Other names - aliases
Steina; Steinunn Briem Bjarnadottir
Lives and works in
Santa Fe (USA)
was born in 1940 in Iceland. She originally studied violin and music theory. In 1959 she earned a scholarship and came to study in Prague at the Academy of Musical Arts (HAMU). She later performed as a member of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. In Prague she met a documentarian of Czech origin, Woody (Bohuslav) Vašulka. In 1964 they got married, and a year later they emigrated together to the United States and took up residence in New York, where Steina at first worked as a freelance musician.
She began to work with videos together with Woody in 1969. They began to create their first video sketches and performances together, purchasing their first Portapak camera and audio synthesizer. In 1971 she founded together with Woody and Andy Mannick the renowned New York „electronic music theater“, The Kitchen, originally located in the Mercer Arts Center in southern Greenwich Village. Between 1973-79 she worked together with Woody in Buffalo, at the Media Centre founded by Gerald O’Grady.
In 1974 their creative paths began to part ways, and Steina focused on developing the installations, Machine Vision and Allvision, using a set of cameras on moving stands in combination with mirrors. She used these to research the possibility of capturing all-encompassing space as a means of vision, stripped of its dependence on the human point of view. The first joint exhibit by the Vasulkas took place in the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo.
In 1980 they moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Steina began to concentrate more on the pictorial quality of landscapes and expanded her focus (work) beyond the workshop to the surrounding natural space. She began to create multi-screen and multi-channel environments/installations. So she continued in her performances of Violin Power with differently tuned violins. Using a MIDI interface she controlled a video sequence, often projected onto a large screen.
In 1992 the Vasulkas prepared an exhibit devoted to the pioneers of electronic art and their instruments for the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz (Eigenwelt der Apparatewelt: Pioniere der Elektronischen Kunst). The exhibit also included an experimental catalogue. In that same year they jointly received the Maya Deren Award, handed out since 1986 to independent film-makers. In 1996 Steina worked in STEIM (Studio for Electronic Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam. In 1996 there was also a retrospective exhibit of works by Steina and Woody in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was later shown in Santa Fe. In 1997 Steina’s installation piece Orka was shown in the Iceland Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Steina also had a residency at the National Center for Experiments in Television at the KQED station in San Francisco and at the WNET/Thirteen station in New York.
In 1988 she took a residential stay in Tokyo thanks to a grant from the U.S./Japan Friendship Committee. She received support from the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and many other organisations. Steina’s musical education shaped her initial work with the video medium. She approaches the medium as if working with analogue musical structures: „My education is musical. For me music is what leads me to an image. Each image has its own sound, and therein I try to capture something pulsing and living. She applies the same principle to art that she uses when playing the violin: with the same approach of continuous practice, the same principle of composition.“
In recent years she has also devoted time to creating multi-screen and multi-channel installations, drawing mainly from Icelandic landscapes and violin performances, where she uses an adjusted digital violin. Her entire life she has actively taken part in developing her own creative instruments, and recently she collaborated on the development of software programmes for artistic purposes.
Author of the annotation
1996 STEIM (Studio for Electronic Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam
residency stay at „National Center for Experiments in Television“ in KQED in San Francisco and at WNET/Thirteen in New York
1995 Siemens Media Art Prize
1992 Mayi Deren Prize
1988 artist-in-residence in Tokio
1973-79 together with Woody Vasulka in Media Centre in Buffalo
1971 founded The Kitchen in New York together with Woody Vasulka and Andy Mannick
Vasulka, Steina: Machine Vision, Woody: Descriptions. Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1978.
Eizykman, Claudie, Vasulka, Steina; Vasulka, Woody – Steina et Woody Vasulka, vidéastes: 1969-1984: 15 années d'images électroniques, analogiques et numériques., Paris: : CINE-MBXA/CINEDOC, 1984.
Steina Woody Vasulkas : Interaktiivisen Taiteen Näyttely = Exhibition of the interactive art. — Helsinki : Nykytaiteen Museo ; Espoo : Galleria Otso, 1992.
Steina and Woody Vasulka : machine media. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1996.
Steina Vasulka: instalace. Katalog výstavy, Praha 24. ledna – 23. února 1997. Texty Steina Vasulka, Robert R. Riley, Marita Sturken. Praha: Národní galerie, 1997.
Steina & Woody Vasulka : video works : ICC Collection, Tokyo : NTT InterCommunication Center, 1998.
Personal texts not included in database
My love affaire with art : video and installation work. In: Judy Malloy (ed.), Women, art, and technology. Cambridge : MIT Press, 2003.
Einige Autobiographische Bemerkungen. Siemens Medienkunstpreis 1995. Karlsruhe: ZKM/Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe ; München: Siemens Kulturprogramm, 1995.
Reflections. In: Digitale 96. Köln: Academy of Media arts, 1996.