Mike's pictureMy name created with my own hand

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I consider myself a fringe transmedia conceptual artist and have experimented with all kinds of media: drawing, performance, writing, music, painting, moviemaking, game design. I also believe that one can think of one’s life as a work of art. In A Man Without a Country Kurt Vonnegut wrote:

Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

I accept the notion that we can think of art as a spiritual practice and I have practiced my art since I can remember. Part of my practice has always been encouraging others to get involved in the joy of creativity. They say "practice makes progress" so get going.

After receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in 1981, I chose not to pursue a master’s degree. My choice not to continue my formal education in the arts arose from the idea that life would act as my art teacher and it would mentor me to my mastering of my art practice. SAIC hired me anyway (without an advanced degree) and I began to teach there as an Instructional Technician in their video art department known at that time as the Video Area. The SAIC Video Area in the 1980s was a unique place. Founded by artist Philip Lee Morton, it provided students with two relatively new and very exciting media for artistic exploration: video synthesis and digital computers.

The Sandin Analogue Image Processor (initially designed 1971 to 1973 by Professor Daniel J. Sandin at the University of Illinois) was a video synthesizer that allowed artists to experiment with video techniques that were not generally available to art schools because of the high cost of television equipment. The image processor was a very interesting device from a conceptual art point of view. It was a relatively low cost device which artists could build themselves and then use to make video art and program performances. I liken it to a video iteration of Buckminster Fuller's design science. The equivalent of many high cost tools of the television industry were now in the hands of artists.

The original version of GRASS was developed by Thomas A. DeFanti for his 1973 Ohio State University Ph.D. thesis. GRASS (GRAphics Symbiosis System) was a programming language created to script 2D vector graphics animations. It quickly became a hit with the Chicago artistic community who wanted to experiment with the new medium of computer graphics. A later version that was adapted to support raster graphics was known as ZGrass. The last version of GRASS was RT/1, an iteration of GRASS that separated the language from the display model and allowed it to be ported to other platforms. Versions existed for DOS, Windows, SGI using OpenGL, HP-UX, AIX, Macintosh, Amiga.

Chicago’s home grown video art movement was based around the Sandin Image Processor (IP) and DeFanti’s digital computer innovations. I became intimately involved with these technologies because one of my tasks as an employee of the SAIC Video Area was to maintain and upgrade the equipment. Our students and I made many works of experimental video art during those years.

I began working on collage video art mixed with image processing. I made works based on a theory I named “Video I Ching” (since shortened to V-Ching) where I would record material from TV and collect sequences from movies and TV distributed on VHS tapes. I would run these collected sequences through a technical process whereby the scenes would mix together randomly. I would then edit a “narrative” from what I found the most interesting and intriguing composites. I made many experimental works based on this aesthetic method. History of the Moon and Electromagnetic Fields Forever represent two examples. These two works cannot be shown publicly because of the many copyright infringements. Contact me for a private showing. V-Ching still informs my art making.

Another project I worked on quite a bit during my time at SAIC was a role-playing game based on Dr. Timothy Leary's theories on the past and future evolution of the human nervous system. With the working titles of Black Wholes and Blobs and Destiny, I was unfortunately not able to bring the game to complete fruition. I'd like to find time to finally finish this project.

After leaving SAIC in the mid-1990s I took up with a Chicago company called Rising Star, a creative computer technology reseller. Some of the people at Rising Star would become creative collaborators. They included John Steven Keith, Barbara Ann Perry, John S. Banks, Jesse Keeler, Steve Perry. It was also at Rising Star I met my art-life partner Patricia Ann Happel. Under the guise of our company Cyberscope Wizards, my wife Trish and I would create what I like to call stealth enlightenment programming. I signed up as a producer at the Chicago Access Network and we created the experimental television series Abductions with the Alter Boy. This Chicago Access Network television program has been featured in the documentary film Access Nation. The series is now available at Vimeo On Demand and Amazon. After Rising Star I continued my experimental video art and worked as a freelance cinematographer, video editor, motion design artist, sound designer.

We’re currently working on more experimental TV and movie projects (like The Machines Possessed Me, Arise Robot Minds, Robots and Reptiles Theater. In addition, every spring the Cyberscope Wizards host a celebration of art, electricity, chaos. We unleash our primal spirits, videotaping our performances and the transformative recycling of outmoded technology into high-voltage excitement. We call it Cybernalia.

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