PAIK-ABE VIDEO SYNTHESIZER The Paik-Abe Video synthesizer was a collaboration between Nam June Paik and video engineer Shuya Abe. the basic synthesizer is a colorizer, but in keeping with Nam June Paik's method to create a "smorgasbord of video art", a scan modulator was often found adjacent to the colorizer. Combining video feedback, magnetic scan modulation, and non-linear mixing followed by colorizing, generated its novel style of imagery.
The basic Paik-Abe is a colorizer unit with seven external video inputs and corresponding gain controls. Each of the seven inputs drive various non-linear processing amplifiers. The amplifier passes low level signals but folds over or inverts the polarity of higher level signals. High brightness components are turned into "negative" video while low brightness components can pass through without change. The output of the seven distorted amplifiers drive (depending on the version) a patch panel, a bank of switches or are "hard-wiring" to a resistive matrix. p.129
VIDEO FEEDBACK is a dynamic flow of imagery created by the camera looking at its own monitor. It was often (and still is) the first phenomena that seduced users of video by its sheer beauty. Although everyone who discovered feedback was transfixed by it, feedback seemed an uncontrollable, roiling effluent byproduct of technology - one of those natural mysteries, appreciated but untamable. The acknowledged master of feedback was Skip Sweeney, organizer of the first video festivals and founder of Video Free America in San Francisco. To Sweeney, feedback was a "religion - a wave to ride." Throughout his video work Sweeney has approached video as a realtime tool with an on-going involvement in video as live performance. p.148
Skip Sweeney, ca. 1983, with feedback set up at the Exploratorium, San Francisco, California. HW: Setchell-Carlson Television. Photo by Susan Schwartzenberg. p.149
SPACE-TIME DYNAMICS IN VIDEO FEEDBACK Physica, 1984 ( excerpts ) James P. Crutchfield
Video technology moves visual information from here to there, from camera to TV monitor. What happens, though, if a video camera looks at its monitor? The information no longer goes from here to there, but rather round and round the camera-monitor loop. That is video feedback. From this dynamical flow of information some truly startling and beautiful images emerge.
In a very real sense, a video feedback system is a space-time simulator. My intention here is to discuss just what is simulated and I will be implicitly arguing that video feedback is a space-time analog computer. To study the dynamics of this simulator is also to begin to understand a number of other problems in dynamical systems theory , iterative image processing , cellular automata, and biological morphogenesis, for example. p.191
Physics has begun only recently to address complex dynamical behavior. Looking back over its intellectual history, the very great progress in understanding the natural world, with the simple notions of equilibrium and utter randomness, is astounding. For the world about us is replete with complexity arising from its intimate interconnectedness. This takes two forms. The first is the recycling of information from one moment to the next, a temporal inter-connectedness. This is feedback. The second is the coupling at a given time between different physical variables. In globally stable systems, this often gives rise to non-linearities. This inter-connectedness lends structure to the chaos of microscopic physical reality that completely transcends descriptions based on our traditional appreciation of dynamical behavior.
From a slightly abstract viewpoint, closer to my personal predilections, video feedback provides a creative stimulus of behavior that apparently goes beyond the current conceptual framework of dynamical systems. Video feedback poses significant questions, and perhaps will facilitate their answer. I believe that an appreciation of video feedback is an intermediary step, prerequisite for our comprehending the complex dynamics of life. pp204-205