05 August 2005

on video art

This text was originally published in VARIANT 18 [http://www.variant.randomstate.org]

Galleries used to be white. Maybe they still are but it’s harder to tell now that they’ve all turned off their lights. The reason for this shadow cast across the contemporary art world is video. Particularly the video projection. It’s difficult to believe these days that this dominating presence made its debut in the world of art not so long ago and that it did so very sheepishly indeed. Shoved in the corner of the gallery, video art was initially seen as nothing more than a modish, relatively inconsequential presence. Then, it would seem, video art learned to accommodate itself more fully to the logistics of the gallery. Videos on monitors in the notoriously chapel-like confines of the white cube were always going to find it difficult to compete with the visual punch of painting and sculpture. However with the increased availability of the video projector and cheaper portable cameras, members of that new profession, the video artist, were able to project a large-scale image onto the gallery wall. For the artworld, video art arrived in a big way when it demonstrated it could hold a wall, fill a space. ....

And it is more than a coincidence that serious video art looks nothing like television. ....

Video, as a technology, was no virgin when it got involved with art. Video had already had a series of liaisons with image production that hardly even qualified for commercial and industrial uses, never mind Culture with a capital ‘C’. In this sense video as art was always a potentially volatile combination. Video is a contaminated area, which, if you enter without adequate protection, will infect you with all manner of fatal diseases. Culturally, video is a carrier, and what it carries is the irksome and vulgar spirit of mass culture and popular pleasures. Artists who fear this sort of contamination need to take precautions. Like a politician who’s crossed the house, video’s position has to be continually questioned, its honesty cross-examined. Ominous soundings of rampant, crass, commercial television, big-budget Hollywood blockbusters; all that could and would devour, chew up and spit out art.

from Vector ezine on video

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