Transcript of a video conference, Los Angeles-Amsterdam, November 2003

Kit (4’30): First of all, a little background on both of us… Sherrie started an early independent video production group in San Francisco, called Optic Nerve. I lived in Amsterdam, in 1971, and with a group of people, whit Jack Moore and the Videoheads, and a bunch of other people… The Melkweg was invented then, in it’s orginial conception it was supposed to be a multimedia center. It turned out to be a really good place to get loaded and listen to music…

So, we had a multimedia theatre in there, called the Videoheads Studio, and we used to do a lot of multimedia presentations, using video, film, and combining all those together… and whit that troupe we did a multimedia theatre for the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, where we had giant Eidaphor projectors, and 22 carousel slide projectors running in cync with paper-punch control…

And then, eventually, the core group of Videoheads migrated to Paris, and we did interactive window installations for the Sony Showroom in the Champs Elysées.

Sherrie (6’03): And I was invited to Paris by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the invitation of Felix Guattari (who came up with the concept of the Rhizome) and so I went to Paris, to talk about american experimental video. But where do you get american standard equipment in France…? So I said: “well, the person you need to talk to is Kit Galloway, he knows everything about the video in Paris”… and so, I went to Kit Galloway to get my equipment. That was like 28 years ago, and here we are..”

Kit (7’10): Almost to the date, somewhere in november, yeah… So we met, and when we met, we started lamenting about “where things were not going” — that artists were doing video, were dealing with various technologies, but most of the them were just continuing the tradition of being sorts of “gallery brats”, taking their art into the sacred gallery space, which seemed to be so divorced from the real world. (…)

Sherrie: My education was at Berkeley, in architecture. So I was interested in physical space, and how space influences people’s interactions. And so when Kit and I got together, and we put our video together, where we had both background in, as well as my architecture, and his visionary sense of bringing people together, virtually, there we were. And so we created Electronic Cafe, which was a real place, and a virtual space — that was the concept, and all we had to do was to raise the money.

Kit (10’49): In1975, we worked out a sort of a 5-year plan, kinda like the Soviet Union or something… It was like a series of projects and things that had not really been done, but that were possible, and we were saying to ourselves: “what’s taking so long with this stuff?” They seemed to be logical aspirations, but nobody was manifesting them.

Video art and all that kind of stuff was making pretty pictures, something that was an extension of cinema, there were interactive installations… mostly it was about, anything that was remotely utilizing realtime telecommunications was very much a television broadcast monitor — “artist as subject being transmitted to an audience”… So, we have a visual bias, I think we need to start with that: I think the underlying thing about all of our work is: it has never been about human-to-machine interaction, or machine-to-machine interaction. It’s really been looking at: “what can people who are separated by distance do together through technology?” … So we went about a sort of aesthetic inquiry, too look at the “cats and dogs” technology of that time, and to integrate it, and do our own conversions to realize those ideas.

There were a couple of things we wanted to model, and one of them was: “The image as place”. If you had multiple cameras around the world, and you were able to mix them together and then redistribute that, and use luminance-keying or chroma-keying, you could take people in other places, then create a composite image space — then you’ve created a “virtual room”, where everyone could convene. It was a model, like the mirror in a dance rehearsal studio. You know, everyone’s dancing, looking at themselves in the mirror, seing a reflection, and from that, they’re able to develop a choreography, get in cync and all that kind of stuff… So this was the electronic version of that: the creation of a virual space, in which full-bodied individuals could convene, an electronic image space — so the “image” becomes “place”…

We weren’t much informed by the art community, and during all of our research, we weren’t aware of Myron Krueger’s early work, that was computer-based, silicon-based. In a lot of ways, our work has been separated from the digital, computer-based work, and that history. We were sort of working with computer-hybrids of analog/digital.

Sherrie: I think the concept of virtual reality was important, in that we were focussed on reality AND the virtual: creating the electronic image with REAL places and REAL people was different than creating an animated avatar. It really created a larger community of people around the world.

Kit (15’33): So it began with this series of projects, which were sort of “foundation projects”:There was the Satellite Arts Project in 1977, which we will go over a little bit deeper.(…)

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Video conference by Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, Waag Society, Amsterdam, November 12 2003, Sentient Creatures #7

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