[ index | 1970 ]

Wipe Cycle (1969)

Unlike Levine's work, the effect of Wipe Cycle, by the young New York artists Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider, was to integrate the viewer and his local environment into the larger macrosystem of information transmission. Wipe Cycle was first exhibited at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York in 1969 ("TV as a Creative Medium"). It consisted of nine monitors whose displays were controlled by synchronized cycle patterns of live and delayed feedback, broadcast television, and taped programming shot by Gillette and Schneider with portable equipment. These were displayed through alternations of four programmed pulse signals every two, four, eight, and sixteen seconds. Separately, each of the cycles acted as a layer of video information, while all four levels in concert determined the overall composition of the work at any given moment.

"The most important function of Wipe Cycle," Schneider explained, "was to integrate the audience into the information. It was a live feedback system which enabled the viewer standing within its environment to see himself not only now in time and space, but also eight seconds ago and sixteen seconds ago. In addition he saw standard broadcast images alternating with his own delayed/live image. And also two collage-type programmed tapes, ranging from a shot of the earth, to outer space, to cows grazing, and a 'skin flick' bathtub scene."

"It was an attempt," Gillette added, "to demonstrate that you're as much a piece of information as tomorrow morning's headlines - as a viewer you take a satellite relationship to the information. And the satellite which is you is incorporated into the thing which is being sent back to the satellite. In other words, rearranging one's experience of information reception."* Thus in Wipe Cycle several levels of time and space were synthesized into one audio-visual experience on many simultaneous frequencies of perception. What is, what has been, and what could be, were merged into one engrossing teledynamic continuum and the process of communication was brought into focus.

(*) From an interview with Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider by Jud Yalkut in "Film," East Village Other, August 6, 1969.

-- Gene Youngblood: EXPANDED CINEMA, 1970, [PDF /4.6 Mb] pp.341-343 (Closed-Circuit Television and Teledynamic Environments)


The centerpiece of "TV as a Creative Medium" was Wipe Cycle, by Gillette and Schneider, which greeted viewers upon their entry into the gallery from the elevator. The piece consisted of a grid of nine monitors; a camera hidden amid the monitors fed a live image to the center screen. This image was switched to the outer monitors in eight- and 16-second intervals so that at any given time the viewers could see themselves eight or 16 seconds before. These live images intercut with broadcast images, and at periodic intervals the screens were wiped blank. Wipe Cycle was one of the first video installations to involve the viewer in an active role on the screen (23) it provided an element of surprise and its correlation between the viewer's image and broadcast imagery emphasized the individual's relationship to information. Gillette described the piece as

a television mural designed to engage and integrate the viewer's television "image" at three separate points in time and five exchanging points in space ... The intent of this overloading (something like a play within a play within a play) is to escape the automatic "information" experience of commercial television without totally divesting it of its usual Content. (24)
Wipe Cycle remains a complex and intriguing work. As critic Richard Kostelanetz wrote, "The spectator feels caught in an intelligent, watchful, oblivious system whose incessant and variable observations remain compelling and mysterious even after their operation is explained." (25)

- Marita Sturken, May 1984, Afterimage, Vol. 11, No. 10


23. Les Levine produced two installations, Iris (1968) and Contact: A Cybernetic Sculpture (1969), which were important predecessors to Wipe Cycle, although less complex. In Iris, six monitors in a grid show imagery of viewers in close-up, mid-range, and wide angle; in Contact, the concept of Iris is extended with similar imagery on 18 monitors (nine on either side), with images switching from screen to screen.
24. TV as a Creative Medium (exhibition brochure), (New York: Howard Wise Gallery, 1969), n.p.
25. Richard Kostelanetz, "Artistic Machines," Chicago Review, Vol.23, No.1 (1971), p. 124.

[ index | 1969 ]