Jim Wiseman

Jim has been kind enough to forward me extensive info about his illustrious career, & rather than change the details from 1st person, I present his email to me verbatim, which follows below:

Hi, I'm Jim Wiseman. I've been working with video synthesizers since 1970, where I was a student of Nam June Paik and Shuya Abe at CalArts. I noticed your info on the Paik/Abe on your tools page. I am one of the artists who built one, and just finished a 2 year, (part time) restoration on the mixer/colorizer, the heart of the system. After CalArts, where I got my BFA in video art in 1972, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago and worked with Dan Sandin, who still teaches at U of I Chicago Circle. I built one of his Image Processors, and combined it with my Paik/Abe, using the Sandin for pre-processing. It produced stunning video feedback and abstracts using oscillators for input, as well as of course videotape and camera input. For my masters degree project I did a setup that showed how artists would in the future gather their input from anywhere in space or time using high tech communications, satellites, tape from men on the moon, live cameras, other artists, etc.

I have a restored Paik/Abe Synthesizer here in Hawaii, recently back to mint condition by the able hand of Bill Howell. It is combined with my Sandin Image Processor and Tannenbaum Chromachron in my studio. I originally constructed it under the guidance of video master Shuya Abe at Cal Arts in 1971-72. It is capable of imagery that is extraordinarily complex and responsive, belying its plain exterior and simple controls. Each of the seven inputs is smoothly subcarrier phase shifted from the previous one, producing a different color, reflecting Nam June's desire that each input would represent one of the seven colors of the rainbow. As Abe often said in his few but well applied words of English "phase is very important". This is the secret of the Paik/Abe, along with the the video amplifiers that rolled off high frequency response at high amplitudes. This phase shifting, combined with the soft edge of the video amps, resulted in luscious colors, and extraordinary video feedback, often combinined with electric patterns from mixed oscillators.

The Paik/Abe imagery is especially compelling when the video is pre-processed in the Sandin system, using the modules of that device to modify the modalities of the video feedback, oscillator, and real-world camera or tape input. I have always been interested in what occurs when different designers' devices are combined. As in nature (genetics, etc.) the combinations result in imagery that none of the designers might have imagined individually.

In 1974 I produced the first two video art programs shown on broadcast TV in Chicago at WTTW-TV, where I became an intern during the last year at the Art Institute. One show was called "TV Song", which had two pieces, Tai Chi Alpha Tala, where a person performing Tai Chi movement with a miniature alpha sensor and FM transmitter was hooked to an audio synthesizer. The five note scale (pentatonic) played by the synthesizer was triggered by her alpha waves. This was accompanied by an Indian drummer who followed the rhythm. The video synthesizer was also pulsed by the amplified alpha waves. The concept of that piece was by a respected electronic composer, Richard Teitelbaum, who performs and teaches in the NYC area. The second piece "Reflections" was about the real-time synchronous nature of everything as I was saying earlier , and involved video of men on the moon mixed real time with Tibetan Dance video and abstract video synthesis accompanied by processed a processed shortwave radio and electronic music score composed by NikWilliams.

After that (1976-84)I worked in San Francisco and LA doing real time video synthesizer performance, with and without biofeedback. I was a partner with a designer, Ed Tannenbaum, who developed one of the first digital video synthesizers, the "Chromachron". It produces time delayed video patterns, colorized, that are quite stunning. The biofeedback work was done primarily with Richard Lowenberg at this time, and included dancer and plant sensor monitors controlling my video synthesizers and digital audio synthesizer based on a Altair computer controlled by software written by Jon Lifton. this was for the feature film "The Secret Life of Plants".

I also did the first live video synthesizer via satellite in 1978, combining images of dancers on the east and west coast in real time. KitGalloway and Sheri Rabinowitz (Electronic Cafe) organized the whole thing and were the creative force behind the project. I was able to work video synthetic versions into the dancers score.

Currently, I am putting all of this stuff together with a Play, Inc. "Trinity" as central mixer in my own studio, and am looking to get much more active again in live performance and studio work. I moved to Hawaii in 1984, and the last few years have had to concentrate on house and studio building, and getting established here.

I feel the time is finally right for live visual performance. People were excited to see it before, but there was really no venue other than museums and galleries. I always felt it was more (or at least as much) like music as, painting or film making, and with cheap video projection and computers, it's becoming a popular art form. Lately I've been checking out the programs for the Mac and Windows. Hope to find something that gets me as excited as the dedicated hardware synthesizers, but haven't found it yet, although some of the stuff is extremely good. The more real time it feels, the better.

Jim Wiseman

JW's VidSynth collection includes:
-A Chromachron
-A Paik/Abe
-A Sandin Image Processor.

Images to follow in the near future.

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