MARK FRANCOMBE Musician, Filmmaker, Game-designer & Kipple-monger



This text is still relevant to me and my current work. I wrote this in 1987 and is pretty much a rag-bag for stuff that was into then and predominately still am. Namely Dada, Burroughs, Cage and P Orrigge. It stands “as it was” right now, but I may make some new notes (maybe in a different colour) as some stuff Im not so happy with now. But anyway.
A good effort Mark 8/10

SYNESTHESIA linking sound and vision

In this dissertation I will show how the ideas and concepts behind the area of video art that I am primarily interested in, are not new. In fact I will make a connection between the scientific studies of Louis Castel in the 14th Century and Scratch video in the 1980’s.

My main concerns are to do with the connections between sound and vision and the ability of video to be used like collage, with complex layers of superimposition and the abstraction of real images into non representational forms.

I have found three words which best express what I am going to talk about. Although they all mean slightly different things they are all concerned with the connection of one medium and sense with another, for example: sound with image, movement and rhythm or colour and sound.

Synaesthesis is the harmony of different or opposing impulses

produced by a work of Art, it refers to the simultaneous perception of harmonic opposites. Its sensorial effect is known as synaesthesia , the Ancient Greeks are believed to have coined the term.

Kinaesthesia means much the same, “The term kinetic” as Gene Youngblood in his book “Expanded Cinema” explained “generally indicates motion of material bodies and the forces and energies associated with it. Thus to isolate a certain type of film as kinetic means we’re talking more about forces and energies than about matter. I define aesthetic quite simply as the manner of experiencing a thing through the forces and energies associated with its motion. This is called Kinæsthesia , the experience of sensory perception.”

Synesthesia (or colour-hearing) is a phenomenon where people

associate certain sounds with certain colours and vice versa Although it is actually a psychological disorder everyone to a certain extent has experienced it. For example everyone knows what we mean when we talk about warm colours and cold colours , even though colour in itself has no heat in it.

In this dissertation I will investigate those people: scientists, artists, film-makers who throughout history have been working with these phenomena for various reasons, some psychological_ and scientific and some creative and aesthetic.

Of course I have been very selective when choosing which people to consider. I make no apologies for writing mainly about people that interest me and missing out people that do not.

“All that visible objects have of magnificence and brilliance can be turned to the profit of the new clavessin . It is susceptible to all manner of embellishments. Gold and azure, metals and enamels, crystals, pearls, diamonds, embroideries satins, velvets,etc , will not be only ornaments, but will form the body itself of the machine and be as its proper substance. For example, one can form the colours themselves with precious stones or buncles , the greens with emeralds etc,; and what. brilliance and splendour a spectacle would possess where one could see appear from all parts and shine like stars, sometimes jacinths , and rubies, and sapphires – all these accompanied with the light of torches in an apartment all hung with mirrors. It would be an infinitely brilliant spec?tacle as an immobile decoration where everything would be in harmony, but what would it be like if movement and a regular, measured, harmonic, and quick movement animated all, giving it a sort of life? It would be a charm, a glory, a paradise!?

Jesuit priest called Louis Bernard Castel (1588-1757) wrote these words, In his book ‘La musique en couleurs ‘ (1720) in which he also described an instrument called the ‘ Clavessin Ocvlaire ‘. Although his experiments were more or less theoretical he did visualize this device, which apparently used prisms and tapes and employed natural daylight admitted through a window into a darkened room.

Aside from the then revolutionary alliance of colours with the notes of the diatonic scale in music, Castel wrote of spectacular colour effects that were unknowingly attempted in the night shows and discotheques of the sixties. It is doubtful of course that he actually achieved any of the effects that he described.

He did however make the first comparisons between colour and music, comparisons which sowed the seed for centuries of artists and musicians to experiment and think on.

“What stranger enterprise could be imagined in the whole field of art, than to make sound visible, to make available to the eyes those many pleasures which Music affords to the ears? Two years ago I read the ‘ Misurgie ‘ (of Father Kircher ). It was somewhere there that I came across the idea that, if at a fine concert we were able to see how the air is disturbed by all the different tremors aroused by voices and instruments, we should discover to our astonishment a sprinkling of the most vivid and well assorted colours . That is what _I would call a ‘seed of discovery’. The modification of light gives us colours , and that of sound Tones: the mixture of colours makes painting, that of tones Music.”

There was much interest in Castel’s ideas, from musicians, artists and scientists who worked to build sophisticated colour organs and projection devices. Jameson suggested a system of

notation for the new art. His own instrument consisted mainly of glass receptacles containing liquids of various colours , which acted as filters for light projections on to a wall covered with reflecting metal plates.
America , around 1880, Bainbridge Bishop constructed an instrument which formed part of an organ and projected combinations of colour upon a small screen. Bishop was aiming for kind of simultaneity between music and his projections.

At the end of the nineteenth century, several books on the subject of ‘colour music’ were published. Alexander Wallace Rimington gave public displays of the colour organ which he had constructed, and published “Colour Music, the art of mobile colour,” in 1911.

Also in 1911 ‘Prometheus’, poem of fire, by Scriabin , received its first performance in Moscow . The Russian composer had written, in a part for ‘ Tastiera per luce ‘ (light keyboard) in the score. Scriabin wrote that each mode corresponded to a particular shade of colour, and each modulation to a nuance of the shade. Changes from a major key into a minor key could mean amazing contrasts in lighting as well as music.

“We should not look at this picture with the eye of a romantic, but see in it the function of movement, the penetration and conquest of space, Light is the way; the material recedes. The machine is the servant of movement no longer a functional creature of form for its own sake.”
This typical quotation illustrates the spirit of the age: the machine, light, dynamics, space, overcoming function, even though the quotation is actually only the caption to a night-time photograph of a train.

Part 2 DADA

From 1900 to the 1920’s, dynamic and technological innovations were received with even greater fascination than the moon landings we can see on TV from our armchairs these days. Indeed as time goes on the less technology amazes us. It is true that today the young are much less in awe of computers and video than the previous generation were of television and spaceflight.

Not only did light fascinate scientists and musicians but also artists and film-makers . Naum Gabo not only created the first kinetic sculpture (‘The Rotating Rod’), but also suggested several light sculptures. His most famous project was the installation of a light sculpture in front of the Brandenburg Gate, which was published in the Bauhous magazine of 1928. Moholy Nagy’s kinetic ‘light machine’ is one of the most important works with respect to the early development of light art, and the non-objective film, as his sculpture became the subject of his structural film: Light Play: black – white – grey (1930).

From 1910 onwards the Italian Futurist artists, such as Marinetti and Russolo , became interested in Music as an alter?native medium with which to demonstrate their philosophies. Luigi Russolo in 1913 wrote a manifesto called “The Art of Noises” this theories were backed up by the manufacture of ‘noise boxes’ discussed in his paper, and with which he gave several concerts. The boxes were fitted with megaphone like horns that amplified the various noise sources inside them, activated by handles. There was an Ulvlatone (Gurgler), a Sibilatone (Rustler) and a Scoppiatone ( Exploaer ), among Russoio’s numerous devices.

His concerts were usually at Futurist events, where he would perform as one of many attractions. Futurist paintings were paraded across the stage, while the music was playing, people would dress up, perform sketches, mimes and read poems. These were however quite smal l, l ow key events, and the futurists never really organised very ambitious shows. They were often banned because of the wrecked halls that they left behind them, except on one or two occasions, such as the event on the 7th November, 1922 , at Baku in the USSR . The factory sirens and steam whistles of the entire city were augmented by the foghorns of the Caspian Fleet, a battery of artillery, machine gunners and aircraft. These were conducted from the rooftops to produce a revolutionary celebration of Socialist art. Also Russolo did visit England to perform at the London Colliseum , two pieces called ‘The awakening of a Great City ‘ and A meeting of Motor Cars and Aeroplanes . Which, in retrospect gives the same feeling of false optimism that attaches to many of the Futurist paintings of biplanes as the ultimate ideal of speed, or of guns as ultimate weapons.

During World War I, Zurich , was a haven for refugees from every European country and formed the ideal place for their demon?strations against war, chauvinism and outworn aesthetic traditions. A special group was formed by the poets Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings the painter, sculptor and poet Hans Arp and the poet Tristram Tzara ; all of which had the same ideas and political beliefs as each other. At the beginning of 1916 Huqo Ball hired an empty room at the ” Meierei ” public house, Spiegelgasse J_ in Zurich , here he opened a caberet with his wife Emmy Hennings .

At first the ” Caberet Voltaire” was purely a meeting place for Balls friends, who all contributed to the programme . As time went on, the cabaret developed into part Art gallery, part concert hall and part cafe. By way of a programme the artists presented strange works never before seen or heard. Noise music, simultaneous poems read by four to seven voices speaking one against the other, bizarre dances in grotesque masks and costumes, were interspersed with readings of strange sounding German and French sound verse, and solemn recitations of texts by Jakob Boehme and. Zao T se .

On the wall would hang works by artists whose names were as yet, unknown: Arp , Picasso, Marinetti , Modigliani etc.

The confusion and anarchy which the artists would perform every week, was often enough to make the audience fight, jeer, and throw bottles, but other times the audience would be tamed by maybe one thing that they enjoyed and anything which followed would be cheered and applauded wildly.

Although neither the Futurists or the Dadaists were strictly interested in the links between music and image, their performances are of considerable interest as they were attempting to produce a complete multi-media event in which many ridiculous and unconnected events came together in a complete sensory experience. In much the same way as Andy Warhols “Plastic Exploding inevitable” of the late 1960’s.

It must be said though, that no accounts (by casual observers) exist, and so we have only the somewhat biased opinions of the artists involved, so whether the events were actually successes or not is open to conjecture.

Part 3 FILM

The invention of the movie film was crucial in the development of synaesthetic experiments in the late 19th century. At this time a number of visual artists began to see a potential for cinema which was not being realized by the film entertainment industry, which had seen a period of technical novelty and film tricks, die and a move to popular entertainment (where it has stayed, very firmly, ever since).

Early film experiments were few and far between mainly due to the scarcity of equipment, the difficult technology, and the extremely high price.

As with the birth of video art (which was yet to come in the 50’s and 60’s) the earliest works of film as a self conscious art, were mainly concerned with the actual nature of film and the techniques used to gain various effects to produce 3 dimensional (moving) abstract art. Experiments included animation, hand tinting, using negative stock, deliberate over exposure. Basically the film industry had already adopted a standard of film ethics and conventions so artist/filmmakers tried to confront these barriers and show them for what they were. (it is interesting to note that again with the advent of video, the first artists to use the new technology were also primarily interested with breaking the conventions, those of television.)

The first groups of works which can be in any way understood to represent this direction were those abstract films produced in Germany in the early twenties. Even though the artists concerned were aware of each other and collaborated to some extent, their products display some significant differences in attitude.

Four artists can be included in this group: Walter Ruttmann , Viking Eggeling , Hans Richter and Oskar Fischringer . Of the four only Fischringer had not already worked as a painter before he made films. Ruttmann , Eggeling and Richter were already involved deeply in abstract art when they came to consider film. Certainly in the cases of Richter and Eggeling , at the time engaged in close artistic collaboration, their movement to film was the result of a logical progression from the concerns which they had been developing in painting.

Their films can be seen to be influenced by the contemporary art movements and concerns of the time namely Cubism and Futurism and to an extent Constructivism. Devices like lines and shapes in rhythmic repetition were used. Machine like movements are contrasted with organic metamorphosis of forms. “Conflicts between sharp, wedge-like forms which probe aggress?ively” (in Ruttmanns Opus II) “towards weaker, rounder forms”. Actually Ruttmann only made four complete abstract films in a series he called ” Lichtspield ” numbering them Opus I to IV. Although the first two are primarily experiments Ruttmann made with animation, the last two see the emergence of a more geometric form of abstraction and a more mathematical or mechanical rhythm in the movement. The concentration on rectilinear forms and diagonals has been said to be an attempt to relate directly to the predominant geometry of the screen and the “mechanical analogies of the medium”. The fourth ‘Opus’ takes the geometry further and evolves from it some sections which, rather than establishing geometric shape, divide the screen so boldly or transform it so rapidly that it is the optical effect that predominates. The effect becomes divorced from the shapes or forms which cause it, resulting in a visual buzz which affects the eye and hence the brain. An analogy in painting might be how two normal colours , when put together, produce a ‘clash’ between them if they are constrasting colours , this sometimes appears to result in ‘actual’ movement, as in the paintings by Brigitte Riley.

Ruttmanns films are all based on analogies with music and drama. The gestures of his figures – gliding, pulsing, swelling, flickering etc. – occur in sequences and rhythms as in orchestral music, with themes and ‘melodies’ repeating and changing in variations of speed and density; with ‘harmony’

and ‘counterpoint’ of shape. His designs enact dramatic scenes and conflicts, adventurous transformations for example, glowing, rounded sensuous shapes erotically touching and penetrating each other are attacked by opaque black squared and pointed shapes that jut in from the top of the frame and drive them out the bottom. Richter’s films were not wholly abstract, he was more concerned with reducing representational imagery to abstract forms (the true meaning of the word abstract). In “film studie ” 1926 he cuts together representational film with visual equivalents in abstract animation. Eyeballs floating about in space are followed by circles which move around and overlap like bubbles; A cliff face packed with birds craning their heads out of nests is followed by lots of rectangles which move about colliding and intersecting in a similar way, etc. He also made films which although visually similar to Ruttmanns , where apparently the result of spontaneity. Richter said that, “They are a ‘mixed bag’ of animation experiments which derive their images from spontaneous manipulations under the animation camera edited together later without a pre-considered composition for the whole work (film as film 1978)”. He still managed to share some of the optical and rhythmic dynamism of Ruttmanns last ‘Opus’ film, with bold and sweeping divisions of the screen ?Writing of “Rhythm 2” he said, “I mean that by taking the whole movie screen, pressing it together and opening it up, top, bottom, sides, right, left, you don’t perceive form any more, you perceive movement.”

Working at about the same time was the Hungarian Lazlo Moholy -Nagy, who was closely involved with the Bauhaus. Although he did not produce films until much later, and then in documentary form, the ideas and directions he envisaged in his writing and the experiments he carried out in photography were part of a substantial development in cinema. In his book ‘Painting. Photography, Film’ (1925) Published by the Bauhaus, he related the practice of photography and film closely. He rediscovered with Man Ray the Fox Talbot technique of the photogram or Rayogram , where the image is produced by direct contact of an object on a photoplate , recording the trace of its shadow. Man Ray took this technique further to produce films by this method.

In particular Moholy Nagy’s photocollages , combining photographic images with abstract elements and abstract compositions, appears to be a direct influence upon the underground filmmakers of the fifties and sixties. He had visions of a ‘ Polykino ‘, a precursor to the ‘happenings’ and ‘light shows’

of that time. In his writing he sought a base for film-art, not by simply replacing the literary and theatrical dominance of narrative film by those of painting or music, but a kind of acceptance of both.

The credit for widening the interest of this new form of film should go to Oskar Fischinger . Though not a pupil or friend of Ruttmanns , he saw the Opus films as a student and chose to develop many of the themes and styles implied by Ruttmanns films. Fischinger liked to use rich, complex images and because he had a fascination for technology he produced some forty films in which the articulation of imagery were extremely complicated. In these films he used dozens of different animation media.

In the late 1920’s Fischinger developed an interest in eastern mysticism, something he shared with Kupra , Kandinsky , Mondriarn and other non-objective painters. He filled his films with suggestions of galaxies, comets and rockets, cells and atom splitting, mandalas , yin-yang symbols and third eye images and was probably the biggest single influence on the film and video makers of the sixties in terms of psychedelic imagery. However his films were often misinterpreted as illustrations of music, in the same way as Disney’s “Fantasia”. They both believed that in putting their films to music and maybe (in Disneys case) making them humorous that they would be accepted more readily by ordinary people. This plan backfired and although people did accept them and enjoy them they treated them as a f orm of kitch culture novelty and not as serious artistic film experiments. In 1936 he emigrated to America and so brought his interests to a younger generation of filmmakers, who while very impressed by Fischinger’s visual and technical mastery were offended by his soundtracks which were pop classical tracks, too reminiscent of jingles or interludes. Hence they overlooked the mystical messages in his films. Ironically the best filmmakers of this group, James Whitney, Jordan Belson and Harry Smith. are all deeply mystical themselves.


The closest to Fischinger of these younger artists was Jordan Belson , who turned from abstract painting to filmmaking after seeing Fischinger’s films in a San Fransisco Cinema festival in 1946.

In those years Belson , living in North Beach near San Fransisco was part of the movement known as the Beat generation, full of Dizzy Gillespie, marijuana and Zen Buddhism. ‘Bop Scotch’ consists of single frame images of objects on the sidewalk, but photographed so carefully in such a well planned sequence that the objects seem to assume living form, “moving and flowing into each other”, this shows the Buddhist respect for the spiritual identity of all things, including inanimate objects, which in this film are shown to live. Another film “Raga” consists of complex patterns which were drawn on a scroll and pulled past a kaleidoscope.

However he later withdrew these films from circulation as he decided that they were amateurish in comparison with what he was doing later.

In May 1957 Belson collaborated with Henry Jacobs at. the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco for the Vortex Concerts. Henry Jacobs was a poet and composer of electronic music.

The sixty foot dome was surrounded by close to fifty loud?speakers and Jacobs had a keyboard which was designed to spin sounds rotationally around the dome. In addition, Belson supervised the installation of many different projection devices, star projectors, strobes, rotational sky projectors, kaleidoscope projectors, and four special dame projectors for interference patterns.

Belson said of the equipment they had,

“We could tint the space any colour we wanted to. We could get it it down to jet black, and then take it down another twenty-five degrees lower than that so you really got that sinking-in feeling. Also we experimented with projecting images that had no motion picture frame lines; we masked arid filtered the light, and used images that didn’t touch the frame lines, we were able to project images over the entire dome, so that things would come pouring down from the center, sliding along the walls. At times the whole place would. seem to reel.” (“Expanded Cinema” 1970).

Jacobs and Belson conducted approximately one hundred Vortex concerts, including two weeks at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Most of his films up to this point were animation’s using hand drawn cards or his kaleidoscopic scrolls, but after working on the Vortex concerts he found himself moving away from animation toward continuous real-time photography using a special optical bench which he built. It was essentially a plywood frame around an old X Ray stand with rotating tables, variable speed motors, and variable intensity lights, an amazingly simple device. Belson did not however divulge his methods, not out of concern for trade secrets as the techniques are known to many specialists in optics, but more (as he said) as a “magician maintaining the illusion of his magic”. He destroyed hundreds of feet; of film because he felt the technique was too evident.

He created his own soundtracks using home synthesizer equip ment , as he felt the soundtrack was a most important part of the piece, in fact Belson said that “The sound often is so intergral to the imagery that you don’t know if your seeing it or hearing it.”

As I have already mentioned, Belson was a very spiritual and mystic person. His most important films such as Allures, Re-Entry, Phenomena Samadhi and momentum all deal with different aspects of Buddhist, and/or Cosmic philosophies.

Gene Youngblood in his gushingly psychedelic book “Expanded Cinema” describes some of the visual orgasms which appear in Allures, a film in which the story line is quite simply the creation of the Universe?

“After the glowing blue baton vanishes the screen is black and silent . Almost imperceptibly a cluster of blue dots breaks from the bottom into magnetic force field that become a complex grid pattern of geometrical shapes superimposed on one another until. the frame is filled with dynamic energy and mathematical. motion . A screeching electronic howl accentuates the tension as galaxies of force fields collide, permutate , and transmute spectacularly. Some squadrons rush toward the camera as others speed away. Some move diagonally, others horizontally or vertically. It’s all strongly reminiscent of 2001 – except that it t was made seven years earlier. Elsewhere in the film rumbling thunder is heard as flying sparks collect into revolving atomic structures, from whose nuclei emanate shimmering tentacles of tweetering multicoloured light. At the end we hear ethereal harp music as a pulsating sun, fitfully spewing out bright particles reveals within itself another glimmering galaxy. ”


Zone of white vapour programmed spectrum “The dead are living electric units phoned away – supersonic – they merge on crystal enemy in blue heat their pictures spell out in Piccadilly on the Metallic Voice Writer and produce



So who owns Death TV?

With the advent of video and television technology, many filmmakers began to work- in this new medium.

Basically there are three main types of video art (which can be applied to any art just as easily). They are: Conceptual, Political and Imagist (or graphical). Conceptual video art is when the artist is primarily concerned with the making of the tape, the conscious or unconscious processes that we go through when making, viewing or enjoying art, the statements made in these tapes usually involved the mind or the meaning of art, life, how we use our senses etc.

Political video art is reasonably self-explanatory. The art ‘ hopes to make some sort of (small p or large P) political statement.

However the third type of video art is what I am primarily interested in. The underlying principal in Imagist videotape artists work, is the use of video for its graphic potential alone, using the screen like a canvas, the camera like a paintbrush. There are, of course, many artists who have combined these types of art in one program to produce for instance a conceptual idea which makes a political point but in a graphically beautiful way .

I have already mentioned that when a new artistic medium becomes available then at first the main interest for artists is the using of the medium for expressive, almost painterly ideas, in fact experiments in the medium; theoretical consid?erations always come later. When film first became available to artists in the nineteen twenties and thirties, the main interest was to use the medium for its artistic potential.

I have already written about how Hans Richter and Co. used animation, hand tinting, negative etc. The birth of video art was exactly the same. As the filmmakers were influenced by the art movements of the time namely constructivism, cubism, futurism etc the video artists were influenced by their contemporary art and social movements such as pop, consumerism and the “alternative culture” of (as Timothy Leary put it) the “politics of Ecstasy ” or the psychedelic movement.

In the mid sixties it was estimated that there was over one hundred million homes with television sets, fourteen million alone in the United States . This accounts for some of the mass public; opinion regarding the Vietnam war (because) Americans for the first time could see their sons being killed as it happened), and why on 21st July 1969 the whole world for the f irst time had a public holiday because of the moon landing. Therefore it is not surprising that this medium was quickly grasped upon by artists, to use and abuse.

The first knowledge of the existence of video art for the general public, must have been in 1963 in Wuppertal for the first ever video exhibit by Korean born Nam June Paik. Paik, as a Zen -Buddhist and member of Fluxus , has been attacking Television longer than anyone. A bloody head of an ox was hanging over the door to the exhibition – Paik explained that this was “to get the audience into a oneness of consciousness so they could perceive more'”. His works involving television, has followed four, simultaneous directions: synaesthetic videotapes: distortions of the received signal; closed-circuit televisual environments; and sculpture. His first experiments were with broken televisions which he would buy in junkyards, and by altering the circuitry of his receivers with resistors, interceptors, oscillators, grids, etc, Paik created “prepared televisions”. All his work was using images taken directly from TV, what ever happened to be on at the time. However in 1965 the first portable video recorder went on sale to the public in New York . Paik bought it and made his first real video in the taxi on the way home. That evening he showed it at the Cafe a go go in New York , possibly this was the first piece of video art which did not use the equipment of television studios.

Perhaps the most spectacular of Paik’s videotape compositions was made early in 1969 for the PBL show “The medium is the medium” at WGBH-TV in Boston , where later he became artist in residence. Gene Youngblood in his book Expanded Cinema said,

“Paik brought a dozen of his TV’s into the studio; using three colour cameras he mixed these images with two nude dancers, tape delays and positive-negative image reversals. The nude slow-motion dancers in multiple levels of delayed action suddenly burst into dazzling silver sparks against emerald gaseous clouds; rainbow-hued lissajous figures revolved placidly over a close-up of two lovers kissing in negative colours ; images of Richard Nixon and other personalities in warped perspectives alternated with equally warped hippies. All this was set against a recording of the moon?light Sonata, interrupted periodically by a laconic Paik who yawned, announced that life was boring, and instructed the viewer to close his eyes just as some fabulous visual miracle was about to burst across the screen. Paik said of video art “As collage replaced oil paint so the cathode ray tube will replace canvas”.

In one of his earlier exhibitions Paik designed a “video cello” Concerto for TV cello (1971), for cellist Charlotte Moorman. Ms Moorman “wore” a complex device consisting of several television monitors piled one on top of another to form a “cello” shape. Moorman also happened to be wired up to these devices and as she “played” the cello various shapes occurred on the screens of the sets.

Another work Paik made for Moorman called TV Bra and was made in conjunction with a piece called Train Bra. The TV Bra consisted of two miniature television sets affixed to Ms Moormans breasts; the Train Bra was two little train engines fixed to a bra worn by Ms Moorman. (only in the sixties!) The connection between trains and video art was that according to Paik “video artists are pioneer experimenters in telecommunications”.

“Someday more elaborated scanning system and something similar to matrix circuit and rectangle modulation system in colour TV will enable is to send much more information at single carrier band, , video, pulse, temperature, moisture, pressure of your body combined. If combined with robot made of rubber, form expandable-shrinkable cathode-ray tube, and if it is ” une petite robotine “…please, tele -fuck! with your lover RIO

Nam June Paik. 1965.

In this typically lighthearted view on the future of Televisual Technology, Nam June Paik sums up all that he is about, that is the destruction of television as it is today. He sees television as a “sucking and spitting hole” in the corner of everyone’s living rooms, and every evening millions of people prostrate themselves in front of their god and accept every?thing it tells them. No-one believes everything they read in the papers but if they saw a TV programme about something they feel they know the whole story. TV tells us who to look like, how to vote, whether to buy Care Bears or Masters of the Universe, Paik’s method is to take TV images of personalities and news items and juxtapose them, change them and destroy them, he visualised families enjoying new forms of TV amusement such as ‘Silent TV Station’, which transmits only beautiful “mood” art in the sense of “mood music”. People should learn about TV and get their screwdrivers and soldering irons out. The colour, brightness, volume, and contrast controls on the front of any TV would be complemented with Blue, Red, Green, Feedback, Posterise , Key in, warp, squeeze, bend and tear controls! (Of course, the way design is going the likelihood is of the opposite, a TV with just an on/off switch’)

The sixties video art which was mainly lush, psychedelic imagery was so intense and full of concepts that come the seventies there was such a backlash against anything that looked hippyish (or colourful , or interesting) so that video art went through a conceptual, serious phase, (which I find most boring) and it was not until the Eighties that any of Nam June Paiks statements about “home Video art” began to come true. There has been, over the last few years, a change in attitude towards the television, mainly due to the advent of, firstly TV games, then home computers, teletext :, video recorders and video disc players. This means that people look at television less as just BBC and ITV and more as a home entertainment center, or something that you actually use rather than just watch. It is from this picture of home technology as a friend, that a form of art that anyone (anyone with a video that is!) could do emerged.

“Scratch video” is fast, rough and political. In theory any young video maker can mix together pictures on their ordinary home televisions and video recorders. The simplest scratch technique is to switch between channels in time with the music. This produces a set of jumping, jotting, random picture, changing with the beat. However the form has been taken and used by video makers who have access to editing equipment, and indeed some people have gone from using home video gear to becoming well respected video makers. The Duvet Brothers anti nuke piece set to the music “Blue Monday” by New Order has troops marching, SS20’s launching and people dying in time with and illustrating the music perfectly. George Barker went from rough home tapes to specially commissioned films using the glossy images of feature films. Also Gorilla Tapes were taken to court by Thames Television for using some of their footage of a speech by Ronald Reagan which they had cleverly edited so that he appeared to be saying exactly the opposite of what he was actually saying, then later commissioned them to make a “scratch” title sequences for one of their programmes (Saturday Live).

We look back at the sixties and seventies style now, and cringe at the garish unsubtle use of pattern and colour in their graphics, however I am sure we will look back at the eighties in horror of the disgusting clich? quantel effects that they bombard us with now (even the cheapest of adverts now spin about, implode, reform and career off into the distance past a computer generated grid, clouds rolling by and galaxies spinning)

Mind you I’m sure Louis Castel would be unable to contain himself with the wonderment, the glory, and the paradise!



Gregory Battock


David Curtis


Gene Youngblood


Arts Council of Great Britain


Tom Douglas Jones




HUMAN LIFE) Faber Birren



Jane Dunlap


Channel 4 Books