To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Experimental Television Center we asked artists and friends to share their recollections and thoughts. To contribute, please email [email protected].
Without the Experimental TV Center, my video art ideas would not have come to fruition. I am eternally grateful for Sherry's support, Hank's tech know-how, Dave's inventions, Ralph's experimental vision and everyone else who made ETC possible. Having inspiring technology and support was a creative dream come true. I also miss the Susquehanna River view and the beautiful green bridge.
Benton C Bainbridge
I first met video art pioneer Bill Etra at the 1998 Video History Conference which Sherry Miller Hocking co-organized. Bill shared with me the first of his many prescient predictions: "media art will go mainstream once video tools are as common as pencil and paper." Deep in our second year of enforced virtuality, we scribble in the cloud — artists decorate Mainstream Media Metaverses. The Novel Coronavirus was the catalyst that evanesced art made of atoms into the ether; but it was Sherry Miller and Ralph Hocking, Hank Rudolph and Dave Jones—along with all the artists and culture workers who centered around ETC—who steered New Media from our plastic past to our ethereal now.
- Futures Passed: Benton C Bainbridge & Collaborators at ETC (bentoncbainbridge.com)
ETC is a laboratory, an incubator, a haven, an escape, a monastery, a petri dish, a gift, an opportunity, a challenge, a battery, a battery charger, another planet, a blank page, a box of pencils, a great idea...
- Learning from Mistakes (2003) (Scottish Documentary Institute)
I don't know how to adequately express my thanks to Sherry & Ralph for the impact that ETC has had on my life. My art practice changed permanently after my first trip to ETC's International Student Residency in the spring of 1998 as an undergrad student of Sara Hornbacher's. I immediately fell in love with real time video processing, and that love continues to this day. I met future mentors during that trip and first visited Alfred University, where I would go on to attend grad school. I made some of the most important and lasting friendships of my life. I learned the impact that the time and space of an artist residency could have and returned for many residencies on my own and with my now husband. I'm also incredibly grateful to Sherry for hiring me for a number of odd jobs for ETC over the years. Inputting the tape library into the database taught me about the importance of archiving. Processing Finishing Fund applications and running tapes/DVDs for the panelists during decisions taught me what makes good and bad grant applications. Checking links and finding descriptions for an early version of the Video History Project website and doing video documentation for ETC at the Upstate NY Video History Conference helped me to learn this community and its history. All these things were just as crucial as my time in the studio when Jason Bernagozzi, Hank Rudolph, and I founded Signal Culture. Thank you for being a model of an organization built on deep friendships, supporting both young and established toolmakers and artists, and staying true to its vision. Thank you for your kindness and support.
- Electronic Landscape (Vimeo)
As a young man I was uninterested in the visual arts. The meme of the late 90's is that visual art is for those who come from rich families, and whose aesthetics reflect rarified and unapproachable tastes. While I was absolutely wrong in that assumption, this notion was firmly planted in my head. I knew I was creative, and found myself attracted to the experimental noise scene in NY and CT. That scene was about the countercultural potential of circuits, a means to rebel against the system, and more importantly, a community of creatives who saw the role of artistic expression as one that should exist outside of interior decoration and speculative finance. When Debora Bernagozzi (then known as Debora Brown) brought me to the Experimental Television Center to meet her friends, I was blown away by what I saw. Groups of people, young and old, hip and burning out, all working together on a system that was using sound to generate video. While it took 3 more years for me to attend the ETC ISW summer workshop myself, I was exposed to the idea of video as a revolutionary, reflexive medium. Without ETC I would have never gone to art school. Without ETC I would have never gotten into live, performative signal processing. Without ETC, Debora, Hank and I would have never had a model as a leaping off point for Signal Culture. ETC was foundational to my personal, artistic and professional growth. Sherry has been an inspiration and such a warm figure, going out of her way to mentor me through the pain of writing grants and helping guide me through tough times with Signal Culture's early days when we were worried if we could afford to keep open. While I do not know Ralph as well, our conversations and some of his recorded interviews surrounding his approach to the emergence of the center was refreshing and I saw a lot of his anti-establishment sentiments reflected my own ideas about the arts. There is so much more to say. This institution has brought me community, opportunity, guidance, inspiration, love and hope. May the spirit of how it started live on for another 50 years.
My residencies came during the weird interregnum between the death of analog video and the rise of purely digital production tools. The first, in 1996, happened as the transition to digital was gaining momentum. It was a week when any time I turned on the radio, the Los del Río song "Macarena" seemed to be playing, but it was when it was still new — before it became a mantra of almost existential dread punctuated by line dancing. All my plans for things to do changed as I started working with the equipment; it focused them and I spent months editing the results to ultimately be dissatisfied with my ability to shape them into what I could see was possible, but just out of reach. Without realizing it, I was wishing for digital video. My frustration came from the physical limitations built-in to analogue video: signal decay and generation loss. But the results were exciting! My interests in windowing multiple images together on-screen gained momentum from my residency, even if I would have to wait a few years for the technology to catch up with what I wanted to do. This impact is why I feel these residencies were absolutely essential to me — without them my work would look very different. I'm sure that's true of everyone who had the privilege of working at the center. When I came back in the spring of 2003, digital video (DV) had arrived and the results of my time at the center were much more striking. I generated several hours of footage that became my three part "Alchemy Trilogy" exploring the transformative potential of digitization and computer processing combined with the traditional analogue syntheses made during the residency. These three movies established the parameters of the research that was published in my book Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or the cinematic displacement of Time, Motion and Space (Focal Press, 2016). Without having the chance to interrogate the overlaps and differences between analogue and digital video processing and compositing, this book would never have happened. I am very grateful for have been a resident at the center and the impacts that it has had on my movies and theoretical work is substantial.
- Beyond Spatial Montage: Windowing, or the Cinematic Displacement of Time, Motion, and Space (Amazon)
I first came to the ETC in 1982. Since then it has been my main art environment and in many ways determined my life. To me the decisive insight of the ETC is that we need tools developed for and by the artist, in opposition to that tools of the industry. Industrial tools are subsumed and thereby formed by capital. Dave Jones' inventions are made for the artist. The discussions with Dave about the functionality of the modules opens up the space for artistic determination of the tools. The subjectification of the video signal starts with the subjectification of the tool. In this way the ETC is present in all my work.
- Personal site (bjorgeengen.com)
Here in the worlds of worlds, among the thoughts that these days are things, I imagine that so many of us who are here and there and were there passing through ETC, that is to say exiting out of whatever machine brought us there, entering then off the street to the mysterious simple machine of long stairway that took time to mount, after which there was a moment of transition that took us, each one or plural or whatever, into the Center... did I get that right? .... many of us are also 50 and more and so have had time to think and dethink and rethink what was in that Center when we arrived, stayed, and left, etc etc etc. From words of the name, I will tell you what I borrowed, in thought, or in ziggly electricity recorded through time. In the language of the French, it appears that the word for Experiment is Experience. So it is so. The two words in concord record what we thought we thought, I think! Television is television, it is not on tv and yet it is, there it goes, and you can't see it in the air, or in the wind. I'll tell you that when I made the only movie I made at time [Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees], I used the middle world of your name just as you say it. If you ever watch the movie note that the bees talk in the well known Owego thought words of bleep. Finally, Center is the Central Station, where we all pass through from every direction and you can imagine, for instance, in one iteration, that tracks entering the station have different width tracks from those that leave, so you have to get off to get on and go on... and in another iteration, the center of the station is the rotating platform of a roundhouse, and we are there, whirling whirling until it stops and we pass on in another direction. I can't really specify the meaning of those iterations, but that is what was there at the top of the stairs.
50 years! Time is certainly flying in larger increments. Many early videomakers at MoMA for Shigeko's impressive exhibition preview. Glad to hear your and ETC reels are still turning. Attached are Videofreex, our 20 or so collaborators and my contribution to your celebration. Includes ETC and the larger contexts. Funded by NYSCA for Karen Helmerson.
As a new form, even now, video and electronic arts are free to be used to experiment and work in those often contested strange and wonderful regions, those spaces and durations of the unassigned. The photographer, filmmaker, videomaker and digital artist Hollis Frampton also speculated in these ideas. Hollis suggested that film art (the moving image and sound art) was superior as it incorporated the codes of all the other arts AND that film art was 20 years ahead of the painting and sculpture arts. I still like his conceit. Maybe it is in fact 40 years, including the 20 years the electronic arts have lost using commercial software, that forever renewing commercial redesign product. As we get through this period and as hardware and software settles around useful structures and systems (open source, new hardware instruments) interested people and young media artists will move quickly and deeply into more personal investigations using electronic materials, tools, instruments, ideas and cultures. The years of my engagement with the facilities of the Experimental Television Center and the remarkable people guiding and participating in its adventure convinced me of the importance of pushing back, of the value of alternative thinkings, practices and communities. Nicholas Ray had thoughts about alternative cultures. Nicholas Ray, American auteur film director — who we in Binghamton had the opportunity to experience as filmmaker and mentor and who together with Binghamton film students made a multiimage electronically-inspired film — had thoughts about alternative cultures. Nick made video synthesizer recordings at the ETC. The multi-frame narrative feature film "We Can't Go Home Again" offered the suggestion for a 1970's generation of young people to "find your communities and take care of each other." Not bad. The French theorist and artist Thierry Kunztel came to the ETC via South America in 1981. I asked him if there was something singularly important that he learned studying with Christian Metz and Roland Barthes. His response was quick. He said it was the importance of making actual moving image and sound work. Given that Thierry himself was such an important and celebrated writer, his comments concerning the importance of making media work was a surprise. I agreed with him. I would add on today: make the media work and make the situations to see and hear and reflect on the media work. Look at the work. Listen to the work. Keep looking and listening to the work. Keep being in dialogue with the work. The ETC experience ... wow ... Fortunately the ETC studio and programs' closing have not put an end to it all. Although many of us are still trying to get over it.
[Peer wrote a wonderful essay on his experience at the ETC, please read it.]
Summer, 1975. By chance I happened to be sharing an apartment on the west side of Binghamton, NY, with Meryl Blackman and Peer Bode. When they learned about my interest in electronics, they invited me downtown to have a look at the ETC. It was probably the first time I'd heard about video art and I found the place very interesting. It had a do-it-yourself kind of vibe. I volunteered to help out. Soon, Ralph Hocking offered me a job. It didn't pay much, but offered me a chance to build electronic stuff, so I gladly accepted. I ended up working as a technician for the ETC for the next four years. I had found a kind of home. I met many interesting artists during that period, who greatly influenced my understanding of numerous modern art forms, not only video art. The collaborations between ETC artists and the nearby American Dance Asylum exposed me to modern dance. I took yoga classes with Bill T. Jones and contact improv with Lois Welk. I saw many dances choreographed by Bill Jones and Arnie Zane. I remember many of the video artists, many from New York City, who came for residences at the ETC, the most prominent of whom was Nam June Paik. There's a story I often tell about a chat I had with Nam June one day, as I was helping carry his luggage over to the Greyhound Bus station for his ride back to NYC. He happened to ask me what I was up to besides working at ETC. I mentioned that I played electric bass and that I had recently travelled to Boston to look into a music school where I could study the bass in earnest. He warned me, "Might come out worse than went in." There were a number of reasons I never went to that school. But I did take his point and never forgot it. Formal training in art can have the effect of narrowing one's viewpoints. Students from the State University of NY at Binghamton, where Ralph was a professor in the cinema department, were frequently among those who came to the ETC. This helped to expose me to contemporary and experimental cinema. I took a few cinema classes at the university in that period and learned a great deal that I otherwise I would have missed. One of those students, David Linton, became a good friend and collaborator in putting together a rock band called the Fluks. I remember us holding auditions for band members on the fourth floor of the ETC building. There was a lot of crossover influence among cinema, video, and music. I was exposed to John Cage, who became a major influence, later on, for my musical thinking. Building experimental video circuit designs, created by David Jones, was great fun and added to my technical skills. I enjoyed creating documentation, manuals and diagrams, for use by the artists in residence. It was a pleasure assisting creative artists at work in the video studio. I would like to mention Walter Wright in this connection, because he gifted me his entire collection of the Electronotes Newsletter, which aided me immeasurably in my own projects of building audio synthesizers. By the spring of 1979, the Fluks had undergone a couple of iterations and had decided to write and play only original music. Our intent was to move to NYC and try our luck in the new wave music scene. That led to my leaving the ETC. All that time I had been a college dropout, and may have remained one, had I stuck with the band. But in the end, I chose not to give myself over to the music scene. Shortly thereafter I returned to SUNY at Binghamton to complete a B.A. Degree, in philosophy. My time at the ETC was crucial in tiding me over, during the chaotic times of the era, while at the same time boosting my extracurricular learning in modern arts. I owe a debt of thanks to Ralph Hocking and Sherry Miller for giving and continuing this very unusual opportunity to absorb arts culture and to make a modest contribution to it.
- Personal site (pugix.com)
Putting it succinctly, I wouldn't have had a career in video art if it hadn't been for ETC. It opened up an entire world and a form of expression for me in a new medium which went beyond — and yet combined — many artistic disciplines. The electronic tools and processes they offered combined for me poetics, cinema, the act of reading, linguistic syntax, painting, photography, music and architecture. And yet, they produced light, color and movement that was literally not of this world. Most days working at the ETC studio I felt like a magician of sorts, conjuring up alchemical processes to yield images of depth and beauty. It was a creative and technical laboratory in the truest sense. I was always so grateful for the patient and loving attention — and great education — coming from Peer Bode, Hank Rudolph and Dave Jones. We were really more like a family — a community of artistic seekers who had found a home on the banks of the Susquehanna (the Front Street location in Owego) — and at magnificent dinners at Ralph and Sherry Hocking's, full of laughter, camaraderie, and great conversation. How can one forget the Strawberry Festival every year, and the lovely vendors and residents who maintained their shops and lived on either side of the Center? And the multiple feet of snow greeting you after a blizzard? I treasured it all as part of a very unique and unforgettable artistic and community experience. Thank you, thank you, for having made this happen. I am so grateful.
- Greece to Jupiter: It’s a matter of energy (siggraph.org)
Torsten Zenas Burns
Happy 50th Anniversary to ETC!!!!!!!! Thank you both and also to Hank Rudolph for creating such a dynamic and inspirational art zone for creativity! I have so many living memories of visiting your site alone and with many collaborators experimenting, performing and manifesting media fictions. I am still processing footage to this day!
- ETC Collage (image)
Michael V. Butler
To say that each day of my life holds some fond memory or learned experience while at ETC is simple fact. From 1972 to 1976 I practically lived at the Television Center. From the ever-empathetic indulgences Sherry and Ralph Hocking, not only was I fully able to express the halcyon inner hot house bouquets of my heart and soul, but also was allowed to bring them into full bloom. Albeit, my work was not avant-garde, but rather DEVANT-garde (figure that one out) their continued support of that vision (along with Davey Jones) yielded many, many projects. Over time I utilized the talent of over 110 people in works which were exhilarating, bizarre, chic, and mesmerizing. Without their support, I would never have received an honorary degree from Syracuse University, allowing me to teach there for three years, then going on to UCLA and The American College for International Studies. This is not to say my work was in any way 'academic' (ho-hum). It was, rather, the road most certainly less traveled, paved, might I say, with a lot of magic carpets. And all of this was because Sherry and Ralph consistently believed in me. Happy 50th., o' great temple of art!
My experience at ETC was limited to only one opportunity, in 1974, when I was working on the edit of Banjo Feedback, which I produced with musician Billy Faier. I mainly made use of the system's colorizers. Although this was the only project for me at ETC, I recall the openness and support working there. I remember lots of play time with engineering help available on the system. As a side note, Gary Hill and I made the trip together from Woodstock to the center and ran into a fierce Catskills winter storm on the way back through Downsville. I remember barely making do with a hand-operated windshield wiper in my freezing cold VW beetle. Thanks to ETC for your long service to artists. Congratulations and fond best wishes.
- Banjo Feedback (Vimeo)
jonCates & Jon Santrom
yawl are such an ever-ongoing-inspiration && you can always quote me on that :)
I started working at ETC around 1983. My guess is that Lois Welk, who I met through the dance scene, suggested I check out ETC. I was in a unique and privileged position in that I taught at Elmira College and lived in Watkins Glen which was only about a 40 minute drive away. After a couple regular residencies, ETC would call if they had a last minute cancellation and wanted to keep the slots filled, and they knew I wouldn't need much help. I had quite a few sessions there until I moved to Hawaii in 1991 but still managed to fit in a few during the summers that I always spent in back in "upstate". I really loved the scenario of minimal distraction and minimized routines like sleeping on a mattress, washing in the sink, and cooking on a hot plate and, as many others have proclaimed, the pleasure of sitting on the throne in front of the huge bathroom window and looking down at the mighty Susquehanna River. The feeling of being welcome and accepted into the family was always present. During those days, David had a work space in the building and Peer was the one who spent patient hours teaching the system to residents so they were always around. Ralph and Sherry would show up for meetings and brainstorming sessions and always made a point to spend some time interacting with the residents. Another fond memory from those residencies was that I could and would bring my daughter Iris with me — from the time she was only one through grade school (curiously, she was given a bit part in Nancy Buchanon's TechKnowledge, nursing with her mom, when she was only about a year old — I was finishing a residency when Nancy showed up for hers). Sometimes I used her as a subject and as she got older, I vaguely trained her to assist me. I was never sure how well she was entertained there but she always seemed to enjoy the break from her own routines and sin-cerely enjoyed the people she met there (she thought Dave was a real life giant). When she was old enough, she spent a lot of time in the basement book store across the street. As an adult, she has often expressed in retrospect how influential that whole experience was to her maturing and her creative life. We both thank everyone at ETC. Finally, I'll mention a special event that involved Ralph and Peer from ETC — the G.R.I.D. (Generic Real-time Interactive Digital) exhibition I produced and participate in at the Arnot Art Muse-um in Elmira. I collaborated with Curt Dunnam a long time friend and engineer at Cornell and also invited two old friends who were members of C.I.E. (Composers Inside Electronics), Phil Edelstein and John Driscoll. As I look back, I think the show was both relevant and provocative for its time.
- G.R.I.D. (pdf)
Connie Coleman & Alan Powell
Alan Powell, born July 29th, 1952, is an educator and artist specializing in collaborative projects and digital artwork. Powell was one of three students who were the first to graduate with a bachelor's degree in video in the United States; he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1974 and four years later was married to his late wife, Connie Coleman, who he had met at RISD and with whom he collaborated artistically for thirty years. Just before Powell embarked on his graduate degree, he and Connie Coleman became artists in residence (AIR) at ETC, a place where creating new works through play was the goal rather than production and ensuring each piece was completed. Having fun in work was essential to the creative process, especially with so many people working together. To make the videos that would be displayed at ETC, Powell, Coleman, and Jones created software and hardware to accurately represent their vision. This includes digital art machines such as the Frame Buffer, Jones Colorizer, Video Sequencer, and Voltage Controlled Oscillators for Videos. Coleman explored her body and feminine identity through video and printmaking. With the assistance of David Jones' software, Coleman was able to produce images through her video that would go on to be two dimensional prints. Having a background in textiles, a field that required an incredible amount of time, patience, and drawing skills in the 1980s, allowed Coleman to act as Jones' documentation as he created software and video. She was able to sit by Jones for days at a time drawing what he was doing in perfect grey-scale cross hatching style, identical to a dot matrix printer's drawings, as though she herself was a computer.
ETC caused great things to happen!
[Cloud Music is an installation developed collaboratively during the years 1974 to 1979. It consists of a video camera which scans the sky; a video analyzer, which senses the changes in light produced by passing clouds; and a home-made electronic sound synthesizer, which responds musically to the passage of clouds overhead. It was acquired by the Smithsonian in 2013.]
My fresh and (forever) giddy reminiscences of working with the eclectic electronics... the mesmerizing weirdness of being immersed in the time-space of the ETC Studio...
- Eclectronic Trajectories: The Experimental Television Center (OtherCinema.com)
The Experimental Television Center provided the space to learn how to collaborate, to improvise, to community-build, to tune-in and out, to become stripes and voltage, to mix in real-time on a Jones Colorizer, to perform for the camera, to cross the Susquehanna river as a red trio, to witness the tool demos of Hank Rudolph, to patch with Pamela Susan Hawkins, to make dirty mixes with Matthew Underwood, to learn how to cook for 20 people, to be immersed in the shelves of artist tapes' in the video library, to walk in fog for a 4am shoot, to camouflage with Lara Odell, to learn color-tracking with Aaron Miller, to wobulate, to sequence, to draw signal flows and patch diagrams, to talk about processing strategies with Sara Hornbacher, to communicate through monitors with Annie Langan, to listen to the 60 cycle hum, to be wrapped in cables, to turn knobs, to arrive at ideas, to be tactile, to be present... The Experimental Television Center has shaped my life as an artist and teacher. I had the incredible opportunity to work at the ETC in a variety of capacities: as participant and staff for the Experimental Television Center International Student Residency ETCISR (2002-2006), during individual and collaborative artist residencies (2002-07, 2011) and assisting on the Early Media Instruments DVD Set (2007). Thank you Ralph Hocking, Sherry Miller Hocking, Hank Rudolph, David Jones, Pamela Susan Hawkins, Peer Bode, Sara Hornbacher, the artists-in-residence, ISR participants, and collaborators who have contributed to the creativity, energy and spirit of the ETC. I will be forever changed by these experiences.
- Monica Duncan, Annie Langan, Matt Underwoood at ETC (image)
- Early Media Instruments DVD Set (Signal Culture)
The year was 1978. I got there by way of having spent two years at Media Study/Buffalo where I met Nam June Paik in 1976. My little to no experience had me creating things I did not know what I was doing. What I did know, was that this was the future of Art forever more. This aesthetic would take command over painting. A challenging thought, but one that would prove to be true. For the next 15-years I would come up with my colleagues Jason Homer and Julius Vitali and we would create the most odd ball images, act silly, and play around with all the knobs and buttons. Who would believe that history was being made? I came up with Jason Homer and he was a pretty wild guy. He brought his dominos and created structures. I did a portrait of Jason along with an apple because fruit was the staple of our diet back then. I photographed the screen in the hope of capturing the image. The solarized image was based on tweaking the nobs and buttons I had no idea about only to experiment. You can never go back in time but it does emphasize the beginning. Fresh starts and new directions are always exciting and remains so forty years later. I thank you for providing the "wonderland playground" of imaging which became my passionate force in life. In 1984 my father passed away. I was in much grief. I started to pull out old photos of and with my dad and started memorializing him. It was a healing process to make artworks out of these pictures. One such image was then placed in my book titled, "Laurence Gartel: A Cybernetic Romance" published by Gibbs Smith. The publisher asked me to contact Nam June and see if he would write the Introduction to my book. He gladly accepted and my wife and I picked him up at his studio on Greene Street and drove him to the airport. We conducted an interview with him in the back seat of the car. When he returned from Germany he wrote the essay on my work which was then translated into the Introduction. The picture of me and my Dad is one that Nam June liked very much. I told him it was memorabilia but more over, it was something that could replace a formal portrait similar to aristocratic families typically had hanging in their homes. This is one of many stories I hold near/dear to my heart about the magic of ETC.
Megan Roberts & Raymond Ghirardo
Personal TV studios were not ubiquitous at the time. ETC was a truly visionary concept, it's far-sighted design providing a physical layout that facilitated interaction of video processing control in the direct proximity for performers, objects and kinetic elements. We could often set up installations to test sculptural constructions with the real-time processed video and sound components. Abandoning the model of the traditional control room/studio configuration, separated by walls, allowed for a proximity and immediacy of direct interface which was a revelation. Studio space in the same immediate vicinity of fragile electronic equipment seemed a unique quirk but proved immeasurable conducive to rethinking the incorporation of electronics and imagery in sculptural and architecturally scaled artwork.
I'm a visual artist and graphic designer, a landscape designer and a former software developer. But ultimately, I'll always be an analog 'Vidiot' at heart, having emerged in the late 70's and 80's using the first 1/2" Sony port-a-paks for my art making (and so forth thru 3/4", Beta, 8mm, and DV formats) -- My hardware temple was CTL Electronics in lower Manhattan. My video aesthetics evolved from Marshall McLuhan, Fluxus, Nam June Paik, Vito Acconcci, Bruce Nauman and others. In these early years, video was still a bit of an outcast, shown mainly at alternative venues such as The Kitchen, Anthology Film Archives, The Mudd Club, Video Free America, Electronic Arts Intermix, as well in various national and international video/film festivals. I first heard of ETC through my friend Sara Hornbacher whose energetic 'concrete abstract' video work could only be fully realized by her access to the ETC residency studio. At the time, I had started writing long form narrative video scripts. My concerns included creating a more psychological feel to the imagery, making use of scan lines, noise and other video textures to expand beyond the inherent 'documentary' nature of a video recording. It seemed that a residency at ETC was a perfect fit -- potentially both fun and vision-expanding. I was intent upon generating 15-30 second processed segments to incorporate into my emerging video narratives. I spent many late nights in a number of residencies at the Experiment TV Center learning from Hank Rudolph the equipment and patch basics that enabled me to create exciting and unique image processed footage. I would arrive with a bunch of recorded source tapes and a box of blank 3/4" tapes to capture my visual experiments. With the residency's live-in accommodations, although sparse, one had 24 hour access to the studio. The process was always open-ended — setting up patches and playing source footage over and over, rescanning and recording dynamically tweaked processing variations in real time. At the time, the only digital frame device available at ETC was a one-of-a-kind Jones Frame Buffer (which did just that - buffered a set of video frames for looping, freeze framing, and delaying). Of all the tools available in the studio, my favorite by far was the Paik-Abe Wobulator which required careful 'tuning' to achieve the sorts of subtle raster distortions that I desired. Now? I have digitized all those hours and hours of tape from my ETC sessions. I work out of my studio making use of an expanding array of glitch & digital image processing apps on my phone or iPad, as well as Mac processing apps such as Lumen and those from Signal Culture. Years later, I look back fondly on these ETC residencies, well aware of the amazing experiences they bestowed, helping me to grow and mature as an artist.
- Excerpts from Experimental Television Center (Vimeo)
- Narrative Video Programs (Vimeo)
- Forest Gods Jungle Spirits (Vimeo)
- Buddhaverse Variations (Vimeo)
— It Began with Dave's Wave — At the Arnolfini Art Center in Rhinebeck in about 1974 David Jones waved to me and I waved back. I remember we participated in a Charlie Morrow sound/meditation workshop. I invited David over to Ken Marsh's Woodstock Community Video studio where I had a residency. After seeing how I was messing with special effect generators, camera switches, and other home-made processing tools, David described the Experimental Television Center and suggested I apply for a residency. For the first few years of my visits, ETC was in Binghamton. David Jones was always very generous with his time showing me the ins and outs of the analog patching. Peer Bode was an excellent, patient teacher of how to harness the wave form generators to change colors, light, and duration in real time. Peer's work and David's design genius were inspirational. As a student of Nam June Paik, I'd already played with the Paik/Abe video synthesizer and wobbulator. It was great having it connected to the Jones colorizer, Brewster boxes, and other accessories. The invisible hands of Ralph Hocking and Sherry Miller Hocking molded the unique, communitarian ambience of the residency. They synchronized a laid back, experimental, process-oriented approach with a system of complex cabling that was mind boggling. Ralph and Sherry often made art together that exemplified the philosophy instilled in ETC: old fashioned and futuristic; simple and complex; contrarian and traditional. In addition to experimenting with the structure of the medium I wrote a column about video art for Changes in the Arts Magazine during the early 1970s. One of the first articles was about Barbara Buckner's "Pictures of the Lost." This video and Barbara's artistic approach were elementary influences in my early development as an artist. Buckner's soul seemed to fuse and harmonize with the visually poetic potentials of the medium. My work evolved with the tools. Before each visit I recorded moving images. At the Center I mixed up to three channels, set up the wave form generators, pressed record and tried to sit back and see what the machines would do. Occasionally I tweaked a potentiometer or pumped up frequencies, but mostly accepted the unexpected ways the various processors would affect the compositional elements. For example, Blue Swee (1984) looks like it has thousands of edits but has only four. I used the sequencer to rapidly cut between three simultaneous sources. Does this sound like the Tao? The wheels turn, the water flows, the air circulates, and fire flickers and flames. Maybe the Creator plugged in the big bang and departed. Maybe the architect of the universe is somehow in everything, a cosmic finger tweaking in real time. Or has the Cosmic One departed, a divinity degraded by the mess we've made of the planet? Humility in the presence of brilliant and mysterious machines and acceptance of randomness have remained central to my art making approach- rooted in the experimental, the happily not knowing, content being the audience of the process. The genius of the ETC system was the way it parallels nature through the matrix which functions like the brain of the system where everything begins and ends. The ETC matrix offered an infinite number of combinations, permutations, and effects that changed the image. Through the matrix images could be transformed in unlimited ways. Does this sound like community? No analog box or digital circuit can work by itself; it is the ways that the various modules are connected that makes the system operate. Unity, patience, and respect lead to visually interesting results. Sometimes the wave is one of good-bye. In the early 2000s, I took a Sabbatical from video and focused on new digital media while painting, drawing, and creating interactive installations. A few years later, when I had to learn most recent versions of Photoshop and Final Cut Pro for my teaching, I realized that wave transformation is built into the filters and can be controlled in digital ways simulating the ETC analog approach. This rekindled my interest in image processing. Does this sound like life? The process of animation vivifies breath and pulse of being. ETC provided a way to examine time passing. The Experimental Television Center was a place where time is the subject, the outcome, and the instrument of its own creation. Since I studied with Paik at Cal Arts, access to his tools at ETC meant that I could continue to experiment with the television signal to create new kinds of visuals based on collaboration with machines in real time visual image processing dependent on chance and randomness. Nine Ways to Look at the Wave, an essay recently published by the Hopkins Review, is available on my website. The site also includes links to my video art, documentaries, and digital films on Vimeo and YouTube.
- Personal site (gorewitz.com)
Magic is what you can't figure out. The things I still like doing with old tech are the things that I can't figure out. For example, at the Tools Room at the conference, everyone speaks glowingly of the Paik/Abe, because it did things that no one knew how it did it. Things it wasn't supposed to be able to do. We did not come out of an educational system that was reflecting on video art as having a history because it didn't. So we all came from different backgrounds. We were reacting to the screen, just the surface of the screen. That was our primary preoccupation.
- Carol at ETC (c. 1975) (image)
- Rings (1975) (Vimeo)
- Carol Goss: Driven to Abstraction (Video Art Research Project)
- Personal site (improvart.com)
It turned out to be far more extensive than I had anticipated — reflecting the contagious spread of things ETC in my work and life.
[Alexander developed a custom 3 gigabyte website to honor our 50th year. Check it out!]
Sherry Miller Hocking and ETC were introduced to me in 2000, as the New York State Council on the Arts Electronic Media and Film (EMF) Regrant Partner for Technical Assistance to NYSCA media arts organizations. What a wonderful partner! I inherited this ongoing regrant program which first began offering support to artists and arts organizations in 1988; working with the Experimental Television Center over a ten-year period proved to be an absolute pleasure, and critical investment in 21c technology as an art form, advancing NYS media arts, while preserving and honoring the legacy of "our independently created moving-image heritage". Along with technical assistance to the field, the NYSCA EMF ETC partnership engaged in developing new technology initiatives such as The NY Media Arts MAP, a Google-based locator for media artists and organizations throughout New York State, and The NYSCA Memory Archive housing a collection of artists' materials from the 70's through early 2000's, at the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell University, and at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. The EMF ETC partnership, archive development, technical assistance, field-wide Media Arts Breakfast Meetings and more, proved invaluable to me, to the field, and to the future of the most dynamic art form of our time, supporting analog and digital explorations as a creative and inclusive practice across all genres of technology. Thank you, Sherry, and Ralph! Cheers to the next 50 years! Karen Helmerson Program Director Electronic Media, Film & Visual Arts New York State Council on the Arts To enjoy a sampling of our important collaboration, and how these initiatives have grown today, please visit:
- New York Media Arts MAP
- NYSCA Memory Archive at Cornell
- NYSCA Memory Archive at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts (search NYSCA Memory Archive)
Congratulations ETC! This photograph (photo by Mark Mc Loughlin) reminded me of ETC in a round about way...
This short documentary video explores the spatial concept of ETC as it moved from a physical, actively productive studio to a Web-based, historical archive.
- ETC, etc. (Vimeo, 2011)
My 2008 residency was very formative for me, and I feel very lucky to have had this chance to connect with video art history!
- A Saw in the Sound Garden at the Experimental Television Center (2008) (Vimeo)
- Photos taken during my residency (Facebook)
Simply, I became a video artist at ETC. But for Reynold Weidenaar's suggestion, my video art would not have happened. I would have been strictly audio and print. For this opportunity, I remain grateful.
I want to keep this as brief as possible, which is in contrast to my usual style of expression. In the 1980s, into the early 1990s, I had submitted a number of applications to the ETC for finishing funds. Having received a number of rejections, I shrugged and carried on with my pursuit of elusive ideas that kept emerging in my mind (AKA Mr. Brain). One day, I received an email from Sherry Miller Hocking. She said that the ETC loved my ideas, and could see I was capable of accomplishing my rather ambitious projects. However, Sherry said that my applications were too creative. She asked that I understand that my ideas would be presented to a panel, and the panel had to understand the scope of my project, as well as believe that I could accomplish the task I had put before the panel. In short, Sherry said to keep it simple, and utilitarian. This was one of those AHA moments. Who knew? Well, apparently, Sherry did. IT WORKED! Not only did I get a Finishing Funds Award, I went on to get all kinds of awards, from all over the place. Rather than list the usual tedium and CV, something to the tune of 20 major awards came in, over a number of years, including the ETC's sponsorship to 5 NYSCA awards. The ETC taught me how to communicate to non-artists. Now it is 2021. I am killing myself, not so softly, with yet another bunch of projects, and am getting ready to submit applications for funds, showing in venues, etc. ... ETC!! ... To the ETC., (Sherry and Ralph, and all those participating in this rare, marginal organization, that seems to understand what creative commitment is all about, I thank you.
The Experimental Television Center has been fundamental to my development and work as an artist. I was on leave from my graduate study in Media Studies at SUNY Buffalo and found work in Ithaca. It was my good fortune to be near Binghamton where I learned of a workshop at the Center. The workshop enabled me to begin work as a media artist and in 1978 I made my first piece which was exhibited in the Ithaca Video Festival. The Center was more than a collection of specialized machinery. It was a community of people interested in experimentation and discovery. It is this spirit of adventure that fostered and sustains my artistic practice. I did several residencies at ETC Binghamton and when the Center moved to Owego, it was closer yet. I continued working there and doing residencies even after I moved to NYC and Brooklyn. The Experimental Television Center provided a work studio and extended community which exists to this day. I have exhibited nationally and internationally and taught video art for over 30 years at the college level — NYU, SVA, and the Pratt Institute where I was chairperson for 7 years. At the core of my career is the Experimental Television Center.
Happy Anniversary, ETC!
- Available Machines: Remembering the Experimental Television Center (Museum of the Moving Image)
TV Fragmented by LoVid Web 2.0 is participatory and informative but decentralized hashes are equally(++) participatory and informative. Enjoy both. Burn the whole fork, and enjoy both ETC impulses, BTC avulses, P(aik)TC propulses, L(oVid)TC convulses The medium is validated while the message is encrypted. We said 10 years ago 'TV is dead'. We say now 'Video is hacked except when the keys are on paper.' The shift of main information processing from local to distributed (everywhere) will bring another profound change to our civilization. Satoshi invented the blockchain. The great great cultural revolution is happening in the basement. The No-boss said '70% of fiat is made by selling things to people but in the future so much more will be contained in their NFTs.' Our experiments deconstruct and reformat this new stage of consensus development. For technical details ask a staker. We are on another chain for now. LoVid Old Field, October 2021
— Matrix's Delight — Might I cross paths with an artist leaving the residency as I begin? Late night electric buzz syncing into endless combinations. The night after Hank's orientation and I've made myself discombobulated Forgetting, then knowing, unknowing is the space of possibility. Camping indoors amongst the snaking orange and black cords Did I make that clever tune that is sticking to the roof of my mind? Send it through the Jone's Sequencer and let it perform An edit of live cameras with prerecorded materials, formats be damned, rescan. I came prepared but let the proposal unfold anew Under the spell of the glitch witch Square waves multiply triangle waves added to sine waves Creating tidal waves of heavily buffered images. Phase shifting the black bursts through the Colorizers, impossible, Whoops, it's time to meet Sherry at Dunkin' Donuts. Taking another break, walls of tapes keep me company When I can't stop staring at the posters of media exhibitions gone by. A New Year's Eve residency brings friends gathering around the signal song. Snow sticks to the tree branches And the camera eye unavoidable is lured out the window. A rare sighting of the Wizard of Oz goes noted. In gratitude, forever indebted to being plugged into the flow by the river Where analog met digital upon its home turf and made friends. Time to wrap up the handful of days performing the media. Hours to log, reorder, make sense and nonsense to what went down As its mysteries are eventually released to all quarters.
Personal site (myportfolio.com)
Video Art took off in the late 60's with the availability of portable video equipment. Some took to the streets to create gorilla T.V. others began to use it as a performance tool. Video Synthesizers were used to bend and colorize black and white images. Video Feedback was a technique that involved pointing a camera into a monitor displaying the cameras picture. The results were liquid light effects.
Rohesia Hamilton Metcalfe
It's either something this minimal or I'd have to write a long nostalgic essay. What a wonderful, wonderful place ETVC was. Coming up there was the absolute highlight of my video-making days. You have giant redwood life energy from all that you did. Biggest hugs and never-ending appreciation to you all.
- Out the window, the window… (image)
Bianca Bob Miller
The Experimental Television Center is a hundred rings in my tree trunk~an immersive experience embedded in every cell, brain and heart groove. ETC was the stellar sacred space to explore all ideas, free from judgement, expectation, penalty or pressure. Being an ETC Artist In Residence was a DNA altering growth season each and every time. For decades, ETC was located in the small upstate town of Owego, New York. The Studio was perched right above the Susquehanna River, a beautiful constant flow of calm. ETC for me was also a river of calm flow and creativity -- a river above this river. ETC was a dance with several familiar steps. The combination started with my excited hollers crossing the bridge into Owego.The smells of soap and perpetual Christmas from the Hand Of Man shoppe on the ground floor of 180 Front Street. Multiple trips up two creaky flights of the eucalyptus scented stairway lugging suitcases filled with hard drives, tapes, guitars, keyboards, props and costumes. Opening the ETC studio door to the loft filled with the river breeze, amazing gear and all the possibilities. The first few days would be the struggle of rusty relearning the patch bay world of knobs, switches and handmade gear quirks (I see you Paik Wobulator! Don't touch those tube coils!) Hours vanished in the tango of cables, colorizers, buffers and sine waves, trying to manifest the outcome of a thought, wondering what the hell was I thinking. And slowly, out of those doubts, grace would emerge bringing the often elusive always fabulous flow where everything makes sense and endless potential feels effortlessly. And it was always too soon to pack up to go home. ETC was freedom to play, develop and execute projects. And then change it all. It was the freedom to step away from the delicious voltage controlled buffet and walk along the Susquehanna to clear the eyes and mind's eye. The freedom to immerse into the Owego charms and oddities. Thank you for the prop inspiration, Mission Thrift. Hi, Bacon Street. The ETC space would not have been the consistently deep experience without the creative people who made it The Place. Hank Rudolph was the Genius Gear Whisperer and heart of ETC who kept everything up and running. He patiently walked decades of creators through the maze of inputs, outputs, switches and synths teaching them the tools he deeply understood as a tech and an artist. David Jones was Mr. Magic Maker whose handmade processing gear were essential pieces in the Studio. His artistry shines in the creative tools he built that benefitted so many and were beloved (and still are). Ralph Hocking and Sherry Hocking are the ETC Soul Seed Starters. Their generosity of spirit goes way beyond creating ETC and keeping it going strong for decades. Ralph and Sherry helped grow and sustain a community of creators with their love, support and presence, sharing wisdom, advice, porch side hummingbirds and bulldozer rides. They are both artists and artist whisperers, deeply essential and beloved. ETC was one of my best teachers. The experiences there shaped who I am, how I create and continues to guide me decades later. I'm the proud owner of a thousand happy mistakes I made in all those all night sessions as an ETC Artist In Residence. It was home and heaven in the river above the river, and will always be part of me.
- Dave Jones at ETC (photo)
Right after finishing school, I had the honor of being accepted for an ETC residency in the Fall of 2010. I remember so clearly the details of the trip - taking a bus from NYC to the town. It was a beautiful fall and I was there over halloween when the town was fully decorated. Going up the stairs to the space and finally seeing it was a magical experience. I had heard from my professors for a long time about the possibilities there and it was great to finally see it. Also - that beautiful view of the river. Hank gave me a comprehensive overview of the space and the tools available, and then I was left to my own devices. I cannot recall another time where I just felt completely free to create with visual tools and explore for days on end. I think I ended up making 6 or 7 fully realized experiments by the end of the week, and I tried to log my daily experiences as well. I wanted to try a little bit of everything and understand the limitations and possibilities enabled by the range of tools. I tried giant feedback loops, various experiments with the Wobbulator, switching between multiple cameras, working with the frame buffer, etc. One of my biggest takeaways was that there are so many things that are possible with analog tools that simply aren't achievable with digital tools. My time at ETC was incredibly special and I''m so glad it will continue for future visual artists. Thank you for keeping it going.
Nam June Paik
I cannot describe how much I owe to this center… both Shigeko and I are eternally indebted to ETC and Hocking for all these adventures and fruits.
The E.T.C. and the principle of if the artist could use it (the studio) for their work. How does one let go of that lack of confidence. Like my mother I've taken to technological apparatus for free flight. Liberation, as it is a dream, is vague yet is marked up by specifics. I haven't made a point about the ETC. The point is, at the ETC the feat of discovery & free flight in the guise of immediacy, response, performance of one's whole mind-body intelligence was facilitated by that remarkable video studio. This is the principle Staying up way too late working... The buzz visible from NY Route 17, studio activity emitting from third-floor windows out onto the river, and into the flow. Understanding the principle of the electronic-studio-system can be missed, the nuts and bolts of all the gear is a perfect location for the seemingly compulsory petty arguments of expert technical knowledge... The ETC, Ralph Hocking kept focus, the point of the system, and never seemed to lose the grip; what could artists go up there and do with the studio, while still 'all in' with advanced and accessible technology. Resolute and sharp, the ETC studio principle presented via custom systems created and sustained by a camaraderie of artist(s) engineers*, in service to that free-flight of hit record: this moment is not reproducible. The can-do-with is radicality. This principle was significant for my practice and I'm very grateful. I was at the time of my first ETC residency an artist without much backing, I was truly surprised that I'd been given a residency. This was my residency, there wasn't some ETC portfolio that I was supporting, I was the one being supported, left to my own time and left to experiment. And I did and I can't well recall the recordings I made, but the generosity of support and the tantalization of the ETC electronic-media studio, this radicality I keep in action. Thank you ETC and happy 50th Anniversary!! * Ralph Hocking, David Jones, Sherry Hocking, Walter Wright, Don McArthur, Paul Davis, Richard Brewster, Matt Schlanger among others.
It's hard to put into words how crucial the Experimental Television Center was in my development as an artist. During the summer of 2001, I participated in ETC's International Student Residency program. I was 21 years old and a junior at Alfred University. Although I was studying video and sound art at the time, I remember feeling so intimidated by "the system" at the ETC. It was fascinating, yet immense, confusing and overwhelming. For much of the two weeks I spent there, I sat on the sidelines, watching my fellow students jam out, and make cool, innovative work. Towards the end of the residency, I still hadn't made anything yet, and was feeling pretty distraught. Then one night while driving around Owego with a bunch of friends, Ice Cube's song, "You Can Do It" came on the radio. My friends and I spontaneously started clapping along to the edited words in the music, and as we broke out in laughter, an idea came to me. The next day I went back to the ETC and made "#!%@*?" (a.k.a. "The Clapping Tape") in which we re-imagined the previous night's events. The video didn't use any image processing but combined a simple, humorous concept with a group performance for the camera, and ended up receiving positive feedback. With the encouragement of my Professor, Pam Hawkins, I sent the piece out and "The Clapping Tape" was accepted to the European Media Art Festival in Osnabruck, Germany. With generous support from Alfred University, I flew to Germany in 2002 and participated in the festival. This pivotal experience gave me the confidence to pursue an artistic career in video art and I have never looked back. In subsequent years, I had three artist's residencies at the ETC in 2003, 2007, and 2008. These residencies took place while I was in my twenties- I was working full time then, and had no studio or real equipment of my own. During those years, and thanks to the generous support of Hank Rudolph, I gained more experience with ETC's incredible tools, and generated some of my best and most favorite works. The ETC was vital to my art making practice at that time and I'm not sure I would have been able to continue working with real-time A/V without access to their program. "The system" at the Experimental Television Center continues to be the blueprint for much of what I do in my own studio. The ETC was, and will forever be, the holy grail of image processing studios, and I'm extremely grateful that I got to be a part of its history and community.
- #!%@*? (a.k.a. “The Clapping Tape”) (2001)
- Mating Call (2003)
- Laura’s Song (2003)
- Untitled (with Last Jam) Excerpt (2003)
- Evergreen (2008)
- LOOSE CONTROL (2008)
We moved to Binghamton, NY in 1973. and began working in 1975 at The Experimental Television Center in Binghamton and Owego, NY, with video, synthesizers, guitar and the Theremin. It was an important independent center, and was a foundation for us. Here we did our first Use of video and photography with music to create multimedia works, First synthesizer workshop at ETC with Gary Hill, First Theremin built at ETC from a kit from SW Texas instruments in 1975, I used it in my solo concerts from 1978-present day. The ETC was an open space and creative environment for video and other arts, dance, music and photography.
— Artist Residencies Are So Much More Than Just Places to Make Work — When I think about my experiences with ETC, I'm approaching it as both someone who has had the opportunity to make work in the studio and as a facilitator and instructor who met hundreds of other artists and saw them as they experienced the studio. Peer Bode is one of a few other people who have had that combination of experiences. This also created a feedback loop where various artists' reactions to the system informed our ideas about how that environment could evolve in both the physical layout of the space and the machines that were in it, as well as how the, admittedly rough, living facilities were incorporated into that space. ETC has been a major part of my adult life from when I first came to SUNY-Binghamton as a Cinema student in 1976, where Ralph was teaching video art, the Center was located in downtown Binghamton, and Peer had just started as its Program Coordinator after being at Media Study at SUNY- Buffalo. It shaped my very notion about what electronic art (and art itself) could be, the process in which it is made, and the raw materials for making it. Those materials weren't obvious in consumer video products, in part because, unlike film, they are largely invisible and intangible. That understanding required a range of machines designed by creative engineers, like David Jones and others, along with the time and space for an individual to explore the video signal. While others, notably the Vasulkas , were providing the philosophical framework for these approaches, Ralph and Sherry made the model available, in the form of a residency program, to hundreds of people over a 40 year time span in what could be viewed as a radical social experiment in electronic arts. It provided the template for other residency programs such as the Institute for Electronic Arts at Alfred University and Signal Culture, as these places defined them in their own terms. Many of the concepts in the studio are now part of a common vocabulary: a real-time image-making environment, an open-ended architecture, the ability to generate images electronically without cameras, to synchronize image and sound events, and to interact with these tools both by hand and through automated processes. But beyond specific techniques and individual machines, ETC had two broader premises. First was the idea that one could make art with electronics within a personal studio environment, as opposed to a television studio or post-production house. The second premise was that the educational process, the need to understand what was going on with the signal, was as important as the actual production of work. In some ways, you have to go back 50 years to understand why those two notions, now so obvious, would be considered novel, maybe even revolutionary, at the time. To the general public and many in the field, it was impossible to separate video as an artistic practice from television, as an industrial model. Equally misunderstood was the idea that the analog video signal, and eventually digital data, were something worthy of serious study and exploration. Without the many theoretical models today for discussing materiality and specificity, many could only comprehend this approach through simplistic interpretations of Clement Greenberg, and saw the whole endeavor as an attempt to legitimize the medium through an alignment with Late Modernism. Whatever was going on at this place was perceived, by some, as either out of its time, or already outdated, rather than ahead of its time. The accolades that are now, thankfully, bestowed upon ETC weren't necessarily there at the beginning, or even in the middle of its tenure. It took a while for the rest of the world to catch up, and it was fun watching it happen. For me, I've never worked in a place before that didn't feel like I was going to a job. It was always what I wanted to do that day. It was by far, the most personalized institution I've ever experienced, inseparable from the people that ran it. The ten years since the Center ended its AIR have coincided with an unprecedented surge of interest in this field by artists, writers, students, toolmakers, and media arts organizations. ETC has taken on a somewhat mythical status for a new generation. For me, it was a part of my everyday experience, but it was never a mundane one. The reason that it stayed new was fairly simple: there were different people every week to share it with, and gradually, over a period of decades, a huge community emerged. Some of those people are now gone: Jud Yalkut, Connie Coleman, Mary Ross, Rob Natowitz, Barbara Hammer, Van Dousmanis, Matthew Underwood. Other people kind of disappeared. I've always been introverted, so I never would have met any of them had I not been at the Center. I think about many of you often. My most emotionally charged experiences at ETC were the International Student Residencies that Pamela Hawkins organized and co-taught with me through Alfred, where there would be 20+ humans buzzing about that space in clusters of unison and disarray. When I was in my 20's, I had no idea where I belonged. At the time that I stumbled upon this place, I had some vague idea what people were doing based on Nam June Paik's work and Gene Youngblood's book, but I didn't think there'd be an organization dedicated to allowing people to do it. In a way, I never left and I never looked back. If you're that age now, I hope that you find that place, because it's probably more important now than ever that you do. Ralph and Sherry, thank you both for letting me be part of this for all these decades.
- ETC Studio Tour (1992) (Vimeo)
The Experimental TV Center altered me, became one of the most important determinants of my core, and set me on a path and way of thinking that persists to the present day. As a student of Ralph Hocking's at SUNY Binghamton I was introduced to the ETC while taking classes in the Cinema department. I was an intern, had independent studies at the center, and for one year our video production classes took place there, while Ralph Hocking was on sabbatical, with Peer Bode stepping in to teach us in a studio Ralph assembled that included a Paik Abe colorizer, a keyer and a pair of ancient signal generators. My memories from that time are many: I sat on the floor with Richard Brewster when he finished the yellow modular synthesizer and was first testing it - the sound of bees swarming the room moved between two five foot high Peavey speakers. Sometimes we would go upstairs and look at the piles of broken portapacks and I would give the thaumatrope of Ralph chewing a spin. The Television Center would bring artists to town to give shows. This is how I first met Woody and Steina, and Ernie Gusella. Later in Owego - while still a student - I helped white wash the brick, and I dragged cinema department friends to Owego on the back of my motorcycle to pore over the ETC video library. Outside the Center I worked with Rich Brewster learning to build audio synthesizers, and later after graduating I stayed upstate to be near. The week I graduated from Binghamton David Jones called to invite me to join the Tuesday Afternoon group. For a time, each week, five of us gathered in Barton to work with David constructing circuits for our personal video systems. David critiqued the work, gave us pointers and tested the results. Eventually I quit my job at the local PBS station to work for the Center full time, living in Owego, and working with David building a new generation of video synthesizers that came out of the Four Board and Framebuffer projects. I taped up circuit boards, constructed circuits, and designed and wired the boxes. Sometimes I stepped in for Hank and worked with the residents. And each week Sherry would leave me a check. All the while I kept constructing my own system, building tools was always part of my art making process, and I spent as many days in residence, using the system, that I could gather. ETC residencies were monastic. We would isolate ourselves for three or five days. Along with the latest assemblage of image processing tools was a bed and hotplate. I would work late into the night but would not use sequencing much until my final day as I didn't want to burn out from the flicker too early. I recall many sessions: the Bug-Eyed Ramrod session, and the breakthrough I had at the end, Blue Mercury, Bad Knees. My earlier sessions were more varied, I would move between charcoal drawings, to manipulating camera sync pulses and then compositions based on using periodic waveforms. Each piece was a real-time recording with image and sound. My process was to record each patch, even if it wasn't very good, and only then was I free to change the patch and move on. There was always the stress of creating and the struggle to balance that stress and keep moving forward. The Television Center nurtured me in formative years. The ETC was not just a space with hardware: Peer, Hank, myself, and others, would sometimes get together to look at the newest of the new work residents were creating, or maybe what was coming out of Siggraph, and argued and discussed the problematics of real time hybrid analog-digital image processing. Sometimes there was a soirée at Ralph and Sherry's house. But then also it seemed at times that the ETC was just a room with a system, a residency and a library. The ETC was about access. The only manifesto was that maybe you would eventually gather your own system. Our meetings were rare and we were not advocating an aesthetic. The ETC residents living in Owego most often kept to themselves. Peer left first, Sara left, finally Barbara left. A year later I left town. The Center could no longer employ me, which was fine, I had finished my modular video synth, a frame buffer, and two more racks of audio and control modules. I set up shop in Brooklyn yet still returned for residencies for a while. This was a heady time. The Binghamton Cinema department had been breaking ground and contributed to defining a language and syntax of the moving image avante garde, and Ralph's video was an important part of that effort. The history of video art is a great river of many forms and the tributary of that mighty river that I swam in was called Image Processing. The Experimental Television Center lives in that tributary. From my perspective the TV Center was the source that fed that tributary.
50 years! Whoa. Think of how many times the wave forms were reformed... Half a century of processes inside processes.
In 1971, my Uncle Tom Dewing and his friend, borrowed video equipment from ETC thanks to Ralph and Sherry. About 20 years ago, while my uncle was visiting my family in Kirkwood, a conversation took place about the film. Being a relentless amateur historian of the area, I inquired about the film. My uncle's response was, "Rob, that was 30 years ago, the film is long gone." I couldn't rest on that answer, so, I "requested" my uncle look into it. He called the place where he borrowed the equipment as a teenager, and to his amazement, Mr. Hocking was still operating it. The response was expected, "we have several of the films, but most are lost to decay and time." Over the next year or two, I would email occasionally to inquire about the film. One day, I opened my email to read that the 1/2" film was discovered. I took the film to Newhouse at SU, but it was too sticky to be recovered. I sent the film to a professional restoration company in NYC. What I received back was an incredible treasure. The link I have included is the film in it's entirety...."Farmer Dewing." The film is 23 minutes. With a 17 minute interview with my Grandfather on the history of the farm and area. Thank you for what you have done for this community, and congrats on 50 years!
Joshua Gen Solondz
I owe so much to ETC. I shared a residency in 2011 with my collaborator and friend Jim Supanick, we recorded two music videos for our band Synth Humpers and I generated oodles of material, a portion of which I would use to make my video BURNING STAR which really launched my career as an artist, as well as my 2012 video PRISONER'S CINEMA. I have fond memories of waking up next to the patch bays, washing my face, going for a short jog through icy Owego, before returning to patch my shoddy array of cigar box circuits into the mothership of equipment at ETC. It was an incredible feeling and experience. I also thoroughly blame ETC for inspiring me to build/assemble my own overly large a/v setup. It's pretty humble by comparison but I think of my time at the Television center every time I patch it up. (I still cannot recreate Hank's vocoder/color shift/switch patch exactly as I remember it. It's my white whale.)
Foofwa was with Merce Cunningham at the time, and we recorded him with a number of cameras which were switched on and off by my voice. The music had been prerecorded at ETC as well. The work emphasizes the physicality of classical ballet in relation to the real body and exhaustion of the dancer. I tended to work quickly at ETC in general; years before, in 1967, we had built a music synthesizer with VCO, VCA, etc. from scratch - there were no blueprints at the time. So I became familiar with analog controls early on - and the ensuing production techniques that emerged from them. ETC allowed this all to occur in what was, for me, an ideal workspace / livespace / playspace / dancespace/ performance space - an open loft next to the Susquehanna River (I grew up in Kingston, Pennsylvania, next to the same) - with a bookstore across the street, a still bridge which we could attach contact microphones to, a town with a gazebo perfect for dancework at 4 a.m. in the morning, nature and ponds around, and so forth. I remember a bat flying over our heads one night when we were falling asleep - wonderful! The equipment was relatively easy to use, and I tried to work with everything, including a very old character generator which was the core of some of my work. I loved the analog video synthesizers as well, which were more like living organisms - one negotiated with them, and that was always amazing. I used the Mirage Ensoniq constantly for music; its combination of analog and digital with floppies was breathtaking. Later I found a second-hand one but it gave out on me; I still try to find one to use for my music/soundwork. You ask about "citizen of the world" - but it was more like citizen of the Universe! The machines had an inner light of their own, and living and working in the same space meant we could get up at 4 a.m. if one of us had an idea, and work through the night. In the short times of the residencies, we were able to produce hours of finished work, as if there were always dialogs organically growing among us and the machinery, which had a life of its own. I remember beavers, Foofwa dancing on the railing of a pier overlooking a frozen pond, recording ballet and movie musical dancing on the street in front of the loft at 3 a.m. in the morning. It was perfect. I took that experience later to the work I did at the Virtual Environments Laboratory (VEL) at West Virginia University, Morgantown, and more recently to working with motion capture experimentation at New Jersey Institute of Technology, NYU, Columbia College (Chicago), and elsewhere. A certain grace and camaraderie with machines, bodies, intermixtures of analog and digital apparatus. And I work through this even now. ETC was seminal!
Arthur Tsuchiya & Debby Silverfine
While on travels in Oslo, Norway in 2005, we stopped in at a small museum to get out of the late March snow, and came across a screening room featuring video from the Experimental TV Center. There was a moment of joyous laughter and the realization that a small off-the-beaten track artist residency center contributed to art seen round the world. The time, support and freedom to experience, experiment, and work with the Center's technology has been so very meaningful to so many artists. The singularity of ones access, 24/7, with incredible technical support, shared by so many artists over the years, is a remarkable feat. As veteran arts funders, we can attest to the record — decades of creative endeavor — a gem in Tioga County — to say nothing of the hours of care and enduring friendships.
Nancy Meli Walker
An ETC wonder world. Electronic poetry, 8-bit animation collages, 3D layers, Analogue, Digital. Waves of sounds and video. Inspiration of wires, patches and possibilities. Never sleep, exhaust the light, find the ripple.
Dr. Peter Weibel
After 1945 music was the arena for avantgarde and experiments with new tools and instruments. Therefore, many centers and experimental studios for music have been founded. After music, media became the arena for experiments and avantgarde. Therefore it was highly consequential that Ralph Hocking founded the Experimental Television Center (ETC). I can only bow with deep gratitude for the achievements of Sherry and Ralph Hocking.
At ETC I learned to work in a formidably open-ended environment. As a deserter from electronic music and commercial recording studios, I was accustomed to large modular synthesizers with a few pieces of outboard processing equipment and a set of tape recorders. The exception was the studio at the University of Toronto, which harbored many individual and offbeat pieces of equipment, some custom designed by Hugh LeCaine. I attended a summer term there where formal classes for academic credit displaced studio use. There was insufficient time to foster mastery of the equipment. At other studios, modular Moog synthesizers were powerful and flexible but subject to an overall organization and operating system that made for consistent and somewhat tailored results. A double-edged sword. My previous video environment was merely a small educational studio with B&W cameras, switchers, and open reel portapaks. Landing at ETC was like being pulled out of a wading pool and being cast upon the breakers of the English Channel. The ETC video image processors at first were daunting and overwhelming. They presented a deranged variety of designs, architectures, and operating methods. I began with a few processors using familiar technology: voltage control, a common feature of music synthesizers. There was an 8-channel sequencer which evoked a music synthesizer's control-voltage sequencer. Matrix patching was less user-friendly, as patch cords are the norm in audio studios and enable easy grasp of signal paths. I gained fluency in the operation of the equipment because beneficently there was no choice. Staff gave help and instruction, but solo time was plentiful. As I used all this gear my technical education took a giant step, for which I have been grateful. Life at ETC went beyond the techno centric. Shaping an aesthetic focus and outputting footage with artistic value flourished daily during a residency and became overriding. This hinged primarily on restructuring well the camera-original footage I brought in, which depended in turn on its intrinsic worth. Successes and failures were keyed to the merits and demerits of my source tapes. The technology was mostly analog (plus some digital that was low bandwidth), with its attendant distortion, uneven response, and noisy edges. It could give a warmth and vibrancy to the images. Sometimes even the heat of revival fires.
- Personal site (magneticmusic.ws)
My earliest memory of the Experimental Television Center (ETC) is following Arnie Zane up the stairs at the Court Street location in downtown Binghamton in the mid-1970's. In those days, it took a small team to pick up video equipment. It was heavy and awkward. It took two of us to carry one of the big monitors down the stairs. The space was piled high with hardware, remarkable and mysterious inventions created by David Jones that could twist and turn and layer and warp and transform video signals into a new language. Of course, Arnie led us there. He was the image maker, a photographer first and a choreographer second. How fortunate we were as developing choreographers to have ETC as a resource and powerful influence. We, the American Dance Asylum (Lois Welk, Bill T Jones, Arnie Zane and others who came and went) were always begging for loaner equipment. That's what I remember the most. Calling and asking Ralph Hocking, if we could have a camera or two or three or a monitor or four or five or six, for this, that or another project. As long as it was available, it was always "yes come it", or "I don't have this but I have that and we can show you how to make it work". Meryl Blackman and Peer Bode, were ETC video artists who took dance classes with us and morphed into performance artists, occasionally joining us on stage. The two communities overlapped. Video artists danced and dancers did video. There was Video is Dancing in Binghamton (1975), a video dance performance staged at the Court Street space in collaboration with Meryl Blackman, Peer Bode, and others. There was Couple 513 (1977) created by Arnie Zane and I based on our participation in a 24-hour marathon. Meryl Blackman documented the 24 hours and edited the final footage for the live performance. The piece premiered at the Everson Museum in Syracuse NY, in a gallery setting with monitors stacked in towers framing the performance space. There was Back of the Picture (1982), with multiple closed circuit cameras mounted backstage, in the wings and in the crossover. It was first performed at 28 Frederick Street Binghamton, NY and then at PS 122, NY, NY. All with support from ETC. The Binghamton Parking Ramp Dances (1978, 1981 and 1984) and a solo, Beside Myself (1986), were collaborations with visual artist Mary Ross, another ETC connection. They featured Ross' synthesized images, incorporated as projections. And there were future collaborations, decades later, with media artist, Peter Chamberlain. I remember Experimental Television Center as a bee-hive of making and doing. People pulling all-nighters in front of screens pulsing with signals. A mash-up of interesting artists, machines and ideas. I still feel the camaraderie and support.
- Video and Dancing at ETC (1975) (image)