ikono ON AIR festival selection; 'From The Abstract Into the Sublime’

The online festival ikono ON AIR took place from 06-26 september. Everyday there was a program to be seen with works of more than one hundred international video and media artists. Under the title ‘From The Abstract Into the Sublime’ LIMA presented a large selection of medium-specific works from between 1974 and now, out of our collection.

From the abstract into the sublime – Medium specific video art from the LIMA collection

Throughout history, mark making has evolved as humans developed language and communication skills. Tools and media have been developed that assist in the process of communication from as far back as Eurasians writing on clay tablets over 4000 years ago, inscribing earliest letter forms and pictograms, right the way throught to the modern day electronic PDA. Most interestingly, not all forms of communication were or are made to communicate any one specific idea or language that can be intrepreted directly, objectively or resolutely. 

As art practices evolved, historians, critics and artists alike scrambled to make sense of the abundance of marks that man or woman has made and thus branded centuries, decades and types of artworks with a wondrous array of descriptive names. However subjective this may seem, when communication fails us and there is no pre-determined or strict way to define what we intend to communicate, we often result to calling this experimentation. As technologies advance at an exponential rate it has become common practice for anyone to be able to take part in beta testing. A way for almost anyone to help discover and develop new technology via a form of experimentation.

Video art and the technology involved in producing video images continues to be developed through software aswell as hardware and although the term 'video' may seem technologically antiquated when asscoiated with videotape, the legacy continues in varying forms. From the late fifties onwards, custom made electronic components, television and computers were all becoming tools used to communicate new forms of artistic flair where cameras were not necessarily needed as a starting point for source imagery. In this sense the earliest forms of video art predate what is commonly written in art history by five years. Before Nam June Paik was using his Sony Portapak in 1965, Lee Harrison was developing a hybrid graphic animation computer called the ANIMAC where some of the basic principles were to animate jointed skeletal figures on a screen in what appeared to be three dimensions. Principles that have been developed and that are still very much in use with modern software such as the open source software, Blender.

During the sixties and early seventies, video and audio synthesizers were engineered independently. Wonderful examples of these machines are GROOVE and VAMPIRE from 1970, otherwise known as Generated Realtime Output Operations on Voltage-controlled Equipment and the Video And Music Program for Interactive Realtime Experimentation. Both were developed by Max Mathews whose name is also synonymous with MAX/MSP, a modular software programming environment for developing multimedia applications widely in use today. Another video synth called the Sandin Image Processor is often referred to as being the video equivalent of the famous Moog audio synthesizer. An analogue, modular realtime instrument that received, mixed and modulated video signals, meaning that it could be used for live performances. Consequently, the engineer responsible for this image processor, Dan Sandin, also had the foresight to allow for circuit board layouts to be easily obtained for ordinary manufacturing costs together with free documentation and schematics. Sandin would also run open workshops so that interested individuals could learn to assemble and fix the modules and electronic equipment. All of these actions contributed to a wider knowledge base and allowed for further experimentation. The Rutt Etra analogue scan processor worked in a similar vein and was used by Steina and Woody Vasulka who would learn to construct equipment accordingly, also with the idea for collaboration in mind after co-founding the Kitchen in New York in 1971. Over time, the costs for such specialised electronics began to fall, especially with the introduction of the Fairlight CVI in 1983 which allowed the controller to draw over and effect a video signal with a small graphics pad, a set of sliders and a stylus. From here, the computer began to take precedence in the form of the Amiga and soon after as computers became more powerful and faster, software began to replace expensive, huge 'mission control' like hardware units. 

Now software is used today by artists all over the world for creating not only single channel video artworks or registrations of software manipulation but also for live performances and interactive art. These developments also helped to establish the VJ culture that has become so prolific. More recently we have become part of a 'do it yourself' society and started circuit bending at home by hot wiring old games consoles, electronic instruments and kids toys. Yet more experimentation yielding some wildly unreliable and fantastic results. 

Many earlier more abstract or experimental video art images produced formed a generic whole in that they were often swirling colourful geometric patterns, pictograms, sometimes mirrored and optical feedback was commonly used together with the ubiquitous noise and flicker of disturbed signals where the appearance of such images were often determined to a large degree by the type of technologies employed. Images could also be seen reacting to audio or other external sources. Hence, new forms of electronic mark making emerged and were incorporated into many different genres or facets of video art.

The works chosen for this tour were selected mainly according to their visually generic qualities in an attempt to zero in on the details of how they were made as opposed to how they can be interpreted or what they are meant to reference as it is clear that the tools used, play an everlasting role in how these images appear, however, other references cannot be ignored completely. Some works distinctly acknowledge the technology involved, for example, this is highly apparent in Homemade TV (1974) and Noisefields (1974) by the Vasulkas. Livinus and Jeep van de Bundt proclaimed that they were painting with light in Moire (1975).
Peter Struycken is one of the godfathers of computer-generated art in the Netherlands. He started working with the computer in 1969 and mainly works with evolving color fields. Trevor Batten tells us quite simply in his work titles that these are 'Audio Visual Experiments' (1976) and Gary Hill makes use of the most austere graphic images to convey prepared text as conceptualism in Processual Video (1980) and Videograms (1981). There is work that appears to be a direct capture close up of a programme being broacast and losing reception on a television screen from Fredy Beckmans and Yntse Vuchts in Tempo di Valse (1987) and does Colours and Patterns (1988) by Marc Burkett somehow echo the painted light of Livinus? Then comes a slight transition with work that lends itself more to the use of software, although in Black Dog Dreams (1988), Matthew Schlanger montages segments of synthesized realtime recordings. Are we watching a registration of an edited private performance? Renate Oblak and Michael Pinter, aka reMi, collaborate to seemingly randomise an array of on screen computer glitches and in the process detract our attention away from a hidden text message in Belchic QE (2000). Finally we move full circle and are confronted with a work of many levels. That of single channel video work, performance and registration. FDBK/AV Red Flag (2005) by Bas van Koolwijk is a work that makes use of a custom made software application in MAX/MSP. It responds to human interaction via midi controllers and also from data cycled in a feedback loop monitoring audio and algorithms based on a video signal. We are in fact watching a live performance where the skewing image directly references a common problem found in viewing videotape called 'flagging'. The faults in technology become the work. Perhaps the technology itself is also the work? ‘Field Notes from a Mine’ (2012) visualizes a 6900 kilometer pilgrimage in Africa, from the southern Sudan to Marrakech, Morocco. The completely digital environment is created on the basis of pilgrimages carried out between 1300 and 1900. The video contains no filmed images or recorded sound: everything has been composed and generated at a distance. Swan Song is a sparkling ode to the atom of the digital image: the pixel.


The Vasulkas – Homemade TV (1974)
The Vasulkas – Noisefields (1974)
Livinus and Jeep van de Bundt – Moire (1975)
Livinus and Jeep van de Bundt – Percussie VI (1977)
Peter Struycken – Grid 3 (1977)
Trevor Batten – Audio Visual Experiments (1976)
Gary Hill – Processual Video (1980)
Gary Hill – Videograms (1981)
Marc Burkett – Composition No 6 (1988)
Marc Burkett – Colours and Patterns (1988)
Matthew Schlanger – Black Dog Dreams (1988)
reMI – Belchic QE (2000)
Bas van Koolwijk – TST.02 (2000)
Bas van Koolwijk – FDBCK/AV – Red Flag (2005)
Martijn van Boven & Tom Tlalim – Field Notes From A Mine (2012)
Anouk De Clercq, Anton Aeki & Jerry Galle – Swan Song (2013)