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Media Study Lectures

Vasulka Woody
  23. říjen 2007


Buffalo, May 17 – 21, 1976, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

These are the selections from the typescript (made by John Minkowsky) of the five lectures Woody Vasulka had at Media Study in Buffalo in five May evenings of 1976. With the opening remark, “whatever I say you can doubt, but listen to it”, he wanted to indicate that he is going to present the ideas in the moments of genesis, documenting his own creative and evolutionary process with the intention of inventing a new language to deal with this new electronic material, or “the kind of cathode ray tube expression”. After going through the process of initial experimentation and observation, Woody discovered that to continue his research process he has to reflect back on the area and try to conceptualize it. This cybernetic idea of stepping out and observing the process of one’s own evolution in working with the technology resulted in one of the most ambitious attempts to deal with this so far unexplored field, coming from the detailed knowledge of the material itself. Electronic image is perceived as an extension of cinema existing in different time domain; the electronic image research has to descend into smaller time sequences and explore e.g. the process of synchronization as the “condition under which the electronic image exists”. Cinema as well as electronic image creation involves the process of frame-forming; but while in cinema the frame is essentially a static entity, in case of electronic image it is internally generated, having a special relation to its time structure. While in cinema there is a parallel process of exposure involved, in case of electronic image the frame originates in sequences of lines. The three decisive early discoveries of image treatment were the modulation of sound from image, locating a frame through a time zone and originating of image from sounds, first demonstrated on the tape with the symptomatic title “Evolution”. There is also a suggestion of a different, internally generated image, in the form of data structure, as an alternative to the inherited organizational model of pinhole. Inline with the endophysical concepts of creating models for observing the observing (individuals or machines), The Vasulkas play with the idea of obtaining an instrument for the all-vision model of space, steering the electronic-wheel to the oceans of different consciousness. Electronic image thus becomes the material for understanding the time energy concepts as well as a possibility for learning about ourselves. (L.D.)

I. The Electronic Image as a Time/Energy Concept

I find it impossible to group it into five evenings because it’s a discipline which, well taken, would incorporate an enormous volume of human knowledge and experiences. As you know, I’m not a scientist, yet I will have to operate in terms which seemingly may sound scientific, and contain sets of precisions which are not adequate to scientific understanding of all the events I’m talking about. I’ll try to give you some kind of idea about my personal evolution and maybe some ideas about the milieu. Time to time, I’ll refer to some studies in cinema. In certain aspects, electronic image is an extension of cinema. In a conceptual way, particularly if you look at cinema as time-serving system of operands, recorded time sequences, then the electronic image seems to be a larger contribution to cinema study since it deals with different time domain. As you know, cinema has its time domain usually located within a frame. But in electronic image, its models through which the image is assembled and the activity of image-forming is in sub-frame, the information itself then is retrieved in time domain of maybe microseconds, and certain properties of colors are located in the range of nanoseconds. So the time relationship in observation of such a medium has to descend closer to the absolute, but as we know, we have a long way to go. But somewhere there we have to locate the activity within electronic image. Later we will talk about organization principles of image and these all have to be accomplished within sub-frame time sequences, and they have a great significance towards forming the image.

Let me start with sort of a basic line of thought: What is electronic image, how is it conceived, and how is it utilized? First of all, electronic image is based on event of electricity and it’s quite a new discipline. Of course, electricity has been with us from the beginning of the universe, yet the knowledge and the craft of mastering such energy is quite recent. In a way, the electricity is one condition, the second condition is a tool on which electronic images are usually assembled, which is cathode ray tube. And these two conditions have been recent developments; mostly, of course, television or electronic image. It was a tool through which scientists observed smaller time sequences and for the first time they could observe particular events like energy-forming processes, they could see the compression or wave formation of particular energy organizing devices. Now, where do we get electricity from? In our days it’s easy, we get electricity from the outlet on the wall, AC kind of energy, which comes from a long distance, maybe from Niagara Falls. It’s very rough kind of energy, it’s organized in 60 cycles – it goes up and down 60 times a second – that’s the raw material we’ve got. If we want to make an image, particular other kinds of involvements and other kinds of steps have to be incorporated. We have to first of all stabilize the energy in a component which we call DC. From this improved raw material, which is AC, we manufacture DC, and then we use this DC component – directional current component – to manufacture or to involve this particular energy into refining of smaller and smaller components of energies. In television we have to use this DC energy to manufacture synchronizing pulses, because the synchronicity is the most critical part of electronic image. Now, through this first step of mastering our energy, we encountered the most important thing, which is the organization. In fact, if we extend this concept into biology or, let’s see nuclear physics, or into metallurgy, we find there are other interests in the organization of the matter itself. And, in fact, whole universe is composed out of identical materials which then variously organize to produce something like a living matter.

So, it’s the organization of energy and organization of the matter which become the focus of contemporary industrial and technological struggle. Of course, there are analogies in philosophy and in art, to follow this trend of getting closer to the absolute values of the universe in order to disclose the secrets of the universe. And we know that many art forms would deal with systems which then would provide some organizational understanding of events. Some art forms would deal with new materials, like in crystallography they have to be concerned with particular level of thinking of atomic structures of the crystals. In fact, sculptures have been always involved on a molecular level of thinking, because we know that crystals can be chipped, and atomic levels can be chipped according to certain laws – they bang a stone the wrong way and it just falls apart. So they have to find the rules of the matter, and they have to master that particular talent of understanding what’s within the matter. And that leads of course also to empiric line of understanding of materials. And video – electronic image – is one of the ways of the art to descend into smaller time sequences, because now we know that energy like electricity is mostly utilized to organize electronic image in a time sense, a sense of smaller and smaller time components.

Now, where does the time come from? I mean, time is man-made as we know it, since man has developed particular referential system of time. But we may also say that time is an absolute majestic flow which we have no way of understanding. But just for our survival and comport we have developed a time system which is referential, and it’s derived from the rotation of the earth towards the sun, and it clearly divides, or tries to divide, the 24 hour elements during one rotation; then these are subdivided further and eventually a second was established. But one second is totally approximated, if we speak of absolute meanings of time. It’s basically manmade unit which has been adopted as kind of a secure measurement. In fact, one second is recognized by many as quite precise element of time. But for sciences, the second is a very crude measurement. And the sciences have descended into various kinds of different approaches to devising time sequences through vibration of the molecular structures of the crystals to a measurement of a wavelength in which distance becomes a value of time. So, an electronic image, especially television, is a time-observing mechanism as well. In every household you have a very precise clock which measures about 50 microseconds long or wide. So suddenly, even if we don’t know about it consciously, the time has entered our life in this particular way. And at first, it has no meaning to us since we observe the content of the image rather than its time structure. But if we ever descend into analyzing what’s happening, we have to be concerned with this particular time scale, and it becomes incorporated into our conscious understanding.

Now, when we talk about time, I’ll have to pay certain attention to synchronicity. We may say that every point within the universe generates “Now” which is the time kind of a structure of the universe. But since points of the universe are differently located, the “Now” for each point of the universe means something totally different. There’s no way that two points of the universe with their synchronous “Now” could reach each other in the same way unless we abolish the idea of propagation. But we know, in our kind or craft of image making there is a propagation of energy, and we usually are concerned with propagation of energy at the speed of light, or moving across a screen for 50 microseconds. Then our notion and necessity for synchronicity is not an absolute one. It is the synchronicity in which one system, or one clock, or one point, becomes the master time device, and then the rest of the points become slave to the master.

The television signal itself contains the timing elements, and when they reach your home TV set, they’re decoded into two components which form the frame, which we call horizontal and vertical sync, and there arrange the line forming processes of identical time sequences as the transmitter, the originating point, has conceived it. Of course, since we know that the propagation of energy takes time, they all will be delayed in their synchronicity by their distance from the transmitter, but once the signal reaches them, and since we know all the signals are repetitious, they’ll synchronize in their own way, and they’ll be synchronous. That means the synchronicity suddenly becomes a condition under which electronic image exists – compared to music or sound making, which is a purely free-running system. In our speech pattern, everything we do and say is dictated through internal set of timing values. But electronic image is made to conform into a particular set of frequencies. There’s a set of two frequencies which the craft of image making has to obey, forming of the line and forming of the frame, and they both will have a great influence on what the image will look like. Electronic image is made on the synchronicity understanding between the origination of the image and the reception of the image.

II Time Domain and Organizational Models of the Electronic Image

I would like to step into whole different area which is to compare electronic image with some understanding of cinematic heritage. This is what Peter Gidal says about cinematic image in a recent article in Studio International. The paragraph is called “Film as material”:

“The assertion of film as material is, in fact, predicated upon representation, in as much as ‘pure’ empty acetate running through the projector gate without image (for example) merely sets off another level of abstract (or non-abstract) associations. Those associations, when instigated by such a device, are no more materialist or nonillusionist than any other associations. Thus the film event is by no means, through such a usage, necessarily demystified. ‘Empty screen’ is no less significatory than ‘carefree happy smile’. There are myriad possibilities for co/optation and integration of filmic procedures into the repertoire of meaning.”[1]

What he’s saying is quite basic. First of all, he’s concerned with three elements. One is the light of a projection. We know that cinema, when it deals with reproduction of the product, film, uses the raw input of energy – or unorganized energy – of light, which then passing through film organizes itself into particular way or follows the model of the film. The second material is the film itself; even if it’s empty, it still contains organized frame which is located very exactly in the gate. That means it’s not a light just unorganized; it’s in fact organized, for example, by the dirt, as he mentions, and by other smaller components which are attached to this particular frame. And the third would be the interpretation and he says this is a canvas through which we can either organize or interpret.

The same system of understanding of the material we encounter in electronic image. First of all, there’s a raw state which would be the light itself. This particular event is fed through a random frequency generation and provides us with particular energy which is, as we say, unorganized in a sense of an image. It’s like we would perceive a light having no content through a modulation-passing film. So this particular material, or this particular light, which you are observing, is generated internally by a charge and discharge in various components. We know that the organization of such a material can produce what we call image, which is only tasking those particular particles of light and no light and assembling them in particular way in which they make some kind of sense to our consciousness. The second level I would detect in a way in which this particular material becomes organized in a frame. Suddenly, we have whole different content of the image; there is no image, yet this particular event, which you are looking at, is very precisely organized, line-by-line. Each line is positioned in a particular way within the screen, and there’s exact number of those lines, which is about 525. And this event goes on and on, the same way as if you were projecting empty acetate through the gate of the projector. As you see, there are also events, like the dirt, the electronic dirt called noise, and it’s generated not optically or physically by being part of the optical system but internally through various imperfections of the system in which it’s made. And the third component is simply adding an image to it, whatever that image is, when we look with the camera, whatever the camera sees becomes an image. But as you see, the image is the element, which is added the last on this process of electronic image forming. We have to be first concerned with light or unorganized material; then we have to step into organization of the material. In cinema, it’s the frame forming, in electronic image it’s also frame forming. And then third is the modulation, or energy content of electronic image, and in cinema it’s the imprint or fixed modulated expression of light-space in front of the camera.

I think it’s quite necessary to prove that there are frames in television, because some people don’t believe it. At least I didn’t; I lived under the particular impression that electronic image is free of frame, it’s somehow suspended. But it wasn’t true. Let me read you something which I put together which has some kind of relevance to what I’m talking about: “Location of image within a frame has utmost importance in establishing the dynamic content of at least two succeeding frames of the moving image, since either can become referential to our vision. In relationship to the camera obscura, the distance, lens, and absolute speed of the photographed object, or the relationship between the camera position movement and the object movement will result in placement of image within the location of the frame, which is the system referent. In electronic image, the internally generated and organized timing process will locate or relocate the image within the referential frame, which is the system reference. The possibilities to manipulate film vertically are obvious, since a sequence of cinematic recordings is laid vertical on the filmstrip. In electronic image, and electronic image has no preferential status of direction, the horizontal and vertical location is simply to relocate by retiming of the frame forming elements, horizontal and vertical sync pulses.”

Anyway, in cinema it’s located horizontally and vertically – horizontally through the sprocket holes and vertically through a width of the gate with a special arrangement to push the film against one side. We have seen attempts of some moviemakers like Paul Sharits or Malcolm LeGrice to dislocate images by re-photographing them and letting them pass by through their own location. Yet they have not been concerned with time, because in the cinematic image, the location of an image has no obvious relationship to the time structure. But in the sense of electronic image suddenly the total necessity to locate image within time sequence is the critical model. Since as we know, image as a brightness value has to be deposited in a particular position of the frame in identical manner as it was originally. Let me summarize this particular idea. If the overall interest of an observer is a synthetic request pointing to a real-time event, the opportunity of identifying smaller analytic elements – line, points – seem meaningless. But if the process of image forming depends on the position of a certain value of energy to a specific position within the raster as in electronic image, then the understanding of these processes cease to be theoretical. On the contrary, it becomes the necessity of this particular craft, especially if the camera is not the organizing element of the image. Let me freeze it now. Are you following me? A little bit? Yeah. I was trying a slightly academic summary, because there isn’t such a summary.

We know that the image is created line by line, 525 lines of this particular screen is called television raster. And we know the duration of each scan, the beginning of each line, also the duration in which line is swept in particular position towards the vertical arrangement of the screen. So we can locate every point by time coding from this point in which line by line scan begins within a field by simply adding time necessary to deposit that information on the screen. So we’ve got a whole different possibility, or way of creating the image in which the time axis or time reference towards the beginning of the field is the organization principle of the image. That means suddenly the energy is located in time structure in a highly sequential order, compared to cinema or photography where the whole frame of information is translated or transferred from the light code into a grain structure. In electronic image the whole process is highly sequential, so the time of conversion is not really the critical one. It’s the potential of activation of this light-sensitive surface of the pickup tube and conversion of that light energy into a resistance behind the screen. So, it’s a similar process, but the consideration of time is different, because in the electronic image we have additional time sequence to locate a particular event on the screen.

Now let me go to the next kind of location of time. This is a television frame which kind of drifts. It was in the time of total innocence when we didn’t know what the hell was going on – it’s a malfunction of a cable, a broken cable, and the result was that the first time ever I saw a television frame. And we could just no believe that there were frames. Now the movement is a result of a retiming or mistiming of free-running time zones. If you consider here two time elements or two time zones, one zone is the actual and there’s another set of frames that are hidden behind this one. And then inside there’s another time zone, which in this case moves horizontally, which is retiming the frame at its horizontal line beginnings. That means each line that normally should begin here and here but since there’s a free running oscillator, two time zones are introduced. In this case, time elements produce the kinetic event. The movement is not produced by any physical, actual movement.

This tape is called “Evolution” and it contains basically three components, the first original components which we had encountered at the beginning of image making, which was modulation of sound from image, or sound originated from image; the second was locating a frame through time zone or time drift; and the third was origination of image from sounds. And these three components or three approaches to the materials were decisive in our own understanding of video. Again, the image originated through time-energy devices called oscillators, which is the basic kind of instrument we have to organize energy in a particular time. And the way they enter the screen or interact with a television time zone, which is component of two frequencies - horizontal and vertical - they lose a beat or interference pattern. This is an interference pattern of two time elements or two time energy structures. At that time, it was a total accidental drift, we couldn’t control it. Later we have devised sets of clocks with the knobs, and now we can drift up and down, left and right, any way we want. At that time it was a behavior of a system. We could not understand what was happening. So there are many subjects that we’ve gone through, in particular all the modes of observation of the image which are non-cinematic. Cinema is always, in a way, inactive – of course, there are exceptions. And electronic image has many other kinds of observational modes, when you set up a system and then you simply observe it, or you just walk around and kind of adjust it, but in a way you observe it as a third person, or as an organism which has its own kind of life. So what we call oscillators or waveform generators I personally recognize as part of the nature. Oscillators as organizing principles don’t have to be purely kind of manmade boxes. There are a lot of oscillating events happening in the nature, like wind going through a town or a cave sets a very high density interference pattern, in ocean it provides its cyclical input. So if you look at nature events, you’ll find out the behavior very much corresponding to waveform generators. They do not contain particular code structure but I would still link them into an extension of nature-like events.

What I’m more interested is manifestations or events which I could only initiate as observational, or as indirect, or as new to me, unpredictable, totally uncommunicative, in a way. First of all, in all observational modes, like finding that there exists feedback was to me total new image structure. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I’ve been able to watch and observe this particular, as I call it, fire in a cave for days, because it’s always fascinating. There’s something that you know has other meaning as well, it’s self-generating anyway. Of course you can control it like you can control the fire, but you cannot predict every phase of it. Now, you have no way of rationally relating it to other images except you say: It’s like in a dream. I was very much interested why feedback performs that way, what are the conditions, and what it is in my life and where I should locate it. Should I say it’s my tool? It’s not my tool; in fact, it was a system that was devised for different purpose by different people. I inherited it, it wasn’t even a cultural tool because it didn’t produce anything what I would call culture. At that time, I thought culture was something else. So, in a way, it produced something which I couldn’t place. It was always the failure that I could put a cultural concept on it. But I know that it can be also totally meaningless because if I have no way of communicating it, it becomes a kind of a social deadlock. And maybe it’s a moral obligation and the society in fact would provide material that could be communicated.

I had some kind of belief that electronic image signifies something different. For me it has become a way of understanding of time energy concepts which I find already existing around us in different contexts. To deal with electronic image is something that is linked to idea about a survival. Because I think there’s a craft in organization of electronic matters or electronic forces in which particular areas can be developed and mastered – not only communication but other things. And I think it’s just a tool to do that. I believe there’re different kinds of sets of crafts and knowledge that will grow out of experimenting with electricity, so I’m really involved rather in a kind of strategy than a product or result of tradition.

We know television frame is imaginative term, it does not exist. In television there are fields which are, again, kind of metaphorical. We have devised two terms. One is a field, the other is a frame. Field is a scanned area, line by line, but two successive fields would create a frame. That means fields are created by scanning, like two, four, six, eight or so lines first, skipping the space in between, and then the next field would fill in first line, third, fifth, and so forth. This we call two-to-one interlace. These lines are interlaced towards each other. But only when they are two, one after the other, they create perception somewhere in the mind, a frame. But as you see in cinema, we have a one frame which is a total entity; in television, we have two fields which then create some kind of a perception of imaginary frame. Now, in this particular sense, we have those 60 fields in television which create 30 imaginary frames. This particular time length gives us different scale of narrativity, different sets of problems, encoded on different time scale. That narrativity of going closer and closer and observing those stones is fantastic. But there is no scholar from video that would write a book about it. I wish there would be. But in fact I’m inventing the whole language. All these hypotheses are absolutely made by me and they’re probably absolutely stupid. But it doesn’t matter, that’s all I can say.

Anyway, let us compare what’s happening in film and what’s happening in video during this time of forming of a frame, which gives us a different time scale and a whole different kind of interest in looking into the electronic image as sub-framal event scale. First of all, in cinema we usually use particular instrument called a shutter which rotates as an opening, and behind this arrangement we have a film strip and the gate. We achieve a physical location of each frame within a gate which is extremely important because we know the cinematic effect or a kind of decoding of a movement happens in fact between the frames. There have to be at least two successive frames containing different content, which in our mind produce a sense of continuous motion. The motion does not appear on the frame itself, in fact the frame is static. There’s nothing moving about it, all moving components of this are hidden behind this rotating shutter. Cinema happens in our own head, it’s a perceptional event. And if you repeat it many times, we derive the sequence which we call real time, and then we decode this particular sequence as continuous movement. Now, during this event of opening and closing the frame, we may say this would be the light event. First of all, the edge of this shutter would hit the frame and slowly open. That means half of the time it’s closed and half of the time it’s open; within 24 frames a second, only half time is utilized. It’s a parallel process of exposure in which the frame is exposed almost at the same time, and the conversion between light code and the grain code is parallel. Each frame, during its exposure, will accumulate a movement or change which occurs in light-space in front of the camera. That means the change will be linear, all the phases of the movement will be confined in a single time frame. We assemble that change in those accumulated steps, and this is the increment of change which becomes step-by-step. But by viewing this event of stepping up, we will again recreate linearity. So, this is a real light-space event in front of the camera, this is an accumulative stepped up event in a sense of translating this linearity into this particular code of cinematic frame. And then viewed through a projector, our perceptual system will restore the linearity, so we’ll see the same progression as in real time. Because all the blind spots, like where there is no image, will be hidden through our retinal retaining of the image.

In television, there’s a whole different process. We know that there is no frame that exists that is open, there’s no shutter, so there is no parallel conversion of a light code to its value. There is a scan beam which again activates the relative dot. Behind this gate there is a little camera obscura, somewhere here is a lens and it provides us from the rear side of the image of a hill, and this particular hill will cast a shadow on the surface of the tube, and the sky will provide us with a lot of light. In order to take this and translate it into energy potentials we will have to scan this particular area line by line, and we’ll find high energy here. But as soon as we hit the peak, suddenly our energy will drop, and then will restore its level after it hits the peak. And this gap will increase, of course – eventually will scan through this particular hill creating an energy equivalent of the light and shadow. Now, if the light-space product through camera obscura or pinhole organizing principle will be static, except minor movements of the clouds, then there is not much kind of necessity to talk about particular events on the line, or line by line. But if something is moving, suddenly we have to encounter different situation in which two dynamic systems meet. One is the object moving within a frame, and the other is the dynamic system which scans the frame.

If you have a frame which contains a target, and this target would be moving to the right, and we are to scan this – and let’s say the distance which this target is going to travel within one scan will be maybe ¼ of the line, maybe 30 microseconds – in this particular time anything happening here would be seen by the camera. Camera is blind to all the events which are not within the reach of a dot scan. Here there could be fantastic events like volcano bursting up, camera wouldn’t see it. It would take a few milliseconds to reach it. Meanwhile this target will be moving. So the first time the beam will hit this moving target will be somewhere here. The next time, the whole structure will move further, so the moving target within a frame will have not accumulative result like in cinema where the result will be placement of this image containing all the components. In electronic image forming, each of the components of the line will be misplaced. That means here, suddenly, creation or sequences of the lines play a critical role in creating of the image. If the target would be moving down, then the result will be quite different again. First of all, it will be hitting the top a little bit lower, but then the moving target is supposed to move this distance, will be escaping the next point. This means, it will be stretching down and will be creating this type of an image. First it will be escaping it, but at the end, it will be accumulating. If both are combined, if this is a vector of both movements, then the result would inevitable reappear. In a sense of definition of a phase or a movement phase, the video is immensely richer, contains 60 of those kind of frame of structures defined in their kind of dynamic content. That means there are separately recorded 60 phases of every movement. In fact, if we speak about distortion, it’s a misplacement of 525 lines. This edge now is the product of placement line by line. So it’s again extension of a phase recording possibilities of video. But that’s the advantage of video to observe smaller time events. Of course, there are disadvantages, usually that the lack of resolution in which we would like to observe those events. Because then it becomes a question, we have to in fact design image to show those events.

[1] In: Theory and Definition of Structural / Materialist Film Film Issue, Studio International, Nov. 1975 (orig. version), reprint in The English Avant Garde Film, ed. Michael O'Pray, Luton Univ Press/Arts Council, London 1997.

III The Image as a Product of the Camera Obscura Principle and as a Data Structure

The design of all the eyes on this earth from insect to whatever has been using this design, various combinations of this organizing principle called a pinhole effect. So the pinhole, which is the point, is the communicative or organizing principle between living beings and the light-space outside. The pinhole is the principle in which light is organized into a flat image, which has some significance then to the living beings, and it becomes the communicative code, or code of communication between the living beings and the nature. Cinema has purely extended this pinhole effect or camera obscura effect through series or sequences of images which would then be able to be interpreted as a moving image. And, as we know, television is parasite on the same principle - especially what’s called legitimate television, television using the camera. It is again based on the little pinhole and the lens arrangement which creates the model of the light-space in front of the camera and then further is scanned line by line. It’s translated from a parallel code, because the pinhole in the middle is a parallel light-coding device, which is again fascinating. Through the single pinhole all the components of a light-space have to pass synchronously, creating the frame. Of course from this point, they’ll arrive at a different phase relationship. In television, this parallel light code has to be translated into a sequential one, because you don’t have any electronic organizing principle of image which would deal with a parallel organizing system or process. In fact, also retina does not contain all the parallel possibilities and it’s believed that the retinal events are pre-processing the image. First of all, they break down the values of light, the energy content of light or quantum of light, into a binary structure, on and off set of pulses. And there is a belief there’s at least six steps before we reach the level of stereoscopy which is still further, far from the center of realization, whatever that is. That means the relationship of a retina and brain is a set of parallel-to-serial preprogrammed stages. This is an area which is very interesting in application to the future of electronic image. Because this slightly sequential order we have in contemporary systems is the bandwidth limiting factor. The translation between the parallel code to the sequential one, that means all the content for our image has to be broken down into a serial train of values, has to be constructed, processed, and reconstructed. And all the content of the image has to be passed through a single time gate, only one value at a time. Of course you cannot speak about one value, because it’s again a stream, whole system is dynamic. But if we sample it through a gate, we suddenly can allocate this particular stream a single value and analyze it at a particular time.

As you see, there already is a process in which television camera uses the pinhole organizing principle which is then analyzed into serial information which then is reconstructed sequentially on cathode ray tube. It is transmitted through propagation of light to another pinhole called our retina to the brain. That means we have suddenly too many processes to recode in television, we have to code through a pinhole, we have to recode, assemble, code and deliver to the center of realization, wherever that is. So the television system as used legitimately does not have access to image, so-called, first-hand. It uses the organization principle of a light space through pinhole, then it copies it off, and that means there are two realities here. One is light space, other is the electronic space. And again that electronic space is converged into light space. Now, electronic image has different possibilities of presenting this organizing model or organization model of image. In fact, electronic image can disregard this principle totally and can deal with internally generated, electronically originated sort of images, which have no relationship to light space, and do not have to use an organizing principle of a pinhole.

We have maybe agreed that pinhole provides us with a cone but we cut a frame. There’s no reason for that, we just do it. It’s a tradition which we have inherited from probably painting or windows. That means the camera obscura inherited it immediately, photography inherited it, cinema and television. We could disregard this, because to create a frame is a very difficult task for magnetic forces. In fact, to create a straight line, line by line, is very difficult, and it was always difficult and it always will be difficult. The camera is the deflection system which guides beam across the tube in a perfectly straight manner. Frame is an autonomous system which has nothing to do with the light origination and light reproduction television. But the system like electronic space has one auxiliary system which is to create a frame, to deposit the energy potential on it is to take the image from the model which is prepared. To hold a scan line across, the linear energies has to be correct – it’s usually corrected a little bit, because the beam does not want to go straight, it wants to sort of go a little bit crooked, so you have to care very much how to construct this energy to pull the beam, you have to suspend the beam not only in the horizontal magnetic field but also you have to find the position of the frame vertically. To locate the beam exactly in a frame structure is a difficult task. It would be very much more natural to create a conical, spiral readout in which the beam would be reading the image to the outside; it would be blank, jump back to the middle and read it again. But unfortunately, frame was made by people that read from left to right. If the Chinese would do it, the Japanese, they’d do it differently, I’m sure they would. There’s no reason why things should be read from left to right like a book but that’s exactly what happened to the inventors. They simply followed the most obvious cultural model which is the book. And they deadlocked us in a system which presents as line by line from left to right, from top to the bottom. But anyway, it’s kind of a following a cinema. They wanted to make as good picture as film had. It’s totally conformed system.

Now I’d like to bring a concept here of a different type of image, an image in which the knowledge becomes the creative organizing principle. First of all, cinema as we somehow estimated has three components. Film camera has a distance between the apparatus and the object; it has the angle in which it accesses this particular object seen; and it has the light conditions. This becomes critical if we talk about synthetic image which usually lacks that mode which is the assignment of the light conditions in order to express certain mood, usually different set of codes has to be presented. Let’s presume that we have the possibilities of creating an archetype of image which would be not originated from copying a light space as cinema does, but would have a book of measurements of the world at its disposal coded in numbers from one to infinity. And from these numbers, every object could be created, which is no problem if we speak about simple objects like sphere, or a cube, or a pyramid. And it’s not really a problem today in assigning particular textural qualities to those simple objects, so that a certain competition with reality, or light space can be created. It’s taking one model and duplicating, or taking reality as light space and duplicating it in a synthetic way through a structure of numbers.

Camera obscura, in order to change the position, if we would like for example to observe this cube from different angle, we would have to take the camera and move it physically and create a particular difference in position of a camera. Or we would have to turn around the object physically. In electronic image, if we enter this particular cube as a data structure, the situation of selection of the angle is simplified. For example, number of distances by simply inducing calculated algorithm can reduce the scale without physical participation, the movement of the camera or the object. Because there is no camera, and the data structure itself can be manipulated on its scale factors by simply performing algorithmic functions. The same an angle of observation, even with precision of a perspective, could be coded and calculated through a mathematical coding or mathematical algorithm. The problem is number three, to present light conditions which would in fact express the mood or more subjective qualities, the process in which personalization of such a data structure is to take place. In a way, the light by its inherent perceptional code structure has to be then calculated through whole different sets of experiences. So the advantages of dealing with an object as a data structure would predominate in sense of access to the angular structure and access to the distances. There is a number of other advantages; for example, entering the object itself. In cinema or in light space, any system that is opaque, the light cannot be analyzed from its inside, particularly if it is a solid object. As a data structure we can establish easily points of observing particular structure within its own solid, or seemingly solid, space. The analysis of, for example, cross-sections of particular objects can be made with extreme ease. And moving or generating experiences through moving through the solid spaces again is an extension of our conscious arrangement of reality. Let me use an interesting quote of Hollis Frampton quoting Stan Brakhage quoting Nam June Paik. Brakhage was demanding from Nam June Paik synthesizer to make a tree and asked him, “Can you make a tree?” and Nam June Paik said, “Young. Still too young.” I mean he would indicate that the system does not have a memory structure or a referential system in which the tree could be ordered on a command, could be retrieved and presented. And that he said it’s too young, that means he did not truly insist that electronic image is inherently abstract and should not present trees. In fact, he would excuse the system; it does not have a tree, but it will have a tree, that’s what he said.

But no how would tree be there in fact, how would tree be an electronic image, is an interesting process. If you would say that you would like to have all the trees, someone would say, “Let’s take pictures,” and send like 100,000 photographers, they would wander around and take 300,000 pictures of particular kind of trees. And then these trees would be assembled in particular library, and anytime you would need a tree you would kind of dial, dial-a-tree, and it would come in a little paper and give you a tree. So eventually archetype of a tree can be built, not only as a surface, like structure of the surface in a great detail because scientists look with a microscope, which cinema seldom does. They make a cross-section, and they analyze the tree from the inside, and they know there is a ring every year. They have a particular way of seeing things that cinema cannot see. So there is a possibility of building as a data structure the most common components of such a thing like a tree, with particular common modes of branching. Now once it exists as a data structure, all accesses to that tree can be established. We can rotate the tree, we can sink below the ground and observe its roots, or we can wander through the leaves.

There is usually mistrust towards outdated data, so there is an urge for scientists to observe this particular universe in its synchronous state. And the synchronicity itself, to see universe synchronously seem to me inherited in every observation mode or in every creative mode. We can say that creative modes are always synchronous, but some creative modes insist on documenting past events, so they have to be privileged and have access to the past or deep a-synchronicity. Yet, if we would be able to survey and enter as a data structure every event and every process of evolution, there would not be any difference between the data structure and reality as a source of information. You have to understand that, up to day, most of the cinema has parasite on this earth, taking in fact a visual input of the outside of the nature, incorporating it or personalizing it brutally as their own, as originated through an act of creation. But let’s just step from this particular mode to our next mode, which would allow us to have a catalogue of the nature, to have the nature as a data structure, and we would be facing the possibility of designing of the nature. We could step into different direction and start designing objects or images which would be originated from a different part of the electromagnetic spectrum, from heat to maybe high frequencies, extending visual or extending bandwidth of light in both directions, in fact covering or uncovering totally different relationships between our established perceptional models and the objects surrounding the universe. We can also descend into data structure as our own invention and start assembling images which have no light models of reality, which do not exist in reality, but are purely construct of our consciousness. So through this particular mode we can step into what I would call active design of image or active design of reality, allowing possibilities of materialization of image and many other steps.

Cinema has total necessity for change. If there is no change, there is no cinema. Cinema has to observe cinematic event in order to find signification of that event. If we deal with a model – in this case, for example, model of space which I would call all-vision concept – in which a free-standing point is accessed by light from all the directions, then particular vector pointing somewhere would make the sense, would decode the reason for this point to be there.

IV Perception and Consciousness – forming Symbols of Light and Space

Anyway, let me first ask you some questions. What is a consciousness? Anybody have a good kind of a definition? I basically view it as kind of a holistic idea with which we incorporate intellectual and religious plus physical systems. I found out that so far, the Eastern philosophies – which I haven’t really studied, I just stumble over few articles – would linguistically be, in a way, ready to deal with consciousness as concept of space. First of all, I believe that the sphere of consciousness is a dynamic process, expanding from known territory to unknown. It has particular significance because we know that the space probes the build pictures. Once we see the picture, we adopt this or we assemble, we put this into a register and we will soon incorporate that in our consciousness. We believe there is a single universe as a space. So that would be in a way a physical layout of a sphere of consciousness in its territorial form.

The mind is designed to accept only directional information in certain time. It can create a conscious model by scanning the space, by changing the physical condition of direction. We have developed highly system which is based on scanning of information. But I have created for myself model of consciousness which can be a spherical, in which the realization is presented by the center. The memory is located in constant distance within the layers of priority of the memory distance; can be expressed by its intensity. The vector pointing to a location has no sequential character in the sense of time. In a way, if we translate this particular arrangement or this model into dynamic one, then we can create a different model. We can say for example: The man walking forward is the ultimate symbol of purpose. He’s heading towards the goal, the destination. The forward space is the only one playing significant role in the realization of his, or its, own existence. But at the same time we can see the same man walking backwards towards the goal and his experience will be quite different. So the allocation or construction of a point which can serve as all-vision concept, which can become a receptor of activities of the space, will eventually lead us into understanding of non-sequential model of perception. All media, especially media dealing with sound and media like cinema and television are based on highly sequential and, in the sense of image, a directional process of perception. Particularly cinema represents the utmost sequential system, in which no information reaches us in a parallel form. Now, when I examined the problem if such a model exists in my own mind, I found out certain inability to accommodate a back space. It is an understanding of a front or forward, but I have no possibility of creating behind, or feeling of being in a total space. In particular, when I was thinking about creating an instrument which would be able to accommodate all-vision concept, then I understood suddenly the optical properties or arrangement of the image would be unlike our vision, would not be able to read a space the same way as we learn to read from the Renaissance model or from the camera obscura arrangement. So the problem is not to create the receptor, the problem is to accommodate such a space within my own consciousness, whatever that means. So I create a few kinds of models again which deal with possibilities of the receptor itself. It would be a sphere which would be made from liquid crystal kind of substance and inside there would be a rotating, laser beam which would pierce, which would activate this particular surface, which normally would be opaque to the light. Whenever this particular beam would penetrate a sphere it would activate the liquid crystal and made it transparent. I would have either double pinhole system shining the beam both ways and rotating in all directions.

The other model I have tried was using of two cameras observing a sphere, a glass spherical mirror, and then looking at two monitors, I was trying to understand if my mind could accommodate front and back. Because a reflected sphere is an object that contains all the space, but if you observe it from front, we don’t see the rear. But it is an object that does reflect the whole space. So, by two cameras I could observe front and back at the same time. Plus with the rotation of two cameras, then whole space could be surveyed in particular dynamic state. Now this two half spheres would indicate that it could be accommodated through two eyes, but of course our two eyes are aligned, or they accommodate only paired images. I guess it would take some training to accommodate front and rear space through our retinal arrangement. But I think it would be worth trying. But anyway, the tendency in my thinking led in fact into developing a parallel model or parallel system that would be outside, in fact will be instrument which would be surveying reality outside myself. So I would urge you to develop your own understanding of what consciousness means, how it could be used, how it could, in fact, be practically utilized and how it could be practiced and, in fact, how could it be constructed. Eventually I guess we will reach the state in which the design of all our concepts and models can be initiated.

V Concepts of the Electronic Image as a Product and a Confinement of the Cathode Ray Tube and Possible Departures

So, we’re going to conclude this series of lectures; it was highly experimental to me and I think it was more experimental to you, with all the doubts and interests and suggestions. So anyway, we’ve arrived to a conclusion that there is a light space around us in which camera obscura makes its statement and there is an area in which image exists as a data structure regardless of what’s called reality or light space. Today we are supposed to summarize basically two ideas and elaborate on possibility of escaping the display of cathode ray tube, and try to depart into some other conclusion. There isn’t much suggestion from the outside world because, unless it’s totally secret, there’s no new organizing principle of light and there is no new way of interfacing our experience with light space. My question basically is if the set of exact information can provide some clues to our attempt to assemble particular model, either perception, consciousness or the instrument – for me these all exist on the same level. We deal with particular craft, most of us are either making movies or making pictures and I guess to find a purpose in the conclusion of our work is truly just as basic as we are, or as extended as our dreams or our concepts are. For example we want to use communication not only to receive information from the environment but also we want to be broadcasted. There is a very beautiful experiment of Ken Jacobs who put the projectors on the roofs of New York – on about three roofs – and projecting old movies through the sky, just as offered to the gods or material for the other societies to see, see them move. And there’s certain particular limitation in this action, to send the beam of light into particular direction really is reaching only the direction light travels in electromagnetic spectrum. If you broadcast a signal, it does reach all universe in a way indirectionally, so it exists as a sphere of communication.

What I could draw from my anterior involvement in this particular medium has two parts. My interest in recording 360 degrees come from preview, I made films with 360 degree recording. But video involved me in the beginning into whole different stage, just looking at the material and just trying to define what it is, how it behaves, and all those parameters really placed me into observation of the image. In particular, feedback had a particular significance because it was image with no tradition in a way as other images would have, like photographic image even on a level of processing, reprocessing, never contains the same laws as electronically-generated feedback. But the involvement into working with that kind of image was rather passive. But now I’ve reached certain point which I would like to reflect back onto that material, and it becomes very difficult, because now when I try to construct a particular model and apply it, it just doesn’t do the same. It’s, of course, more kind of frustrating. So everything has to come from the material experience before, it’s the challenge of the first. If the material is unknown, it’s challenging to know it. But, of course, at certain point you may say that you have experienced that enough, that’s your privilege, and you may try to turn it around. It’s less rewarding, because it becomes kind of a labor, becomes an involvement in which you simply have to sweat it out, and it may never be as elegant or natural or beautiful; on the contrary, it may contain all the problems of your own nature. I don’t think that was very correct observation to certain degree, but I have now particular interest in conceptualizing and applying. And I think we all have to use those tools to learn about us. Because it’s the most interesting, when you look back at what you have done, suddenly you see who you are, or what kind of way your thoughts were going, which you have no way of knowing when you are doing it. Anyway, I think I’m …