| "OUTER SPACE: The Past, Present and Future
of Telematic Art - 07"
INTERVIEW WITH TAV FALCO ABOUT EARLY TELEMATIC ART AT TELEVISTA IN MEMPHIS, NEW CENTER FOR ART ACTIVITIES IN NEW YORK AND OPEN SPACE GALLERY IN VICTORIA, CANADA.
BY JEREMY TURNER (Conducted by e-mail, December, 2003).
TF: My recollections of early Slow-Scan experiments involving our art-action group TeleVista begin July 31st., 1977, from our provisional headquarters upstairs in the rented skylight illuminated grading rooms of Purcell & Culver Cotton Co. at 116 S. Front St. in Memphis, Tennessee. This entailed a point-to-point Slow-Scan encoder interaction between TeleVista (charged by Randall Lyon & myself) and Center for New Art Activities in New York (under the direction of Willoughby Sharp of Avalanche magazine & Lisa Bear now writing for BOMB magazine) connecting the Beale St. Repertory Co. Childrens Theatre with the Childrens Art Carnival of Harlem.
A subsequent & more elaborated Slow-Scan send/receive experiment involved an incursion into the local studios of the CBS affiliate station in Memphis, WHBQ-TV, on a popular show called, Straight Talk, that was broadcast into the states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. We entered the broadcast facility armed with the encoder, our own portable video camera & recording equipment, & our own monitors. Our unit was self sufficient & we paid for our own phone line hook-up utilizing the pay phone in the hallway. Participants in our artists net were OPEN SPACE in Victoria with Bill Bartlett, Center for New Art Activities in New York, and RELAY in San Francisco. On this occasion appeared the musical wing of TeleVista for their first videographic performance: a newly formed, neo-rumorist orchestra known as PANTHER BURNS. Also, featured on this May broadcast of Straight Talk were the King & Queen of the prestigious royal court of the Memphis Cotton Carnival.
As the studio cameras opened their irises, our camera interfaced into theirs, and their cameras into our monitors as the spectral B&W motion-frozen, live images unfolded line by line before our own & the eyes of startled viewers in three states. While rotating the reception of dynamic imagery shifting between Canada, New York, & San Francisco, Randall Lyon propounded the virtues of this independent, instantaneous guerilla hook-up between artists groups connecting the various geographical points. The send share emanating from Memphis captured the live studio performance of PANTHER BURNS who had reluctantly been allowed by the show host to crank up their musical machinery, instruments, & noise generators led by Tav Falco himself, and in the rapture of the moment had been spontaneously joined before the cameras by the King & his sexy Queen of Cotton as she merrily beat a tambourine with abandon while the orchestra launched into a self-styled tango entitled, "Drop Your Mask" & then delivered a blues cum rockabilly ditty called, "Train Kept a Rollin". The abberative & unbridled orchestral performance coupled with the disembodied & singular ghostlike Slow-Scan imagery seemed to loom large & somehow overtake the studio cameras & the very format of the talk show. Our dowager hostess weltered in chagrin under the lights and at the conclusion - when the Queen had ceased her slithering gyrations - tagged the show with a horrific scowl & declared, "I need a bath after that".
It would be interesting to engage in another TeleAction experiment with OPEN SPACE and Bill Bartlett in a yet more poetic direction wherein I envision my position as a kind of DreamMeister.
JT: I was wondering to what extent your Rock-And-Roll aesthetic had informed your performance choices (if at all) when Slow-Scanning from Televista into Open Space and the Center for New Art Activities in New York? Has any of your experiences with Televista directly led you towards your current career with your band the Panther Burns?
TF: So called, Rock n Roll was the music at hand when the PANTHER BURN orchestra was formed, although certain noise gradients were added that seemed to compliment the noisy, _expressionistic elements of the B&W video & Slow-Scan imagery generated by TeleVista which in turn informed the musical & performance proclivities of the orchestra.
JT: What was the general reaction in Memphis at the time to your SS-TV collaboration? Did your performance directly inspire any other memphis-based artists that you can think of? Also, is there a unique quality to Memphis that has allowed it to become one of the pioneering centers of Telematic Art?
TF: The general reaction in Memphis was fairly general. The actions of TeleVista were taken into account on a literal & a journalistic level, but when TeleVista joined forces with its orchestral action wing, something explosive occurred that tended to split & provoke the consciousness of anyone who happened to be on the receiving end - whether they were paying attention or not. Thus producing a residual unconscious effect not easily eradicated. This is the sort of influence TeleVista produced in Memphis & elsewhere. As for Memphis being one of the pioneering centers of Telematic Art, I cannot imagine it being a center, and at best only marginal.
JT: In your opinion, is there a spiritual connection for you between the Blues and the possible metaphysical properties of telematic art?
TF: The metaphysical contours constellating the highest forms of Telematic Art are without doubt connected to the spirituality inherent in the blues, tango, and other _expressionistic music & dance forms.
JT: In my interview with Robert Adrian in Vienna he mentions how WorldPool Collaboration in 1977 was at a time when experiencing the fax medium back then was equivalent to experiencing "magic". I think it was Arthur C. Clarke who felt that any good science was "indistinguishable from magic". Was the Slow Scan experience also "magical" for you? Do you feel that there is still "Magic" left in some of the newer technological experiences out there?
TF: As a Viennese, Mr. Adrian surely knows magic when he sees & feels it. The early artist FAX experiments also generated a transmorgifical aura around the B&W images emerging from the jaws of the fax units. An irresistible & not inelegant rudimentary, temporal Telematic imagery. Hence, its magical allure... as if an apparition. Much like the first coarse B&W dot pattern images must have appeared to the early printer's devils. When utilizing the newest technological devices, magic & myth cannot be depotentiated in the mind & hands of even the most post-existential, robotic of artists. In a recent film/video piece designed for broadcast/satellite/home theatre applications, PANTHER BURNS were joined on camera by the pioneer underground motion picture film magician, Kenneth Anger... and in of all magical places, but Hotel Orient in Vienna wherein Tav Falco was transformed by a flip of Anger's Tarot cards from a neo-futurist/futur-billy into a pre-surrealist incarnation of FANTOMAS.
JT: What is your opinion on the current state of telematic art and/or emailed art?
TF: My opinions matter little. It is ACTION that distinguishes the artist.
JT: What kind of future do you envision for telematic art and/or emailed art?
TF: Technologic innovations will impact the form, speed, and structural content. As Marshall McLuhan noted, each new medium will wrap around the one proceeding: as, for example, video wrapped around film. Yet the essence of any art cannot be separated from the intellect & from the heart. As chilling technological advances propel us into the future, one must guard against insipid, decorticated, pulp driven content versus blood & bone-meat emotional gradients & subjective contextual manifestoes ideally suited to Telematic/cyber/Art-Action transmissions.
JT: Do you have any advice for online artists of today's generation?
TF: Your mission is survival.
About Tav Falco
1904 ~ Grandparents immigrate from Italy to America.
* http://www.observatori.com/03beta/in/html/aip.asp?id=4 (click on name)
23, rue des Solitaires
Jeremy Turner is the current Digital Archivist working on contract at Open Space. He is also an interdisciplinary artist, writer , composer and curator. He is a Co-Founder of the 536 Media Collective in Vancouver. In addition, he is a Co-Producer of the very first Machinima Documentary, "AVATARA". To date, he has conducted interviews and written articles about innovations in New Media for: C-Theory, Shift, Intelligent Agent, Extropy, Rhizome, Offbeat and Front Magazine. He is on the Board of Editors for the Digital Salvage Online Journal hosted by Trace Reddel at the University of Denver, Colorado.