"What Are You Looking At?" (1970/1973, 4:46, NTSC de-interlaced for Vimeo) was shot on the new ½ inch reel to reel EIAJ Sony Portapak's that made portable videotape recording open to a wide range of people for the first time in history. Access to this artist friendly means of production allowed for a form of long take experimentation that was not constrained by the economics of shooting 16mm sound film. The video opens with a brief moment with Nam June Paik in the CalArts parking lot, Burbank, 1970, and moves on to the core of the piece which revolves around a casual morning’s recording at the Hillside House in Topanga Canyon, 1973, in which the young child, Tucker, directs the gaze of the videographer --and thus the video viewer. The synchronicity of developing events unfolds in a dance of subjective and objective relationships revolving around the question quoted in the title.
"Destiny Edit" (1972, 1974, 1975, 7:24, NTSC de-interlaced for Vimeo) is a linked compilation of "Lose Yr Jobs", "Corrigan /Lund", and "Sangsara".
“Lose Yr Jobs” consists of a fragment from an off-the-air recording of an interview with President Richard Nixon. A segment of the original recording is looped by a very physical playing, rewinding, playing , which was accomplished by manipulating the control lever of a ½ inch video tape player. The process of performing the looping resulted in an out of context statement emphasizing the textural quality of the raw videotape medium while developing an aleatoric cadence. The piece was created before the Watergate scandal and evidences my interest in prescient action as a critical component in my art practice.
In the second part, “Corrigan/Lund”, President Nixon’s re-contextualized statement is forced into a connection with statements by the resigning CalArts President Robert Corrigan and incoming interim president, William Lund. The Portapak medium again reveals the passage of a set of events that would be unlikely to have been recorded with earlier methods for acquiring sound and moving image. The intuitive wandering of the videographers gaze --in a bid to discover the source of the incongruous sound created by a group of chatting women-- reveals a situation that I believe served to precipitate a disrupting moment in the ritual passing of the reins of institutional power. The incoming president's focus may have been broken by the reactions of the audience members seated in the front rows. He may have wondered if this reaction was based on something he was saying or doing --since he was most likely unaware of the spectacle occurring behind him.
The key tripping point of the actors reference to “Destiny’s Wheel” is underscored in the third part, “Sangsara”. In this piece, an image generated in a particularly numinous real-time videographic performance using the Paik/Abe video synthesizer serves as an iconic representation alluding to the ongoing cyclic flow of the wheel of becoming --as it might be envisioned floating in a twilight sky or during closed eye vision.
"Recent Li" (1980, 5:06, NTSC analog video de-interlaced for Vimeo) was created using a Paik/Abe video synthesizer and Cohu video switcher.
The conceptual and technical aspects of "Recent Li" are interdependent. In defining the Chinese term 'li', Joseph Needham has written, "In its most ancient meaning, it signified the pattern in things, the markings in jade or fibers in muscle . . . it acquired the common dictionary meaning 'principle', but always conserved the undertone of 'pattern' . . ." . The forms in "Recent Li" originate from the 'li' of video feedback . Video feedback is the result of of a video camera scanning its display output. This recursive process creates a narcissistic oscillation of an image of the image. If the camera image sensor frames the full display screen area from edge to edge (no larger, no smaller), it is analogous to placing two mirrors face to face in direct contact: there is no space between them, and simultaneously there is an infinite space between them. The compulsive drive toward the union of opposites is hinted at in this process. The simple dualism inherent in the video feedback process may be shifted through rotating the camera/display orientation 90 degrees from the matched horizontal relationship, the horizontal/vertical order which this rotation establishes produces an image in the form of a quaternity figure. The quaternity figure appears cross-culturally throughout the ages as a powerful symbol of unity, of wholeness of self. This symbol and its associated meanings form the core of "Recent Li".
"Saturnus Alchimia" (1982, 3:25. NTSC analog video de-interlaced for Vimeo) is one of the first in a series of absolute videographic compositions that were created via the multitracking of improvised real time performance utilizing a standard broadcast video switcher. The music is an authorized edit of the piece "Chemistry" by Jon Hassell and Brian Eno.
"Color, shape, texture, and rhythm form the basic components of a series of visual music compositions, much as the architectonic structuring of melody, harmony, timbre and rhythm in aural music. 'Saturnus Alchimia', the first in [a series of video "Studies"], introduces us to all the basic materials and parameters [Michael Scroggins] has chosen. The frozen image under the titles stands rich in illusion, dominated by what seems a golden pyramid. When the congealed instant "a false fragment of time" releases into action, those still illusions are all vanquished and we perceive a fascinating new array of interlocking architectonic levels. A thin bar rocks leisurely from side to side 'in front of' the other imagery, seeming to define a screen surface, while 'behind' it layers of rectangular shapes rotate, each one masking out ... and enclosing certain others in a way that challenges the mundane comfort of a single-vanishing-point perspective. Yet still 'behind' these intricate layers reigns a voluptuous golden band that pours into blue rivers and folds around itself in confident palpability. The alchemists' Saturn (of which this first piece is offered, tongue in cheek, as an example) was the lead, or base metal, from which transmutation begins, and indeed the successive pieces in this series use all these same base materials to explore further relationships between optical phenomena and spiritual perception."
--William Moritz, "Some Notes on Michael Scroggins' Studies,"
"Study No. 13" (1983, 0:33, NTSC analog video de-interlaced for Vimeo) is another in a series of absolute videographic compositions that were created via the multitracking of improvised real time performance with a standard broadcast video switcher. The intention was to explore the affect made possible through the architectonic structuring of the basic elements of color, shape, texture, and rhythm.
David Stout's whimsical musical score and the high energy inherent in the full speed playback of the original video recording delighted Elfiede Fischinger --and made this brief piece one of her favorites in the improvisational study series.
Los Angeles Filmforum Program, 7 November 2010, 'What Are You Looking At?'
This channel consists of selections beginning with some of my earliest work in video. The selections represent the cross section of work that I chose to include in the Los Angeles Filmforum presentation, "Michael Scroggins: What are you Looking At?", which took place at the Egyptian Theater's Spielberg screening space on November 7, 2010. With the exception of the two newer HD works that end the program, much of the quality…
This channel consists of selections beginning with some of my earliest work in video. The selections represent the cross section of work that I chose to include in the Los Angeles Filmforum presentation, "Michael Scroggins: What are you Looking At?", which took place at the Egyptian Theater's Spielberg screening space on November 7, 2010. With the exception of the two newer HD works that end the program, much of the quality of the original video images is lost due in some small part to aging videotape media and in large part due to the loss of image resolution caused by the de-interlacing process used to prepare video for the web. De-interlacing removes every other scan line thus reducing 480 lines to 240 which are then interpolated to yield 480 less detailed lines.
My introduction to working with video began in my first year of art school at CalArts (1970/1971). This was also the inaugural year of classes for the recently formed institute. During this period the availability of relatively inexpensive 1/2" reel-to-reel videotape machines brought video production into the hands of individual artists for the first time in history. CalArts provided dozens of 1/2" Sony Portapak's throughout the various schools of the institute. In addition to this revolution in portable video recording I was introduced to the newly designed and constructed Paik/Abe video synthesizer by two great teachers, Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe.
I had entered film school after years of working with the Single Wing Turquoise Bird multimedia light show ensemble (primarily as a liquid light projectionist) and had determined to learn documentary film techniques as a way of finding right-livelihood while serving as a catalyst for social change through works of didactic power. I quickly discovered that the inexpensive video tape medium allowed for the exploration of long take recordings which resulted in the development of particular ways of seeing, unlike that typical of film documentaries. I also developed a love of the textile-like weave of the electronic NTSC video image. The fluid absolute imagery made possible by the Paik/Abe soon seduced me back into the formalism that I had cherished with the liquid light show work. Manipulating the flow of video feedback with the color encoder and video channel gain controls of the Paik/Abe opened up a new range of possibilities for real-time absolute animation. In 1978 I was asked to return to CalArts as a faculty member to teach video art courses. There I worked within the Videographics Lab and Video Studio where I was able to expand the range of what I could do by utilizing the video processing capabilities of the video switcher. This led to the performance of a series of improvised absolute animation studies which eventually culminated in the pieces, "Power Spot" and "Solaire".
At the end of the first decade of the 21st century I had the opportunity to return to the liquid light projection I had been working with in the late sixties of the 20th. Other than my development as an artist over this lengthy period of time, there was now a major difference. Digital video recording systems meant that I could now record my liquid light projection in a way that was not possible with the film technology I had available in the late sixties (some examples from the sixties do exist in the form of a 3/4 inch U-matic videotape telecine transfer of a 16mm film print edited from 35mm original recordings --see the Single Wing Turquoise Bird movie, "Light Show" ). The digital HD recordings of two unedited segments of solo live liquid improvisations, "Adagio for Jon and Helena", and "Limn", cap this Los Angeles Filmforum program.
Until now my works were only available in the controlled environment of selected public screenings and were not generally available on the internet. The creation of this channel is an effort to correct that omission. I plan to add more channels that include other early video works, my latest work in recorded liquid light projection, and documentation of my ongoing experiments in real-time absolute animation performance in the round as created in immersive VR space.