Show & Tell: Berg Contemporary Presents a Career Survey of Legendary Video Artists Steina & Woody Vasulka

Works by the duo who founded The Kitchen in New York are currently on view in Iceland.

Steina and Woody Vasulka
Woody Vasulka, Waveform Studies XXVIII, Iris Print Series (1977-2003). Courtesy BERG Contemporary.

Steina and Woody Vasulka are credited with having broken ground for experimental video art as we know it today.

Given the duo’s long history (the couple met in 1962 in Prague before marrying and moving to New York City in 1964), it is natural their show at BERG Contemporary in Iceland, on view until August 4, is replete with work both historical and new. Works created separately by each as well as in collaboration with one another are on display, along with never-before-seen prints.

The Vasulkas’ path to making video work was fraught with obstacles. Steina originally trained as a violinist while Woody worked as a freelance multi-screen editor and industrial display designer.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the pair made the plunge, dedicating themselves entirely to experimental video work after acquiring a Sony Portapak unit and a VCS3 Putney audio synthesizer—devices similar to the first mass-produced Putneys used by rock musicians as John Entwistle, David Gilmour, and Brian Eno.

1971 ushered in two momentous achievements that left the Vasulkas lasting imprint on both New York City and video work in general: first, along with Eric Segal, the couple founded the experimental group Perception, and with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), they had the resources to delve further into the medium.

Their second—and perhaps best known—achievement manifested itself in the creation of The Kitchen, the non-profit still functioning today as one of the foremost platforms in New York City for showing the work of both established and emerging artists.

In her involvement with The Kitchen, Steina organized the first female-only film festival, in an effort to promote women in the field that tended to favor male filmmakers, as well as collaborated with The Whitney Museum to hold an annual film festival that continued into the 1980s.

Though the Vasulkas expected The Kitchen to last a mere three to six months, it exists today in New York’s gallery-heavy Chelsea area—the gem of a non-profit dedicated to experimental art fully operating successfully among its commercially-driven neighbors.

Steina and Woody Vasulka

Installation view. Steina and Woody Vasulka. Photo: Vigfús Birgisson.

Steina and Woody Vasulka

Installation view. Steina and Woody Vasulka. Photo: Vigfús Birgisson.

Steina and Woody Vasulka

Woody Vasulka, Waveform Studies XXVIII, Iris Print Series (1977-2003). Courtesy BERG Contemporary.

Steina and Woody Vasulka

Woody Vasulka, Waveform Studies XXVIII, Iris Print Series (1977-2003). Courtesy BERG Contemporary.

Steina and Woody Vasulka

Steina, Pyrospheres, (2007). Courtesy BERG Contemporary.


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