Woody Vasulka (b. 1937) is a pioneering video artist who has been producing work since the 1960s. He studied engineering in Brno before moving to Prague in 1960, where he graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts as a film maker. In 1964 he married Steina Vasulka and a year later they moved to New York where they worked in the emerging field of video art and electronic media. They showed video at the Whitney Museum and in 1971 founded The Kitchen, which has been a powerful force in shaping a cultural landscape in the US. It was among the very first American institutions to embrace the emerging fields of video, performance, and cross-disciplinary explorations.
An internationally acclaimed institution, the Kitchen is one of New York’s oldest and most active nonprofit art centers, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence. Together the Vasulkas also worked to develop the Center for Media Studies at the State University of New York in Buffalo, where Woody became a professor of video. His vast body of work includes seminal documentaries, but his main focus has been on the use of electronic media in art.
He has produced extensive series of videos, some of which can be seen as cataloguing the possibilities of these new media, akin to Bach’s explorations of the fugue or György Kurtág’s ongoing series of pedagogical compositions, Játekók, exploring the potential of simple tonal and rhythmic combinations. Despite the pedagogical flavour of some of his work, Woody’s background as a documentary film maker and modernist poet often shine through in highly personal and almost narrative pieces that transcend the technical methodology of their production and are among the most expressive works of video art ever made. He became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1979 and has received many other honours and awards for his art. His work has been shown in major museums all over the world.
In 2014, the Vasulka Chamber, a center of electronic and digital art in Iceland, was established at the National Gallery of Iceland. The Vasulka Chamber is a collaboration with Steina and Woody Vasulka, and includes a part of the Vasulkas’ archive.