In the fall of 1973 the Vasulkas moved to Buffalo, N.Y. to teach a video workshop at the Center for Media Study. In 1974 Woody became a faculty member at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where Steina also later taught. They remained in Buffalo until 1979. The Vasulkas had already begun their investigations into the phenomenology of video, but they probably couldn't have had a more intellectually compatible environment. In the same department were Paul Sharits, Hollis Frampton, and Tony Conrad - all filmmakers who were, in different ways, dealing with structures of moving images.
Our work is a dialogue with the tool and the image, so we would not preconceive an image separately, make a conscious model of it, and then try to match it. We would rather make a tool and dialogue with it.... But it is more complex, because we sometimes design the tools, and so do conceptual work as well. 23
The Vasulkas often speak of their work as a dialogue with the tools they use. In fact, tools are so central to their work that they list each one, along with credit to its designer on their videography. This information is useful in a consideration of the Vasulkas' work, but it might be construed as a characterization of the Vasulkas as "tool cultists," worshipers of technology oblivious to the negative social uses to which various technologies have been put. I don't think this assessment is valid, for behind their development and use of imaging devices is a set of concerns that is neither exclusively formal nor purely technological.
As I discussed in my first article in this series, prior to the introduction of consumer video products, the design of video equipment was geared toward broadcasting and industry. Much of the equipment we now take for granted - color cameras and lightweight porta-paks, for example - were either unavailable or unaffordable for most people. It was even more difficult to acquire the devices associated with image-processing - keyers, colorizers, mixers, and synthesizers. What's more, that equipment was usually more suitable for producing special effects than for artists' experiments. Consequently, artists found themselves seeking out equipment designers who, in one way or another, were mavericks within the electronics' industry. As Woody recalls,
I discovered that in the United States there's an alternative industrial sub-culture which is based on individuals, in much the same way that art is based on individuals.... These people, the electronic tool designers, have maintained their independence within the system. And they have become artists, and have used the electronic tools which they had created.... We've always maintained this very close, symbiotic relationship with creative people outside industry, but who have the same purposeless urge to develop images or tools, which we all then maybe call art. 24
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