Stephen Beck. Beck Video Weaver, 1974

Stephen Beck

Photons, Electrons, Icons and Phonons: Materials and Makings of Pre- and Post-Digital Art

Date 3/1/06

Affiliation Artist & Inventor, Berkeley


This presentation is dedicated to Nam June Paik, who passed on to that great cathode ray tube in the sky on January 30, 2006, at the age of 73.

Steve Beck postulates that we are entering a "post-digital" era in which tools for image making, sound, music, and communications are mature and ubiquitous. How do we use these tools wisely, and what might be their implications and consequences? What becomes of visual language, sensory and optimal perception? Will diffusion of analog motifs result? For Beck, creative necessity propels artistic realizations and explorations via hybrid electronic technologies.

Steve Beck's artistic and technical innovations in luminous, dynamic, emitted light span his transformation from the analog world of the 1960's to today. Beck's work has investigated visual tools and visual language, archetypal modalities, internal imagery, spiritual technology and compositional structures in video, music, animation, light sculptures and games.

Beck will show examples from his body of work, ranging from early electronic neon sculptures with the 1968 charter Chicago chapter of Experiments in Art and Technology, to video compositions such as "Union," an allegorical portrayal of internal bodily energies, and performances of "Illuminated Music" created on his invention, the Beck Direct Video Synthesizer. He'll also present studies of dynamic, magic square color matrix sequencing in Video Weavings, analog video fractals in a music video for Jimi Hendrix, Ambient Video sculptures created in Japan, and recent HDTV "Solaris Series" Videon video painting studies of real time variant, dynamic atmospheric optical colorations of Pacific Coast sunsets and sunrises.


Stephen Beck is a recognized video and media artist working from a base in the Berkeley Hills. His pioneering work in video art includes the invention and application of the Beck Direct Video Synthesizer in 1969 - a distinct and unique video synthesizer which used no cameras to product images.

His work has been exhibited at and is in collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Museo Contemporario, Caracas, Venezuela, and other museums. His pioneering experimental video art was broadcast nationally on the PBS network. His video/film composition "Union" was honored with the Prix Italia award (1978) and a CINE Gold Eagle award (1976). He also co-directed "Cycles" a pioneering videofilm, with noted experimental filmmaker Jordan Belson (1974).

Beck has been honored with artist's support from The Rockefeller Foundation, The American Film Institute, and The National Endowment from the Arts. He was an artist in resident at the National Center for Experiments in Television at KQED - NCET. (The Berkeley Art Museum is planning a retrospective exhibition of the video works of the NCET in early 2000.)

Recent works and exhibitions include "Pioneers of Electronic Art - Ars Electronic" (1993); "Atmospheres" videosonic environment (installation) and invitational participation by the Prince of Japan, ARTEC Biennale, Nagoya (1991), Japan; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia - one man showing (1996) ; "Video Weaver Reincarnated" interactive installation and invitational participation, Kwang-Ju Biennale, Kwang-Ju, Korea (1995).

Mr. Beck is also a writer of the post digital era, and his writing has appeared in Mondo 2000 Magazine, Wired Magazine, The New York Times, NTT ICC Journal of Communications Art, Tokyo, and other international publications.

His high-tech toy and game inventions include "Talking Wrinkles" the interactive electronic dog (Colceo), "Babble" reverse talking game (Galoob Toys) , Pocket Arcade micro videogames (Sega), "Save The Whales" videogame, and many others.

Some of his other patented inventions include digital television conversion chips for Focus Enhancements, Energy Management Computer Systems for Safeway Stores, and the Phosphotron, a photonless imaging visual technology.

-- As of 3/1/06

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