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Bill Seaman

Author 
Scanlines

Bill Seaman is an artist who has been working with text, image, sound and a diverse array of interfaces since 1979. He studied video, performance, and installation at the San Francisco Art Institute, receiving his BFA in 1979. He holds a Master of Science in Visual Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he first began exploring the potentials of computer-based media art. He was awarded his Ph.D. from the Centre For Advanced Inquiry into the Interactive Arts in 1999. 

His early performances and music were presented in clubs in San Francisco and at the Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York. In these works, Seaman sang with tapes that he had produced using a 4 track tape recorder, cassette tape loops, and noisy reel-to-reel equipment. Self-taught as a composer and musician, this early music paved the way for later midi-sequenced works and computer-based compositions. By the early 1980s, Seaman began to focus more on text, leading to a number of "recombinant” and “algorithmic” works with words, including One Pulls Pivots at The Tip Of The Tongue (1981), which is in many ways an antecedent to interactive video works such as Passage Sets, made and produced in Australia. (Passage Sets/One Pulls Pivots at the Tip of the Tongue was shown in the Level Two Project Space at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1995).

The mid-1980s saw Seaman’s work focus on video as a poetic technological vehicle, exploring sound, image and text relations within slow, pulsing and hypnotic works. Tapes such as  S.He (1983), Telling Motions (1986), The Water Catalogue (1984) and Shear (1986) typify this period, and had an impact on many Australian artists who encountered these works.

After participating in the Australian International Video Festival (made possible by a travel grant by the Festival in 1989), Seaman moved to Sydney where he worked full-time as a senior lecturer in media art at UNSW’s College of Fine Art from 1991-95. During this period he produced a number of significant audio and video works, including The Exquisite Mechanism of Shivers (for ABC Radio National and released as a CD for inclusion in a 1994 edition of Binocular magazine), and Passage Sets produced with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission.

His first major interactive work was entitled The Watch Detail (1990). This work used Macintosh Hypercard to control an interactive laserdisc. A large database of time-oriented images and texts could be navigated, juxtaposed and/or re-oriented in time.

The second major interactive installation was entitled The Exquisite Mechanism of Shivers (1993). It should be noted that many of Seaman's works were shown in different states and /or alternate contexts. Each version of the work informs other versions in varying ways. For instance, this work has been shown as an interactive installation with a single projection, a 10 screen video wall version, a Japanese/English Version - Ex.Mech (1994), 30 minute linear video as well as a CD Rom version that was published in Artintact 1 (1994).

Passage Sets / One Pulls Pivots at the Tip of the Tongue (1995) is an interactive installation that functions as an elaborate navigable audio/visual poem. Seaman worked with Chris Ziegler as the programmer for this work. Three projections comprise the installation, where one video and two data projections are presented as a triptych. When the participant navigates through the work, a new sound mix is made for each user — Seaman calls this Recombinant Music. The work explores emergent meaning and is different for each participant. 

During his time spent living and working in Australia, Seaman showed his poetic videos and sound works in a wide variety of venues, including the Roslyn Oxley Gallery, the Art Gallery of NSW, and the Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide. He had an influence on a number of artists who studied with him while he was Head of the 4D Area at COFA.

Date 
b. 1956
Birth place
USA

Lives and works

Sydney
NSW
Australia
1989 - 1995
Selected works
Selected events