presenting _ phil morton

12 years, 3 months ago Comments Off on presenting _ phil morton
Posted in: studio notes

So I’m doing a small presentation on a “pertinent or personally influential” artist for my digital visualization class (you know, the typical 15/20 minute presentation where you show some work/artist you think is totally rad and where the rest of the class is mostly disinterested), and I decided to present Genesis P-Orridge, focusing on his influential role in the creation of industrial music, his (and Throbbing Gristle’s) use of cut-up, hardware hacking, and noise/soundart, within their theoretical framework of oppositional politics + conceptual performance; I’d also look at his current work w/ the “pandrogynous” genderhacking…Phil Morton, early media artist who helped form SAIC’s video department (1st in USA=WIN).
I decided to reframe my short talk after recently seeing jonCates‘ work with the Phil Morton Memorial Archive (full disclosure: I was a student of jon’s during undergrad + was one of the founding members of the criticalartware group.) One of the things that struck me, after viewing a number of his pieces, was the similarity in approach to Paik + Cage – specifically, in this shared notion of “rigorous play.” Outside of all the other really historically/theoretically important shit that Morton’s directly responsible for (…and to which I’m sorta indebted to), it’s this playful approach that I really want to think more about, esp. in how it relates to my own art practice.
I was doing my undergrad right at the critical moment when the analog physicality of media art process was being replaced by a weird new digital process. I started my 4D and Video 1 classes on the SVHS deck-to-deck editors, and a few years later edited my undergrad video “thesis” on a Jaz drive. In my earliest classes in SAIC’s sound dept. I made loops, real loops with yards of analog magnetic tape, and then the year I graduated I recorded an entire CD with my home DAW. I was pretty eager to get into the digital production and toss the older processes aside, but now in looking @ Morton, Paik, The Kitchen, the Vasulka’s, Sadin, et al, their playful experimental approach to new media practice seems esp. pertinent. I’m wondering how their creative strategies translate to current point/click interface, and maybe somehow the playfulness is restrained/confined by the digital tech.
I had the experience of getting a new camera recently and rediscovering the physical act of shooting video/image. I wonder if it’s worth looking at these older video processes – the hardware video synthesis, patch cables, reel-to-reels, handycams – as a way to reclaim the tangible and playful; and maybe by doingso uncovering creative approaches or strategies that might’ve been obscured or lost by rigidness of current interface. I don’t think there’s the same kind of affectionate play present in After Effects and Final Cut that’s inherent in a Sandin Image Processor or Rutt/Etra Video synth.

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