Although I had heard about the Experimental Television Center for a couple years and seen some of the work that was created there, I really had no idea what it was, and so when I got the invitation to spend a couple days there, I jumped at the chance to see what it was really all about.
The Experimental Television Center (ETC) was founded in 1971 with the intention of supporting the creation of work using new electronic media technologies and providing space and time to artists for personal, self-directed creative investigations. Chris Kucinski (my brother) and Owen Osborn of Critter and Guitari had been in residence at ETC three times when they found out that it was closing. When given one last chance to use the tools and freedom to create, they decided to invite some close friends to share the experience with. Those friends included George Langford and Tom van Buskirk of the band Javelin, Bennett Williamson aka Bennett 4 Senate, and Owen’s brother, Ali Osborn.
To my surprise, the Experimental Television Center was not a modern building in the forest of upstate New York – no, it was located in a brick building above an antique store downtown in the village of Owego, NY. It was also just one big room overlooking the Susquehanna River that happened to have image processing equipment. The equipment is a “hybrid tool set, permitting the artist to create interactive relationships between older historically important analog instruments and new digital technologies.” Chris and Owen additionally supplied a color video camera, a projector, and instruments including drums, guitars, Pocket Pianos, and Kaleidoloops.
It didn’t take long for the other guys to get settled in, setting up their drum machines, synthesizers, electronic kazoo, and Xaphoon. Bennett also brought a Title Maker and an old school drawing pad that he hooked up to the video equipment. With all the pieces in place, everyone was psyched to create.
The guys started making music and twiddling around the video equipment. There was no right or wrong way, there was no “stop” or “hold on” – it all just happened organically and without any rules. What happened happened and it was all recorded. For most of my stay there, I oversaw the visual aspect of the performance (as the self-appointed “creative director”), making sure that we were capturing optimal visuals and a sharp aesthetic however strange the outcome.
Having no prior video training, the most important thing I learned is that there is a difference from “physical” vs. analog. What they had at the Experimental Television Center was a physical machine made of hundreds of patches that you physically had to plug and unplug. The equipment was created and maintained by an engineer who lives in Owego, so recreating the equipment would be possible, but very difficult to do.
All in all, my stay at the Experimental Television Center was filled with endless sonic and visual possibilities created by very intelligent and talented people.