Video art  

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"Prior to the introduction of the Sony Portapak, "moving image" technology was only available to the consumer (or the artist for that matter) by way of 8 or 16mm film, but did not provide the instant playback that video tape technologies offered. Consequently, many artists found video more appealing than film, even more so when the greater accessibility was coupled with technologies which could edit or modify the video image. Today, these old video projects are starting to appear on YouTube." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Video art is a type of art which relies on moving pictures and is comprised of video and/or audio data. (It should not however be confused with television or experimental cinema). Video art came into existence during the 1960s and 1970s, is still widely practiced and has given rise to the widespread use of video installations.

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History of video art

Video art is often said to have begun when Nam June Paik used his new Sony Portapak to shoot footage of Pope Paul VI's procession through New York City in the autumn of 1965. That same day, across town in a Greenwich Village cafe, Paik played the tapes and video art was born. This fact is sometimes disputed, however, due to the fact that the first Sony Portapak, the Videorover did not become commercially available until 1967 and that Andy Warhol is credited with showing underground video art mere weeks before Paik's papal procession screening. The French artist Fred Forest has also used a Sony Portapak since 1967. There is no reason for controversy concerning Forest’s use of a Sony Portapak video recorder in 1967. As far as Europe is concerned, Sony France had three prototypes of this equipment, adapted to European technical norms, at its disposal in 1967. One of these prototypes was given to Forest as part of a promotional campaign by Sony’s public relations department, which was planning on the equipment’s commercial distribution in France by the end of 1967. Fred Forest learned of the existence of this equipment from Pierre Schaeffer, who had just returned from a trip to the USA with some examples [1]. In 1959 Wolf Vostell incorporated a television set into one of his works, "Deutscher Ausblick" 1959, which is part of the collection of the Museum Berlinische Galerie possibly the first work of art with television. In 1963 Vostell exhibited his art environment "6 TV de-coll/age" at the Smolin Gallery in New York. This work is part of the Museo Reina Sofia collection in Madrid.

Prior to the introduction of the Sony Portapak, "moving image" technology was only available to the consumer (or the artist for that matter) by way of eight or sixteen millimeter film, but did not provide the instant playback that video tape technologies offered. Consequently, many artists found video more appealing than film, even more so when the greater accessibility was coupled with technologies which could edit or modify the video image.

The two examples mentioned above both made use of "low tech tricks" to produce seminal video art works. Peter Campus' Double Vision combined the video signals from two Sony Portapaks through an electronic mixer, resulting in a distorted and radically dissonant image. Jonas' Organic Honey's Vertical Roll involved recording previously recorded material as it was played back on a television — with the vertical hold setting intentionally in error.

The first multi-channel video art (using several monitors or screens) was Wipe Cycle by Ira Schneider and Frank Gillette. An installation of nine television screens, Wipe Cycle for the first time combined live images of gallery visitors, found footage from commercial television, and shots from pre-recorded tapes. The material was alternated from one monitor to the next in an elaborate choreography.

At the San Jose State TV studios in 1970, Willoughby Sharp began the “Videoviews” series of videotaped dialogues with artists. The “Videoviews” series consists of Sharps’ dialogues with Bruce Nauman (1970), Joseph Beuys (1972), Vito Acconci (1973), Chris Burden (1973), Lowell Darling (1974), and Dennis Oppenheim (1974). Also in 1970, Sharp curated “Body Works,” an exhibition of video works by Vito Acconci, Terry Fox, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim and William Wegman which was presented at Tom Marioni's Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California.

Prominent video artists

Many of the early prominent video artists were those involved with concurrent movements in conceptual art, performance, and experimental film. These include Americans Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Peter Campus, Doris Totten Chase, Dan Graham, Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman, Martha Rosler, William Wegman, and many others. There were also those such as Steina and Woody Vasulka who were interested in the formal qualities of video and employed video synthesizers to create abstract works.

Notable pioneering video artists also emerged more or less simultaneously in Europe and elsewhere with work by Pascal Auger (France), Knox Harrington, Domingo Sarrey (Spain), Wolf Vostell (Germany), Dieter Froese (Germany), Wojciech Bruszewski (Poland), Wolf Kahlen (Germany), Peter Weibel (Austria), David Hall (UK), Lisa Steele (Canada), Miroslaw Rogala (Poland), Rodney Werden (Canada), Colin Campbell (Canada) and others.


Video art today

Although it continues to be produced, it is represented by two varieties: single-channel and installation. Single-channel works are much closer to the conventional idea of television: a video is screened, projected or shown as a single image, Installation works involve either an environment, several distinct pieces of video presented separately, or any combination of video with traditional media such as sculpture. Installation video is the most common form of video art today. Sometimes it is combined with other media and is often subsumed by the greater whole of an installation or performance. Contemporary contributions are being produced at the crossroads of other disciplines such as installation, architecture, design, sculpture, electronic art, VJ (video performance artist) and digital art or other documentative aspects of artistic practice.

The digital video "revolution" of the 1990s has given wide access to sophisticated editing and control technology, allowing many artists to work with video and to create interactive installations based on video. Some examples of recent trends in video art include entirely digitally rendered environments created with no camera and video that responds to the movements of the viewer or other elements of the environment. The internet has also been used to allow control of video in installations from the world wide web or from remote locations.

Emerging in the 1970s, Bill Viola (USA) continues as one of the world's most celebrated video artists. Matthew Barney, the creator of the Cremaster Cycle, is another well-known American video artist. Other contemporary video artists of note include Americans Gary Hill, Tony Oursler, Mary Lucier, Paul Pfeiffer, Sadie Benning, Paul Chan, Eve Sussman and Miranda July; Pipilotti Rist (Switzerland); Shaun Wilson (Australia); Stan Douglas (Canada); Douglas Gordon (Scotland); Martin Arnold (Austria); Matthias Müller (Germany), Gillian Wearing (UK); Stefano Cagol (Italy); Helene Black (Cyprus); Shirin Neshat(Iran/USA)and Walid Raad (Lebanon/USA).

Video art on the Internet

Video sharing on the internet has completely transformed the way we view video art. The foundation of Youtube.com has revolutionized the concept of displaying self expression, art and entertainment. In the age of Web 2.0, The creation of online video art galleries and archives such as Videoart.net have made videoart more accessible than ever before, creating greater opportunities for emerging video artists. VideoArtWorld.tv tries to compile the entire history of Video Art and give access to pieces present in the international art market scene.

It may still be too soon to know what long-term effects the web will have on video art, nevertheless this important step in the evolution of video art may just be the life-support that this incredible art form needs.

List of video art organizations

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Video art" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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