Time/energy object and its building element, the waveform

Short article by Woody Vasulka, published in Machine Times (2000).

The majority of images, still or moving, are captured from the visible world with the direct participation of the camera obscura principle through a process involving the interaction of light with a photo-emulsion surface. The conversion of light into a physical code occurs, depending on the construction of the shutter, practically simultaneously at each part of the emulsion frame in exposure time. Conversely, the conversion of light into energy potentials during electronic image formation is achieved sequentially, giving particular significance to the construction of the referential time frame. (The single value on the pickup tube has to possess exact time coordinates in order to be reproduced in the identical position on the display.) The organization of energy components, even in a television camera, is of course provided by the camera obscura present in front of the image pickup tube.

The possibility of disregarding this organizational principle and realizing instead the total absence of such a process in certain modes of electronic image formation has interested me the most. The result has been an inevitable descent into the analysis of smaller and smaller time sequences, a process necessary to the understanding of wave formations, their components and the process of their synthesis and programmability. To me this indicates a point of departure from light/space image models closely linked to and dependent upon visual-perceptual references and maintained through media, based on the camera obscura principle. It now becomes possible to move precisely and directly between a conceptual model and a constructed image. This opens a new self-generating cycle of design within our consciousness and the eventual construction of new realities without the necessity of external referents (W.V., Didactic video, 1974).

Digitally organized imaging

The dramatic moment of transformation into a binary code of energy events in time, as they may be derived from light, or the molecular communication of sound, or from a force field, gravity, or other physical initiation, must be realized in order to appreciate the power of the organization and transformation of a code. The process of analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversion envelops the internal digital-code operations, the state of the world, which is exclusively human-organized and cross-disciplinary. The unity of the coding structure has laid down an astonishingly versatile material from which codes are constructed and from which the hierarchical order of codes can originate.

These states of transformation exist in as many time domains as the generation, organization or processing of codes required for the media they represent. (A complex sound, for example, can operate in a lower time domain than a complex dynamic image, while other media - for example, printed text generation - seem more time-immune.) In this way, time assumes a new compositional meaning, a micro-compositional one, where control over the generation of an image can be exerted even in short or very short lengths of time. That in itself signals an urgency to define the craft in which the notion of time dominates (W.V. from Syntax of binary images, 1970s).

Comment (Woody Vasulka, August 2000)

In the long view, these two simple principles have consumed practically all my productive life. Adding the condition of real-time feedback, this basic and significant furnace of systemic power, it has bonded me to a long and mutual custodianship. It has led to the construction of various environments in which the machine becomes the suitable confinement for the practice of each specific principle. Only much later did I begin to question this condition. For an existentialist, the illusionist purpose of this kind of servitude has no meaning. But perhaps that was just a glimpse of the future: We should give up the convenient, logical and purposeful life of servility to our next kin - the machine.

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