Steina & Woody Vasulka

Steina was born Steinunn Briem Bjarnadottir in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1940. She studied violin and music theory, and in 1959 she received a scholarship from the Czechoslovak Ministry of Culture to attend the music conservatory in Prague. In 1964 she joined the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

Woody Vasulka was born Bohuslav Peter Vasulka in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1937. He studied metal technology and hydraulic mechanics at the School of Industrial Engineering, Brno, where he received a baccalaureate degree in 1956. Later he attended the Academy of Performing Arts, Faculty of Film and Television, in Prague, where he directed and produced several short films.

The Vasulkas met in Prague in the early 1960's, married, and moved to New York City in 1965. There, Steina worked as a freelance musician and Woody as a multiscreen film editor, experimenting with electronic sounds, stroboscopic lights, and, by 1969, with video. In 1971, with Andreas Mannik, they founded The Kitchen, a media arts theater. The same year, Steina and Woody established the first annual video festival at The Kitchen, and they collaborated with David Bienstock on organizing A Special Videotape Show at the Whitney Museum.

In these early years, Steina and Woody collaborated extensively on investigations to the electronic nature of video and sound, and on producing documentaries about theater, dance, and music, with a special fascination for the New York underground scene. In 1974, the Vasulkas moved to Buffalo, where they joined the faculty of the Center for Media Study at the State Univesity of New York. At this point, their interest diverged: Woody turned his attention to the Rutt/Etra Scan Processor, while Steina experimented with the camera as an autonomous imaging instrument in what would become the Machine Vision series. In 1976, working first with Don MacArthur and then Jeffrey Schier, Woody began to build the Digital Image Articulator. This device introduced him to the principles of digital imaging.

Since 1980, the Vasulkas have lived and worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA), where Steina has continued her work in video, media performance, and video installation, and Woody has continued to produce work in video, three-dimensional computer graphics, and media constructions. In 1992, the Vasulkas organized Eigenwelt der Apparate-Welt: Pioneers of Electronic Art, an exhibition of early electronic tools for Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria, with a laserdisc interactive catalogue. The Vasulkas have been artist-in-residence at the National Center for Experiments in television (NCET), at KQED in San Francisco, and at WNET/Thirteen in New York.

Individually and collectively, they have received funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Corporation for Public Service (CASP), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New Mexico Arts Division. Both received the American Film Institute Maya Deren Award in 1992 and the Siemens Media Art Prize in 1995. In 1988, Steina was an artist-in-residence in Tokyo on a U.S./Japan Friendship Commitee grant. In 1993, Woody received a Soros Foundation fellowship to lecture and present work throughout Eastern Europe.

Steina has taught at the Academy for Applied Arts, Vienna, the Institute for New Media at the Staedelschule, Frankfurt, Germany, and the College of Arts and Crafts, Reykjavik, Iceland. Since 1993, Woody has been a visiting professor at the Faculty of Art, Polytechnic Institute, Brno, Czech Republic.

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