It is with sadness that we say goodbye to our dear friend and celebrated artist, Woody Vasulka. He died at the age of 82 in his home in Santa Fe, NM on the 20th of December.
He inspired generations of video artists.
Woody Vasulka (b. 1937, Brno), and his wife, Steina (b. 1940, Reykjavík), are considered pioneers of electronic and digital image production. During their lifelong dialogue with machines – from cathode-ray televisions to digital computer systems – they were among the first to consider the electronic signal as an artistic medium. Meeting in Prague in 1962, the Vasulkas relocated to New York in 1965 where, by the early 1970s, they began working almost entirely with machine-generated imagery. Their early technical studies were produced in what they described as ‘states of unsupervised performance’ with the artists adjusting and altering sound and image waveforms in real-time to create illusory images in virtual space. Often collaborating with a close network of engineers, musicians, and artists, they invented new electronic and digital devices to realize video environments.
Woody, along with Steina were founders of the new media performance space, The Kitchen in New York (1971); and creator, with Jeffrey Schier in 1976, of the Digital Image Articulator. Through five decades of highly experimental and original contributions, Woody’s work has shaped and continues to articulate the structure and materiality of video. The Vasulkas, numerous technicians, programmers, and information technology developers created novel images, whose meaning and machine aesthetic overpower their filmic one, in what Woody has claimed “speaks of a weird cultural interfacing” with other arts. Gene Youngblood has noted, “Not only were the Vasulkas in the center of electronic culture from its inception, they were the center of that culture during its formative decade and beyond.”
He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979, and with Steina, he won the Siemens Media Art Prize, a prestigious award given out by the ZKM Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, in 1995. In 2014, the Vasulka Chamber opened inside the National Gallery of Iceland, which led to the The Vasulka Kitchen Brno opening at The Brno House of Arts in Czech Republic in 2018, his home town, in honour of the great artist.