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This historical summary concerns post - 1972 media art studio activities.
For 1963-1965 see 'PSYCHEDELIC CINEMA'       For 1967 - 1972 see 'UNDERGROUND'
For 1972 - 1982 see 'Beyond Intermedia',     'Synaesthetic Cinema',     'Holographic Cinema 1970's'
for recent media art studio activities see also In the public eye: Projects & Exhibitions

Visual Alchemy on FaceBook

Al Razutis - Visual Alchemy

Summarized VISUAL ALCHEMY Studio History in Text and Links

VISUAL ALCHEMY was created in 1972 (& expanded onwards), in Vancouver, Canada by Al Razutis to function as a personal and services-for-hire   multi-media innovations studio for the production of experimental art work in the various emerging medias of the time: experimental/avant-garde film, video art, and holography.   Initially several artists from 'the Grange' (which had occupied a similar location) thought of it as a 'co-op', but after the first phone bills were paid by Razutis, that idea was discouraged and never re-appeared.

Services for hire, such as film (cell and title) animation, film and video editing, film optical printing, display holography, and courses in ('sandbox') holography, were offered to generate revenue and cover studio overhead, project expenses, and to pay staff salaries (when possible). This was the generation of independent art studios continuing the media innovations of the 60's, and Al Razutis' 'Visual Alchemy' was both studio, business, experimental 'tesla' lab, alchemical (not theosophical) workplace, and it took place in Vancouver's 1970's.

This studio was quite unlike, in appearance or activities, to the corporate office decorated with leased furniture 'film studios' or 'design studios', and neither did it resemble the multi-resident 'hives' of fully-subsidized art co-ops (Western Front, Video In, Videographe, Film-Maker Co-ops) that sprang up through government largesse across Canada in the 70's. Vancouver's 'co-op hives of visiting guest activity' were many times unable to innovate, because sexual and gender politics became the hive's primary preoccupation, and therefore they 'appropriated' from visiting artists nicely, and taught courses at Emily Carr for good bucks until retirement.

The two-building site of the studio (beneath the main Granville bridge into downtown Vancouver) was previously occupied by the "Granville Grange" (Roy Kiyooka's studio) then a film-editing company (Werner Aellen / Bill Nemtin). The second half was added after Glen Toppings (sculptures and paintings) passed away.

The VISUAL ALCHEMY studio featured a individual studio and living space (Razutis) that expanded to involve multiple rooms dedicated to film, video, holography; here a number of remarkable media innovations were created during the mid 70's using self created (with recycled parts sometimes) machines such as film optical printer,  Canada's first analog video synthesizer   (constructed in association with Jim Armstrong, who created circuit modules), and the first holographic art studio   in Canada.

For more of the history of holography and holographic works at Visual Alchemy see History of holography at Visual Alchemy for more details. Photos of the studio and technologies are available at Visual Alchemy History Photos page.

A number of pioneering works in experimental / avant-garde film,  experimental video art  and holographic art  were created at the Vancouver Studio location from 1972 to 1977.

The art neighborhood at the time

This studio, adjacent to Gary Lee-Nova's Studio and the studio of Glen Topping, previous site of a studio of artist Roy Kiyooka, was also the site of on-going collaborations between Razutis and Lee-Nova and other artists, and these collaborations continued through the 70's and resulted in some collaborative works (e.g. 'Hybrid' videotape in 1974, 'Image Exchange Film Library' early 70's) and life-long friendship between Gary Lee-Nova and Al Razutis.

Assisting Razutis (and creating independent works at the studio) were Catharine MacTavish (a painter - holographic artist who assisted in holography 1974-76), Gordon Kidd (filmmaker - who assisted in film opticals / animation in 1973-1975) and Rick Gibson (performance artist and holographer - who assisted in hologram processing and imaging, 1976).

The holographic works, as a solo exhibition by Al Razutis titled 'Visual Alchemy', went on national tour 1977, the first of its kind in Canada, and it continued as a travelling exhibition "

The holographic research at Visual Alchemy was applied by Razutis and Catherine MacTavish in their jointly taught courses at the Banff Centre in 1974 and 1976 and resulted in student created holograms and experimental theater productions which were a successful integrations of new technology (including motion-picture projections and volume screens) in theatre design. Courses of study included Antonin Artaud and holographic set design and projections. See essay 'Autopsy of the Patriarch' for a flavor of the times.

Additionally, Razutis and MacTavish collaborated on a film project for the National Film Board of Canada titled Egypte, thereby fulfilling another aspect of 'visual alchemy' explorations.

Soon after the holography exhibition was launched and Egyptian film topics completed, the Vancouver studio 'VISUAL ALCHEMY Inc.. closed in 1977 and Razutis went to Samoa (Pago Pago, American Samoa) to pursue prose-poetic writing.

Studio activities as a University Professor

In the 1980's, when Razutis was a full-time tenured professor at Simon Fraser University (1978-1987), Canada, the activities associated with VISUAL ALCHEMY were largely situated at Simon Fraser University film-video facilities during research sememsters.  During this time period, a number of additional works were created in film, video and holography - notably Amerika   and   Visual Essays,  two multi-part award-winning films, and a series of interferometric holograms (produced in association with Michael Sowdon, Fringe Research, Toronto), and a number of multi-media hybrid holographic sculptures with dichromate holograms produced in association with Gary Cullen, Holocrafts, Canada.  In the 1980's,  Wavefront  magazine was born and published by Al Razutis and Bernd Simson.

A second short-lived publication, OPSIS - Journal of Avant-Garde and Political Cinema, edited with Tony Reif and Michael-Eliot Hurst, was published during this time and selected editorials and articles are posted here.

Razutis' activities in the 80's, above and beyond the making of media arts, writing and publication, also included participation in the creation of film production and distribution co-ops in Vancouver (reminiscent of the Intermedia Film Co-op, of which he was a co-founder in the late 60's), and support for avant-garde efforts nationally in Canada. Of further distinction was Razutis' activities (in conjunction with the Peterborough, Ontario arts community) towards the dismantling of powers of the Ontario Censor Board in the case involving his film   Amerika,  and in particular the segment titled  A Message from our Sponsor. He also participated in actions of political  'street art' (graffiti) and published a number of manifestos.

During his University sabbatical year in 1984, Razutis travelled to Baja Mexico to pursue further work in film documentary. He conducted film shoots in Mexico while traveling through mainland Mexico on a 2-nd class bus, but the films were never completed and abandoned.

In 1987 Razutis relocated to Los Angeles, and in 1988 he moved to Mexico for part-time residency. In the 1990's, Razutis lived in Los Angeles - Hollywood, and the activities of VISUAL ALCHEMY included video documentation of holographic artists and art works under the title   West-Coast Artists in Light. He set up residence and studio in Baja California in 1988 where he created works and travelled to Los Angeles to conduct work on commercial film and video projects.

Visual Alchemy returns to Canada 1995

In 1995, Al Razutis and VISUAL ALCHEMY re-located back to Canada, specifically Saturna Island, British Columbia, in conjunction with Anne Popperwell and her studio, where a new phase of work was initiated: stereoscopic 3D video,  of both holographic and non-holographic subjects. This work was distributed as completed tapes. This stereoscopic 3D VIDEO ART has been exhibited in 1997 at the Louvre Museum and at the Seoul Net and Film Festival - 2004 in Seoul Korea where a film-video and 3D video retrospective of Razutis' work was held in 2004. Further work in spatial representation was conducted in the new and developing area of multi-media   Virtual Reality on the Net,   utlizing VRML 2.0 programming language.

In 1996 the web site known as "Visual Alchemy" was born upon the invitation of Urs Fries in Cologne Germany to contribute some material on various holography subjects. A more detailed description along with this web-site's original credits is at Web-site credits.

In 2004, a body of works in stereospic 3D film, interactive game and film were undertaken by Razutis; these projects remain incomplete requiring financing to get to completion.

He has continued work both in his studio and home in Saturna Island in both stereoscopic 3D video and holography. Various site-specific sculptural works are conducted in his studio home in Los Zacatitos, Baja California, Mexico.

Currently, in 2019, Razutis continues his works on holographic art,   holographic motion-picture systems, as well as stereoscopic 3D video art. He is curator and preservationist for Sharon McCormack Collection & Archives, and he continues writing projects on subjects of media history and media criticism.

Visit the Projects - Exhibition - Information Page for updates on past, current and future exhibitions of this work.

Visit the Collected Writings for extensive lists of and links to his writings on film - video - holography and many other topics.

For his archives in film and video visit Films and Videos Archives








Snail mail to:

P.O. Box 106
Saturna Island, BC 
Canada V0N 2Y0  

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