Woody Vasulka, pioneering video artist, RIP

  • (If you don't know Woody's work and contribution to the field of video art, you should. For some details, you can look at this obituarry in in Art News.)

    Woody Vasulka was one of the most inspiring artists that I had the pleasure to spend time with. Woody and his partner Steina were close friends of Morton Subotnick, and because of my work with him, I would have the chance to spend time with them often in the early 90's into the 00's. Aside from being the origin of the word "ranch" in Troika Ranch (see below) the thing I most remember about Woody was that, whether he was speaking about the nature of media in art, offering an opinion on politics, or simply making dinner at his and Steina's strange and wonderful adobe abode in Santa Fe, he always surprised me with the an unexpected, twinkling turn of thought that left me saying "My God! That's so true... why didn't I see it from that angle?" Woody was one of those rare people whose neurons were connected in such an unconventional way that he saw things as others could not.

    Concerning the origin of the word "ranch" in Troika RanchDawn Marie Stoppiello and I were lucky enough to have a residency at the Yellow Springs Institute in Pennsylvania, along with Woody, Steina, Morton Subotnick, and Joan La Barbara. It is important to note that all of us lived in the Southwestern United States: Dawn and I in Los Angeles, and the rest in Santa Fe, New Mexico. One night there, after copious amounts of vodka had been consumed and in the midst of a discussion about the nature of collaboration, Woody suddenly declared with a twinkle in his eye: "Every collective in the west should be a ranch. We already have the Vasulka ranch and the Subotnick/LaBarbara ranch, and so Coniglio/Stoppiello should be a ranch also!" We took Woody's declaration to heart, and so the latter half of the name "Troika Ranch" was born. I don't think Woody remembered this incident, but I am happy that the name of our company was, in part, an everlasting honorarium to Woody's spirit, inventiveness and humor.

    Since you are probably an Isadora user, one final note: it was at Woody and Steina's place that I actually got to see a real Rutt-Etra video synthesizer in action. As much as I love Vade's digital implementation, I can tell you it is not nearly as beautiful as its analog inspiration.

    To close, thank you Woody for the times we spent together. I wish your memory well now that you have left this earthly plane. We are all in your debt.

    Sincerely + With Love,

  • Dear Mark,o/Media art

    I agree with you about the importance of Woody and Steina Vasulka for Video/Media art. I never meet them but their work accompanied me all the time and I always show their work to my students. We lost a fantastic man.