Robert Adrian on Fri, 14 Mar 97 19:49 MET

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: nettime: Art on Net

David Garcia wrote (in respect to artists' use of Video):

>Much of this new work is in fact revisiting the strategies of a much
>earlier generation Aconci, Abromovich/Uly etc, whose approach to
>video was also quick and dirty. Unlike those who came next there was
>no mystification of the medium, no "video art" as such.

Well that's not altogether true ... the earliest work (Acconci, Fox,
Campus etc.) was shot using a Portapak with limited (zero) editing
capability - which made it, a priori, "quick and dirty". The "q & d"
aesthetic was built right into the technology. When better systems
came along they scaled their work up accordingly ... or, more often,
 dropped the video medium altogether.

It should also be remembered that the introduction of video tape
coincided with the beginnings of the movement by artists away from
object/product-oriented work in the direction of performance, action
and installation. Much of the work David is thinking of is actually
documentation of performances - as in the case of Marina Abramovic
or Gina Pane, although there are some remarkable unedited, "pure"
video tapes from the period (providing they have been saved to better

It was only with the introduction of the Umatic system and (relatively)
low-priced editing equipment that something called "Video Art" could
become possible -- at least in the institutions and "artist-run centers"
that could afford to buy and maintain the gear.

And here is where the "theoretical/ideological" problems, that David
mentions, begin (and also where the problems of so-called "Video Art"
touch on the problems of so-called "Net-Art"). The questions of identity
and definition - what is "Video Art"? Is it like painting and belongs in
a museum ? or like TV and should be broadcast? or like a book and
should be viewed privately? all or none or some permuation of these?
And then there is the argument about the actual "Thing" video:
is it an object ="The Tape"? or the idea ="The Content"?  or the
image ="The Screen"?

These arguments may sound silly now (except that they are re-
surfacing in discussions about "Net-Art" -- or "Art-in-the-Net" if
you prefer) but they were arguments that caused broken marriages
and the collapse of artists' collectives not so long ago. In the meantime
"Video-Art" has virtually vanished, having found no niche in the "Art
Market" - and having been overtaken by several waves of newer
(digital) technology.

Artists now (as David says) simply treat video as just another
medium from the palette of available imaging systems. It can be
made to represent itself, or the TV screen or be used just as an imaging
"tool" - and  can be sneaked into the sacred enclosure of the museum
(thru the back door so to speak) in the guise of "installation".

When video-art was young and full of energy there were all kinds of
strategies proposed, and tried, to make video artists into "real artists"
and video art into "real art". What most of them failed (or refused)
to take into account was that video did not fit into the art traditions of
industrial culture - it is impermanent, has no physical object, no
handwork (in the traditional sense), and has more in common with
dance, literature, theater or music than with traditional painting
or sculpture.

What makes "Video-Art" so important ("mystification of the medium"
or not) is its role in the development of the new art tradition growing
out of the recording technologies. For instance, with video tape,
anything on a screen can be recorded and recycled (collaged) -
copyright on a video tape is as absurd the copyright on a web page.
The "video-artists" had to struggle with this fact in the same way
that "net-artists" are doing now - and the "net" is actually a just
huge dispersed recording machine.

Alexei's ironical polemic, in which he appears to accuse "net-artists"
of dreaming of becoming (as General Idea put it in File Magazine 20
years ago) "Rich, Famous, Glamourous Artists" on the pattern of the art
tradition of industrial (W)Europe and (N)America, has it just about
right. If there is going to be something like "Art-In-The-Net" then
it should be about connections and communication and not about objects
and products - or art museums and galleries (and especially not
virtual art museums and galleries).

Why should we, as artists struggling to find ways to survive on the
tricky edge of a new digital communications environment, be trying to
breath new life into the corpse of the traditional art institutions?
For the money, fame and glamour?

(1) There was also the phenomenon of the "video performance" or
"video-installation" in which live images from a video camera were
included (recycled) in a kind of feedback loop into the piece via a monitor.
(Jochen Gertz, Richard Kriesche, Dan Graham, Keith Sonnier etc.) -
very "q & d".

*Art should concern itself as much with behavior as it does with
appearance* - Norman T. White
Robert Adrian

*  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
*  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
*  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
*  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
*  URL:  contact: