In Search of the Plastic Image: a Media Archaeology of Scan Processing

DEREK HOLZER, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Art Papers, Siggraph 2022, Vancouver

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Scan processing is an analog electronic image manipulation technology which emerged in the late 1960’s, reached its apex during the 1970’s, and was made obsolete by digital computing in the 1980’s. During this period, scan processing instruments such as the Scanimate (1969) and the Rutt/Etra Video Synthesizer (1973) revolutionized commercial animation and inspired a generation of experimental video artists. This paper presents a media archaeological examination of scan processing which analyzes the history and functioning of the instruments used, what sorts of possibilities they afforded their users, and how those affordances were realized with technology of the era. The author proposes the reenactment of historical media technologies as an investigative methodology which helps us understand the relation of past and present, and details a reenactment of scan processing involving the display of digitally synthesized audio signals on an analog Cathode Ray Tube vector monitor.

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