Violin Power I

Vasulka Chamber

8.2.2019 — 31.12.2020

National Gallery of Iceland

The advent of portable camcorders in the early 1970s heralded a new era of freedom for filmmakers, who could now record audio and video in real time. Lightweight Sony equipment gave a boost to the experimental work of artists who applied this technology, inter alia in order to integrate different art forms.

Violin Power I is Steina‘s first autonomous work, shown in the early days at The Kitchen, a gallery/theatre/laboratory run by Steina and her husband Woody Vasulka in what had been a kitchen in the basement of the Broadway Central Hotel in New York. She made the work in 1970-78. In this autonomous work we can observe Steina‘s development as an artist, from playing the violin in her youth and dancing in later years, to singing along to the Beatles‘ Let it Be as a stoical, mature artist.

A rising intermittent crescendo and rhythm characterise a vigorous sequence in which the artist‘s dance is transformed into a symbol for culture, that may be likened to an inexorable force of nature.

As a rule the sound is as important as the visual material – which may be attributed to the artist‘s background in music. The piece reflects the extensive experimental and pioneering work that has been carried out, grounded in Steina‘s musical training and Woody‘s knowledge of engineering and film. Many technological innovations are seen here, based on their research into the potential of the medium. The video may be distorted, mirrored or flipped, with the aim of gaining absolute control of the transmission, in order to capture the one true real time as the couple saw it.


Violin Power I was a foretaste of what was to come, when Steina started to control the forces of nature with her violin bow in works in which she performed and conducted the waves of the sea at the shoreline, turning them on end to resemble fluttering curtains open and closing on the scene – or halted a volcanic eruption and sent the pillar of fire back into the bowels of the earth. Her works have established new norms in the art world and opened up a new view of the interaction of culture and nature. 

5.2.2021 — 9.1.2022

Treasures of Icelandic Art

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