In the summer of 2018, I joined Sara Hornbacher on her residency at Signal Culture in Owego, NY. The residency houses a huge collection of analog video processing equipment, including the Paik Raster Manipulation Unit (aka the Wobbulator), conceived of by Nam June Paik in 1968. The Wobbulator is a modified CRT monitor that bends the path of the scan lines before they hit the screen. Tonsure is the result of my diving into the possibilities of controlling the Wobbulator with analog synthesis and MIDI. Instead of using captured video as input, a blank screen and the output of video and audio synthesizer modules were used to generate video and audio "from scratch".
The title is a reference to a photograph of Marcel Duchamp taken by Man Ray, documenting a star-shaped "tonsure" shaved into his head. The motivations behind the haircut are mysterious, but James Housefield, Duchamp scholar at UC Davis, argues that it's both a reference to a mysterious astronomical event of 1921, and a tribute to Guillaume Apollinaire, the influential art critic and poet, and a friend of Duchamp. Apollinaire wrote the poem "Tristesse d'une étoile" (Sadness of a Star) after being struck in the head by an artillery shell. The mysterious celestial shapes generated by the Wobbulator at Signal Culture offered me a chance to engage with, and pay tribute to, my own influences in video art.