A key figure in the early history of video art, Steina Vasulka has been working in the medium since the 1960s. In tandem with technological advances in the recording and transmission of video images, she has catalyzed new uses of the camera and of imaging technologies for expressive ends. As is true in much experimental film and video of the period, Vasulka's work does not conceal the presence of the camera, but instead makes the viewer aware of the extraordinary capacity of this machinery to shape perception and transform space. The electronic manipulation of landscape imagery and music are consistent themes in the three solo and two collaborative pieces that will be presented in Steina Vasulka, a survey of the artist's work from 1970 to 1995. The exhibition will be on view in the Museum's Video Gallery (179) from January 12 through March 14, 1999.
A classically trained violinist, Vasulka featured the instrument in one of her earliest works, Violin Power (1970-8), a layered study of sound and image. This work will be included in Steina Vasulka, along with Somersault (1982), a piece in which a camera with a mirrored lens yields dizzying panoramic images and merges the artist and the machine. In Lilith (1987), Vasulka mapped a landscape onto the electronically altered face of a woman, the painter Diana Cross. In the Land of the Elevator Girls (1990), created in collaboration with Woody Vasulka, presents a montage of cultural, topographic and temporal contexts viewed from the inside of elevators in various Japanese department stores. Pyroglyphs (1995), a meditative, non-narrative work, pairs elemental images such as fire and water with a mix of enhanced and distorted sound.
Born in Iceland in 1940, Vasulka studied violin in Prague in the early 1960s, where she met her husband and future collaborator, Czech-born filmmaker and video artist Woody Vasulka. The two emigrated to the United States in 1965. In 1971, they co-founded The Kitchen, the celebrated media-arts theater located in New York City. Since 1980, the couple has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they continue to work collaboratively and individually.
Steina Vasulka has been organized by Kathleen Forde of the Museum's Department of 20th-Century Art.