WAVEFRONT Issue Fall 1986


	The following dialogue between Margaret Benyon and myself occurred
this summer via mail (we have never met) and reveals similar interests
and a mutual desire to elevate critical discourse on holography.

	Wavefront has, as one of its mandate* the task of developing and
supporting critical and aesthetic theories on holographic art. This
mandate can only be reasonably accomplished if the artists themselves
are included in theoretical discussions. Otherwise academic critics with
no practical experience of understanding in holography may capitalize on
the absence and reproduce their theories 'for the benefit " of
holography. Every artist who makes a hologram is in effect theorizing
through his/her practice; each hologram is a theory made manifest.
However, we can also theorize about theorizing. ..

	This dialogue, therefore, represents a beginning and a complement to
the artworks themselves. It is hoped that future issues of Wavefront
continue these and other discussions with artists.
AL RAZUTIS: Your work is considered by
many a pioneering effort in the development of
a fine art of holography. What are some of the
aesthetic guiding principles in your work?
What directions has it taken; what directions
has it avoided?

consideration of my work is
appreciated, as are your own efforts to
lay the groundwork for a theory of art
holography through your writings in
Wavefront. You suggested also an
alternative theory of avant-garde
holography which could be a bit
problematic. How can a vanguard artist
be satisfied with the terminology of
yesterday's revolts? Doesn't the
revolutionary position imply the
renunciation of criticism/theory?
Perhaps we should look at another
alternative, something that takes
account of the fact that much of the best
art work in holography has been made
by those who had no fine art training at
all--perhaps a theory of creative
holography. I feel there is still a
problem regarding art institutions,
which tend not to accept holography as
art unless it is carried out by artists who
have been successful in other media. Am
I right in thinking holographers who
actually make their own holograms are
not taken seriously by art institutions,
or is this just my own experience?

As for my own work, it is difficult to go
back to my beginnings in holography
18 years ago, but the conceptualism of
the late '60s, now conveniently deleted
from the pages of art history, is still an
operating principle. Incidentally, the
first hologram that I saw was my own.
It was a little, one-inch-square test plate
of some optical stands. I remember that
I had the same experience as Emmett
Leith, in not being able to see full
parallax on such a small plate.

Aesthetic guiding principles are not a
major consideration in my work. They
are a side effect of my training as a fine
artist. I believe aesthetics is a branch of
philosophy that deals with notions of
beauty, decoration and taste, and that
its connection with art has been
overemphasized. I compose my work
aesthetically or not, according to the
objectives of the individual work. For
instance, my most recent work on the
Cosmetic Series involved asking a
number of young women, all about 23,
to make themselves beautiful with the
cosmetics used in pulsed holography. I
had a number of reasons for doing this,
which were cultural, sociopolitical, art-
historical, psychological,
documentary, personal and
holographic--not just aesthetic.

As for directions my work has taken or
avoided, because I was an early worker
in the field, I felt at first (between 1968
and 1973) that I should make each
hologram a "blueprint" for possible
future development, so that each piece was
embryonic and quite different in
appearance and aim (ea. Hot Air,
Lights, Double-exposure Still Life,
Picasso, Bread). At that time there were
so many different possibilities for art
in holography, and no one else that I
knew of doing anything about it, that
the only consistency from piece to
piece was that they were all laser
transmissions. I don't feel I have
avoided particular directions in my
work, apart from the purely mimetic or
reproductive, which is an obvious area
of disinterest for artists. I do not feel
constrained by issues of style, genre,
abstraction, figuration or the sort of
restrictions imposed by art theories
such as formalism, modernism or post-
modernism. I hope that as holographic
artists we can begin to put down roots
for an understanding of visual art
through contemporary cultural history,
rather than the purely "domestic"
theories of aesthetics and art history.

I prefer directness and intimacy in my
work. I prefer to make my own
holograms, and in projects with other
people to be as collaborative as
possible. I tend to suspect remoteness
and an abstract holographic
"spirituality" (which is different from
real spiritual experience) because it is
in accord with the sublime aestheticism
and patriarchy of the art institutions,
and can be construed as careerist.

Because holography has so many
facets, I hope evolving theories will
not straitjacket the multiple
manifestations of mind-expansion that
occur when people encounter
holography Obviously, we should be
aware that looseness of expression can
alienate, particularly the scientists
among us. But to condemn outright such
instances as holocosmology would be
like banning speaking in tongues from
religion. Some artists have the ability
to momentarily lift the roofs from over
our heads so that we can all sit beneath
the stars, and we are richer for the
experience. We should surely be able to
distinguish this from the distortions,
misrepresentations and errors that
permeate much writing about
holography today.

How is your work influenced by other
media (ea. painting, sculpture) and in
particular your work in these media?

My roots are in painting, and I would
not be making holograms now, were it
not for that fact. There was a logical,
theoretical progression from my work
as a painter--optical space modulations
tied in with a symbolic,
subjective type of imagery -- into
holography. However, my entry into
holography arose from a
dissatisfaction with painting as a
"closed system", and a revolt against
modernism. My continued use of
painting and drawing is a means to an
end which involves an inventive
interaction with holography.

Perhaps I can use the Cosmetic Series
again as an example. This series of
holographic portraits combine painting
and holography in a particular way. The
series arose out of a frustration with the
lack of subtlety and range in the colors
obtainable in holography, and also with
the fact that the final image cannot be
retouched because it is spatial. A
painting placed underneath the
transparent plate tints and alters the
holographic features that are image-
planed. This idea depends on careful
registration of the painting with the
holographic features, otherwise the
mixed techniques fight rather than
reinforce each other. The under-painting
lends a subtle coloration to the
holographic image, and the brush-
marked shadows give the holographic
shadows a texture. In one or two of the
pieces there is a reversal of media; what
is present in the hologram is not always
there in the painting and vice versa. A
hologram of one of the young women
surrounded by foliage has painted leaves
on her face in the hologram, but not in
the painting. When the piece is
installed, the painting is always
visible, whether the hologram is lit or

I still use drawing and painting quite a
bit in my work, and my holograms now
generally hang on the walls like
paintings. Regarding the hybridization
of holography with sculpture, my early
laser transmission work was shown and
installed in a fashion which resembled
high-tech sculpture, on turntables. My
first hybrid was displayed during my
1970 solo exhibition at the Lisson
Gallery in London. I put some real
apples in amongst the illusory
holographic apples in Still Life. These
did not last long, as you may imagine,
and the pile of chewed apple cores that
remained were taken by one critic to be
a comment on the work! Solar Markers
and Jig-Saw were closer to sculpture
than painting, if on a small, intimate
scale, but generally the influence of the
traditional media on my holographic
work has been painterly After all, I
spent five years as a painting student,
and five years as a professional painter,
so it is understandable that
these influences are somewhat
ingrained. I go reasonably frequently to
"straight" art exhibitions and see work
there that moves me and inspires my

Unfortunately, the movement is all one
way. The art and holography worlds are
still separate, particularly in the U.K. I
went from traditional art into
holography to bring back information
into the area, to enrich it. Unfortunately
the door was slammed shut behind me.
Advice given in Wavefront (ED: See
interview with Michael Sowdon,
Wavefront Vol. 1, #3) that artists try to
show only in established art museums
and galleries is good for those fortunate
enough (and I mean fortunate) to come
under the umbrella of an institution or
have the backing of arts councils. But
for those of us put in the cold, such
options are not so open. However, with
fine art in Britain defined by the
government as a narrow, unprofessional
vocation, and fine art education being
dismantled and amalgamated into the
applied arts, holographic artists are
indeed fortunate to have the support of
the holography world.

What is your theory, or fragments thereof
of holographic art and aesthetics? What
fruitful areas of critical theory/aesthetic
theory arc to be developed ? What
should holographic art theory borrow
from other theories (eg painting and
modernism) and what theories should it
steer clear of?

The relative position of aesthetics in
my work, that is my attitude towards
beauty, etc., may be a rather narrow
interpretation of aesthetics. There is a
conception of art as value expression,
ie. what art does best is express our
most intensely felt and cherished
values, and for this concept I have a
sneaking predilection. However, the
dictum of linguistic philosopher George
Dickie should be noted: " A work of art
is an artifact upon which some person
or persons acting on behalf of a certain
social institution (the art world) has
conferred the status of candidate for
appreciation." The fact that
holographic art has in general not
reached the status of candidate for
appreciation by the art world means we
are jumping the gun if we presume our
work is art at all, even though we insist
it is, and spend our lives working at it.

To adapt traditional theories of
aesthetics and art to holography would
be useful only where traditional art
concepts are used in specific
holographic art works, ea.
explanations of the painter's
"figure-ground" problem in holographic
terms, or the use of quattrocento
perspective in a holographic image. In
general, the pursuit of a more general
"theory of representations" by reading
semiotic texts seems a more fruitful
exercise in developing an understanding
of symbolic articulation in our society
and in ourselves, via holography. You
single out modernism. If you mean by
modernism that a work of art should be
treated as a purely formal construction,
understood by reference to Clement
Greenberg's writings, I do not think
such a theory is useful. In fact, it could
be damaging if it damns all
manifestations of mass culture and
posits a conception of culture as
something separate from and above
society. This becomes a means not of
criticizing the world, but of evading it.
The primary message of holography,
that of integration, opposes such

There is a scarcity of critical writing
(aesthetic theory, analytical
methodology, etc.) on holography.
What factors have contributed to this

For the artists, lack of time and money,
I should think. Hands-on holography is
intensely practical, and its demands
leave little time for reading the right
books, attending lectures, writing, etc.,
unless one has an academic position and
a salary to match. I suspect most
holographic artists are too busy trying
to survive. On the part of critics and
theorists, the entrenched prejudice
against holography seems incredible to
me at times. Even scientist-
philosophers in the mould of David
Bohm do not understand the artist's
position. They are theoretical, not
practical, and there has to be an
understanding of both for the formation
of operating principles. For artists,
theory should be in step with practice,
so that they amplify each other. When I
exhibit "difficult" work that the general
public can not be expected to
understand, such as my hologrametry of
the emotions, I try to include written
material. I have found that such aids are
very much appreciated, and contribute to
better understanding.

Whose work has been overlooked?

The work of the numbers of women in
holography For instance, the steady
critical presence of Becky Deem, and
the major supportive role of Posy
Jackson on the New York scene. Anait
Stephens' sensibilities seem to me to
be particularly female, manifested through
such works as the Lumin-Essence
Series. Yet when she laid out her life's
work in a short talk to the RPS
Holography Group in London recently,
the feedback was discouraging and
restricted to the usual techno-chauvinist
questions about her bleach and how she
got her kinetic bits to work.
Technochauvinism has links with male
chauvinism. Maybe it is less true in
holography than in other fields because
we are young, but from where I stand the
world is still a male club.

What future directions will your work
be taking?

Future directions will be linked to the
creative possibilities that can be seized
in a rapidly changing holographic
technology, and to my own life
situation. When I returned to Britain in
1981, I began to use pulsed imagery. (A
major article on this work was just
published in Leonardo, Vol. 19, #3,
1986.) With pulsed holography, the
artist is freed from model-making to
generate images from the real world, and
in particular live human beings. At
present, pulsed technology coincides
with those visually expressive,
conceptual and emotional aspects that
drive me to make art. There was a time
when abstract signs and ideograms were
loaded with meaning for me, and I based
my work on them. This proved to be a
phase. The meaning emptied out and I
moved on to other means.

For the past few years, access to costly
pulsed facilities has been extremely
difficult, so that although at last I had
my own studio, I was putting myself
back into the insecure position that I
had been in for many years, trying to
gain time on a facility. With pulsed
facilities now popping up all over the
world, it may become easier for me to
work. I don't know. At the moment, my
separation from pulsed technology
would be "death". I shall always be
grateful to John Webster, and more
recently to Anne-Marie Christakis, for
finding ways for me to work without
compromising their own business
positions. Arrangements are based on
an exchange of work, rather than

It would be unwise to predict too far in
the future because changes are taking
place in holography at a cataclysmic
pace, it seems. Before I knew that white-
light viewable holograms were
possible, I had a vision of holographic
pictures glowing
on walls, in people's homes and in
public spaces, way off in the 21 st
century. This already happened a long
way back, so at least one of my dreams
has come true. But the walls don't glow
in art galleries--the very places I had
assumed they would. It hurts, and I have
to believe the art world will suffer from
its unwillingness to face contemporary
culture--the fact that the greatest
cultural thrust of this century has been
technological. More holographic artists
are joining in every day.
We fall through the cracks sometimes,
and many of us survive only briefly for
lack of support, but we are growing
rapidly in numbers and diversity of
work. I am 18 now in holography I
hope that by my 21st birthday I shall
obtain the key of that door back into
the art world on my own terms. Most of
all, I should like to celebrate with my
real friends in holography, scattered all
over the world.