organized 
Eigenwelt der Apparate-Welt: 
Pioneers of Electronic Art, an 
exhibition of early electronic tools 
at Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria. 

Steina has taught at the Akademie 
fur Angewandte Kunst in Vienna, 
the Institut fur Neue Medien at the 
Stadelschule, Frankfurt, and the 
College of Arts and Crafts, 
Reykjavik. Since 1993, Woody has 
been a visiting professor at the 
Faculty of Art Polytechnic Institute, 
in Brno, Czech Republic. 

Reprinted from Steina and Woody Vasulka: 
Machine Media, exh. cat. (San Francisco: 
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 


Steina and Woody Vasulka: The 
West. New York: Fine Arts Center 
Gallery, State University of New 
York at Stony Brook, 1987. 

Steina and Woody Vasulka: 
Machine Media. San Francisco: 
Museum of Modern Art, 1996. 


American Landscape Video: The 
Electronic Grove. Pittsburgh: 
Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, 

Traversals: Instructions to the 
Double. Long Beach: Long Beach 
Museum of Art, 1990. 

Eigenwelt der Apparate-Welt: 
Pioneers of Electronic Art. Linz: Ars 
Electronica, 1992. 

Critical Mass. Santa Fe: Museum of 
Fine Arts, 1993. 


* i .» 








The coexistence and fusion of different modes of being is one of the main 
themes in Bill Viola's theatrical installations. His works often express, 
through the simultaneity and permutation of collected images, in which 
fragments of landscapes, cities, nature, destruction, birth, and death come 
together in rhythmic sequences to form contemporary tableaus, the passage 
through different stages of life, illustrating through varying references the 
artist's experience and world view: that everything revolves around "change 
and process."' This insight seems disarmingly simple at first, but proves to 
be quite complex if we contemplate the antitheses between the elements of 
Viola's installations. 

The City of Man consists of three large projection planes, set up 
side by side in a triptych arrangement. The austerity of the altarlike 
composition, with two narrow side panels flanking a larger central panel, is 
further emphasized by the brown walnut frame that encloses these three 
elements. The frame defines the space of the images that appear on the 
panels, but it also elevates these images, which outwardly remain grounded 
in the sphere of the ordinary. Real-time recordings are shown in parallel on 
the screens, where the mediums of painting, cinema, and video merge. 
Repeating the threefold arrangement of the screens, the content of the 
images is grouped into three symbolic units— paradise, earthly life, and 
hell, themes in the tradition of medieval painting, as exemplified in the 
works of Hieronymous Bosch. Using moving signs, with a typology that 
does not hide its indebtedness to Bosch's allegorical parables, Viola draws 
scenes of a modern world that unfold atmospherically in sequences that 
oscillate between dream and reality, idyll and inferno. 

The City of Man's left field represents the archetype of paradise, 
displaying bucolic land- and cityscape impressions. In their pathetic beauty, 
they seem to be modern replicas of the dream of the New World, where 
arcadia and wilderness were to be transformed into an earthly paradise by 
the civilizing capacity of man, so both could exist side by side as sublime 
entities. The topic of the middle field is the material world, as the site of 
human competition for resources, power, and territory. Prosaic scenes of 
people at work alternate with views of profane meeting rooms and sacred 
church interiors, symbolizing humankind's "developed" state, in which man 
has established a pragmatic, cultural relationship with the natural, sensual 
world and the profitable possibilities he has created. The different spheres 
of public life shown here represent the value systems that regulate the 
ownership and utilization of resources; interpreted in a more general sense, 
the centerpiece depicts the spectrum of different relations to life and the 
world that are shaped by society, politics/ideology, and religion. In the 
work's right field, we witness an allegorical vision of hell. Buildings drown 
in a sea of flames and smoke while lone figures try to extinguish the blaze, 
in what is clearly a hopeless endeavor. Destruction, damnation, and 
desperation dominate this part of the composition. 

In The City of Man, as in his later works Nantes Triptych (1992) 
and The Greeting (1995), Viola intentionally refers to the European tradition 
of altar painting, attempting to establish a direct dialogue with it. Part of 
Viola's identity as an artist is his awareness that he is part of a tradition, 
and that even video images can receive vital impulses from the latent 
power of age-old codifications. Because of The City of Man's connection to 
a classical form of painting, its video images share the multiple levels of 
communication inherent in traditional iconography. Even more importantly, 
the religious origin of the triptych form increases the spiritual value of the 
work's immaterial images, and the daily products of television take on the 

sacred and awe-inspiring qualities of a religious apocalypse. The 
"faithfulness" of a religious world view appears in the form of a profane 
medium, bringing to mind the commonplace that watching the daily 
newscast is the modern-day version of prayer time and that the television 
set has supplanted the domestic altar. 

Viola has commented on his art-historical reference to the triptych 
form: "I am interested in its use as referent to the European Christian 
tradition, as an image that arises out of the culture and therefore resides 
within, not without, many of the people who have come to see it in Europe. 
I am less interested in its use as a quotation, or an 'appropriated image.' 
. . . Beyond more technical reasons such as the delicate balance of the 
number three and its use for comparative contrast and interaction, both 
visually and especially temporally, ultimately my interest in the triptych form 
is that it is a reflection of a cosmological and social world view, 'Heaven- 
Earth-Hell,' and its tripartite structure is an image of the structure of the 
European mind and consciousness. These aspects can become activated 
energies when applied to images of a contemporary nature." 2 These remarks 
suggest that Viola sees his video art as a way of revitalizing historical 
painting as an art discipline. He does not idealize the past in comparison to 
the world as it has become; rather, he is concerned with the way 
perceptions change under different circumstances, and with correlating this 
relationship, through series of images, to life. With this claim to the 
importance of his medium, Viola defends with fantastic intensity a more 
allegorical than virtual or real image space. 

The visual memory that Viola always returns to— the history of 
art — is only the source for a new genealogy of images. In their fluctuating 
juxtapositions, his images tell another kind of "history," one that owes its 
existence to the very fact that there is no narrative in his work. Viola 
alludes and conjures, allowing the origins, actions, life, and suffering of the 
images and figures that appear in his work to remain a mystery. An 
allegorist, he incorporates everything, and everything means something to 
him: words and dreams, people and legends, facts and visions. He does not 
want to create a distilled product called art, with a life that has been left 
behind like an empty shell, but an encounter with the world in the most 
complete and precise sense: as an endless process and not as an event, as 
a physical sensation beyond the immediate and not as a single moment of 
clarified perception. His art does not gain a privileged position — it is not a 
playground for aesthetics, but the means of a confrontational re-integration. 
For Viola, art is a medium of reflection and a tool to penetrate the hidden 
layers of the unconscious, the "sediments" of human experience, which will 
ultimately enable us to unearth the most elementary structures of being. 

Narrative is entirely absent from The City of Man, and is replaced 
by the rhythm of the work's images and the mood emanating from its 
scenic compilations. The image sequences create a suggestion that is 
entirely different in content from that of the dramatic structure of classical 
narration. The moment the consonance of images seems to describe a 
situation, the motion of the triptych's image machine disrupts a coherent 
reading. The background noise is the only unifying element in the flow of 
disparate scenes, the buzz of a freeway on the left blending with the sound 
of the crackling fire on the right; applause is heard periodically from the 
middle segment of the triptych, and, aided by the twitter of birds from the 
left, its staccato disrupts the murmur synchronized with the images of a 
church. As it is impossible to determine exactly which segment is the source 
of a specific sound, the eye moves restlessly across the screens. 


■ > 



I ■ 


Tr»** ••- iV% 


v .3 

pages 56-57: Bill Viola, The City 
of Man, 1989. Three-channel video 
and four-channel sound 
installation, color; central screen, 
2.14 x 2.14 m; two lateral screens, 
each approximately 2.14 x 1.07 m; 
installation space variable, 
approximately 4.3 x 7.6 x 7.6 m. 
Number one of an edition of two. 
Rivendell Collection of Late 
Twentieth-Century Art, On 
permanent loan to the Center for 
Curatorial Studies, Bard College, 
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. 
(Number two: ZKM/Center for Art 
and Media Karlsruhe.) 

above and following two pages: 
Bill Viola, Threshold, 1992. 
Three-channel video and two- 
channel sound installation, 
black and white; and electronic 
sign with newsfeed; installation 
space variable, approximately 
4.75 x 4.72 x 8.12 m. ZKM/Center 
for Art and Media Karlsruhe. 

1 1 . 




Viola's images absorb the viewer in the "logic" of their associative 
combinations. His aim is the complete dissolution of expectations and the 
acceptance of the permanent disappearance of all particularity. His works 
demand the viewer's immersion into their process of flux, invoking 
continuous change with hypnotic intensity. Through its time-based structure, 
The City of Man reveals Viola's hostility toward time: everything happens 
simultaneously and perpetually, repeating itself in cycles, as in its video 
loops. But in the end the video image, too, is mortal: when the equipment 
is turned off, the images vanish and nothing is left but memory. In The City 
of Man, the "temporality" of existence is dissolved at last — formally it 
becomes a "contemporality," and in the work's content a "supratemporality." 

1. Bill Viola, "Das Ganze wieder zusammenfugen, Bill Viola im Gesprach mit Otto Neumaier 
und Alexander Puhringer," in Alexander Puhringer, ed., Bill Viola, exh. cat. (Salzburg: Ritter 
Klagenfurt and Salzburger Kunstverein, 1994), p. 143. 

2. Viola, Reasons for Knocking at an Empty House, Writings 19/3-1994, ed. Robert Violette 
and Viola (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press; London: Thames and Hudson, in association with 
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, 1995), pp. 244-45. 

Ursula Frohne 


As in many of Bill Viola's works, the theme of Threshold is the connection 
between body and spirit, thought and action, contemplation and 
concentration, inner and outer reality. Space is organized to allow the 
concrete experience of crossing a threshold, where the moment of transition 
from one symbolic reality into another becomes the main event and the 
subject of perception. 

As the viewer stands outside the main room of the installation, 
his or her attention is absorbed by the bright light of an electronic 
signboard. The sign broadcasts the latest news, displaying messages 
transmitted directly from a press agency. Because of the almost painful 
brightness of the moving letters, one does not notice right away that there 
is a gap in the middle of the sign, where the display breaks off around an 
opening in the wall. This is the threshold the viewer is supposed to cross, 
passing through the silent, but visually obtrusive, flow of electronic data to 
enter a darkened space. 

After entering the barely lit room, the viewer's eyes slowly adapt, 
and the faint images of three people sleeping begin to appear on the walls. 
With their closed eyes and calm features, the larger-than-life-size portraits 
look at first like black-and-white photographs of corpses. But there is the 
sound of breathing, and after longer observation, minimal movements in the 
sleepers' faces can be discerned: gradually the viewer becomes aware that 
these are living people, and slowly becomes immersed in the peacefulness 
of the scene. The situation is so intimate that it seems to establish a 
personal relationship between the viewer and the sleeping people, but the 
immediacy of this relationship also heightens the anonymity of the figures, 
and, in a certain way, that of sleep itself. The sleepers are exposed to the 
gaze of the observer, and that leads to more than psychological 
identification, as the sound of regular breathing defines the space as a 
realm of the unconscious beyond the tireless affairs of the outside world. By 
observing the submersion of the sleepers, the viewer slowly sinks into a 
meditative state of self-reflection. The perception of the projected images 
begins to correspond to the vaguely felt images inside, and the threshold 
between outer and inner perception is crossed. Outside, objective data and 
facts reign; inside, spiritual reflection takes place — outside, information; 
inside, contemplation. The coexistence of these two levels is the 
fundamental reality of Viola's spatial compositions. By including in his work 
what exists "after or behind the physical world," he opens up a 
metaphysical horizon. 

The drama of this contrast between levels of perception is 
heightened through a carefully orchestrated turn of events. Although the 
threshold is, in itself, neutral, marking only the point of transition from one 
state into another, it is a very intense motif. Because we do not know what 
awaits us beyond it as we approach the installation, we are uncertain and 
at the same time curious. Breaking through the noisy information barrier, 
we enter an unexpectedly quiet room. By crossing the threshold, we 
experience two extreme conditions: on the outside, the blinding light and 
the relentless bombardment of the news media, which absorb even the 
cruelest and most banal incidents in their persistent "alertness"; on the 
inside, the introverted and introspective sleepers, who are untouched by 
outside events. On reflection, we come to see that it is not the sleepers 
who are unconscious, but on the contrary, the media, who, in their restless 
dissemination and accumulation of news, act literally without consciousness. 
The moving letters of the electronic signboard do indeed hold a host of 
factual information, but its full significance cannot be processed in such a 
short span of time. If we spend a few minutes reading the procession of 
illuminated letters, we learn of crises and catastrophes, of politics and 
surveys, but we cannot find a personal perspective in this mantra of 
messages, or even a method to weigh the importance of the different 
reports. They dissolve in a quantitative continuum and evaporate into 
indistinct noise. This, together with the sign's disturbing glare, creates an 
overwhelming impression, and it is at this point that we find the symbolic 
threshold that Viola evokes in the installation's title. In Threshold, he 
provokes us to enter the door that leads from the "dimension of real time," 
the "primary time of experience," into the sphere of the "other time," where 
the individual experience of time takes place. 1 Crossing this threshold, we 
perceive ourselves not only as the subjects of our experiences, but also as 
objects of the events occurring around us, as exposed to the impact of 
these events as the sleepers are to the gaze of the audience. Threshold 
creates the impression of the simultaneous occurrence of different levels of 
time and consciousness. At the same time, however, in both sections of the 
installation, it makes reference to the instability of this "threshold" 
condition: the transitory nature of the events that unravel on the outside as 
constantly changing news reports corresponds to the labile state of 
dreaming on the inside; and the continuous flow of words has its 
counterpart in the stream of consciousness in the brain, which always 
remains active, even during sleep. 

Just like the motif of the threshold, sleep must be read as a 
multiple metaphor in this work. (Viola treated this theme earlier, referring to 
Francisco de Goya's Sleep of Reason in the title of a 1988 installation.) 
Sleep can serve to restore an identity that has been deformed by the 
impact of events, for dreaming has a regenerative power, as a source of 
compensation for oppressing circumstances and psychic pressure. People in 
extreme misery, for example, can have pleasant dreams nonetheless, as if 
the always active unconscious wanted to alleviate the horrors of reality. 
Metaphorically, then, we can say that the dream "works" whereas the flow 
of information sleeps. The artistic fusion of both dimensions in one spatial 
arrangement in Viola's work shows us a world that is fragmented into inner 
opposites, one that finds its only unity in the irreconcilable contradictions of 
security and fear, protection and exposure, continuum and discontinuum, 
harmony and dissonance. Viola's installations illustrate an understanding of 
experience as an integrated system of opposing forces, which sustain, 
precisely because of their antagonistic character, the Utopian desire for a 
harmonious whole. 

1. Leonhard Emmerling, "Bill Viola's Installation 'The Stopping Mind,'" in Bill Viola, Videos 
1976-1991, exh. cat. (Mannheim: Cinema Quadrat a.V., 1992), p. 14. 

Ursula Frohne 



Bill Viola was born in 1951 in New 
York City. From 1969, he studied at 
the College of Visual and 
Performing Arts of Syracuse 
University, Syracuse, New York, 
graduating with a Bachelor of Fine 
Arts degree in 1973. 

During the 1970s, Viola assisted 
Nam June Paik and Peter Campus 
with various projects, and between 

1973 and 1980 worked with the 
composer David Tudor and the 
avant-garde music group 
Composers Inside Electronics. From 

1974 to 1976, he was the technical 
production manager of the 
Art/Tapes/22 Video Studio in 
Florence and, from 1976 to 1983, 
was a visiting artist at the 
WNET/Thirteen Television 
Laboratory in New York. During 
this time, Viola traveled frequently 
to the South Pacific, Indonesia, 
Australia, Tunisia, and India. 

In 1978, and again in 1983 and 
1989, the National Endowment for 
the Arts awarded Viola a Visual 
Artist Fellowship for his work in 
video. From 1980 to 1981, he lived 
in Japan on a fellowship from the 
U.S./Japan Friendship Commission, 
and was an artist-in-residence at 
the Sony Corporation's Atsugi 
Laboratories, Atsugi, Japan. He 
received a Video Artist Fellowship 
from the Rockefeller Foundation in 
1982. In 1983, he taught video at 
the California Institute for the Arts 
in Valencia. He received the 
Polaroid Video Award for 
outstanding achievement in 1984, 
and spent part of that year as 
artist-in-residence at the San Diego 
Zoo. Also in 1984, he traveled to 
Fiji to document the fire-walking 
ceremony of the South Indian 
community in Suva. The John 
Simon Guggenheim Memorial 
Foundation presented Viola with a 
video stipend in 1985. In 1987, he 
won the American Film Institute 
Maya Deren Award, and two years 
later, a John D. and Catherine T. 

MacArthur Foundation Award. That 
year, he traveled throughout the 
American Southwest to study 
ancient Native American 
archeological sites and rock art 
In 1993, he was the first recipient 
of the Medienkunstpreis, awarded 
by ZKM Karlsruhe and the 
Siemens Kulturprogramm. In 1995, 
he was awarded an Honorary 
Doctor of Fine Arts degree from 
Syracuse University. 

Among Viola's numerous individual 
exhibitions since 1973 are Projects, 
the Museum of Modern Art, New 
York, 1979; Bill Viola: Survey of a 
Decade, Contemporary Arts 
Museum, Houston, Texas, 1988; 
Bill Viola, Fukui Fine Arts Museum, 
Fukui, Japan, 1989; Slowly Turning 
Narrative, Institute of 
Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, 
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 
Richmond, Musee d'Art 
Contemporain, Montreal, 
Indianapolis Museum of Art, 
Indianapolis, Museum of 
Contemporary Art, San Diego, 
Center for the Fine Arts, Miami, 
and the Parrish Art Museum, 
Southampton, New York; and Bill 
Viola: Unseen Images, Kunsthalle 
Dusseldorf, Moderna Museet, 
Stockholm, Museo Nacional Centro 
de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Musee 
Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 
Lausanne, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 
London, and Tel Aviv Museum of 
Art, 1992. Viola represented the 
United States at the Venice 
Biennale in 1995. The group 
shows in which his work has 
appeared include the Biennale de 
Paris, 1975 and 1977; Biennial 
Exhibition, Whitney Museum of 
American Art, 1975, 1977, 1979, 
1981, 1983, 1985, 1987, and 1993; 
Venice Biennale, 1986; Passages 
de I'image, Centre Georges 
Pompidou, Paris, 1990; and 
Video Spaces, the Museum of 
Modern Art, New York, 1995. 


Bill Viola: Installations and 
Videotapes. New York: Museum of 
Modern Art, 1987. 

Bill Viola: Survey of a Decade. 
Houston: Contemporary Arts 
Museum, 1988. 

Bill Viola. Fukui, Japan: Fukui Fine 
Arts Museum, 1990. 

Slowly Turning Narrative. 
Philadelphia: Institute of 
Contemporary Art, University of 
Pennsylvania; Richmond: Virginia 
Museum of Fine Arts, 1992. 

Bill Viola: Unseen Images. 
Dusseldorf: Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, 

Bill Viola. Montreal: Musee d'Art 
Contemporain de Montreal, 1993. 

Valentini, Valentina, ed. Bill Viola: 
Vedere con la mente e con it 
cuore. Rome: Gangemi, 1993. 

Bill Viola. Salzburg: Ritter 
Klagenfurt and Satzburger 
Kunstverein, 1994. 

Bill Viola: Images and Spaces. 
Madison, Wis.: Madison Art Center, 

Bill Viola: Buried Secrets. Tempe, 
Ariz.: Arizona State University Art 
Museum, Nelson Fine Arts Center; 
Hannover, Germany: Kestner- 
Gesellschaft, 1995. 


The Arts for Television. Amsterdam: 
Stedelijk Museum; Los Angeles: 
Museum of Contemporary Art, 1987. 

Avant-Garde in the Eighties. Los 
Angeles: Los Angeles County 
Museum of Art, 1987. 

1987 Biennial Exhibition. New York: 
Whitney Museum of American Art, 

American Landscape Video: The 
Electronic Grove. Pittsburgh: The 
Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, 

Einleuchten: Will, Vorstel und 
Simul in HH. Hamburg: 
Deichtorhallen, 1989. 

Image World: Art and Media 
Culture. New York: Whitney 
Museum of American Art, 1989. 

Video-Skulptur: Retrospektiv und 
Aktuell, 1963-1989. Cologne: 
Kolnischer Kunstverein and 
DuMont Kunsthalle, 1989. 

Bienal de la imagen en 
movimiento '90. Madrid: Museo 
Nacional Centro de Arte Reina 
Sofia, 1990. 

Eye for I: Video Self-Portrait. New 
York: Independent Curators 
Incorporated, 1990. 

Metropolis. Berlin: Martin-Gropius- 
Bau, 1991. 

Art and the Armory: Occupied 
Territory. Chicago: Museum of 
Contemporary Art, 1992. 

Documenta 9. Kassel: Documenta, 

Feuer, Wasser, Erde, Luft: Die 
vier Elemente. Hamburg: 
Deichtorhallen, 1993. 

Frischluft: Installation-lnteraktion: 
Videokunst der 8oer jahre. 
Duisburg, Germany: Wilhelm 
Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg, 

Rites of Passage. London: Tate 
Gallery, 1995. 

Video Spaces. New York: Museum 
of Modern Art, 1995. 

Video d'autore 1986-1995. Rome: 
Gangemi, 1995. 



Honorary Trustees in Perpetuity 

Solomon R. Guggenheim 
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Peggy Guggenheim 


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Vice-President and Treasurer 

Stephen C. Swid 


Thomas Krens 


Edward F. Rover 

Honorary Trustee 

Claude Pompidou 

Trustee, Ex Officio 

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Director Emeritus 

Thomas M. Messer 


Giovanni Agnelli 
Jon Imanol Azua 
Edgar Bronfman, Jr. 
The Right Honorable Earl 

Castle Stewart 
Mary Sharp Cronson 
Carlo De Benedetti 
Daniel Filipacchi 
Robert M. Gardiner 
Rainer Heubach 
Barbara Jonas 
David H. Koch 
Thomas Krens 
Peter Lawson-Johnston 
Rolf-Dieter Leister 
Peter B. Lewis 
Natalie Lieberman 
Wendy L-J. McNeil 
Edward H. Meyer 
Ronald 0. Perelman 
Michael M. Rea 
Richard A. Rifkind 
Denise Saul 
Rudolph B. Schulhof 
Terry Semel 
James B. Sherwood 
Raja Sidawi 
Seymour Slive 
Stephen C. Swid 
John S. Wadsworth, Jr. 
Cornel West 
Michael F. Wettach 
John Wilmerding 
William T. Ylvisaker