Jeremy Welsh on Tue, 18 Mar 1997 16:57:50 +0100 (MET)

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

nettime: Net art vs. video art ?

I've been reading the posts about net art and the earlier model of video
art the last few days and I find the dicussion perplexing, often
misinformed, prejudicial and lacking depth or historical accuracy. Must
take issue with John Hopkins, when you propose to trash the entire edifice
of Art History, John !  Historians can and do get it wrong, same as artists
do, but that's no reason to write off a vast body of knowledge.

What seems most troubling is that many participants in the discussion fail
to recognise many of the lessons we can learn from the very recent history
of video art (or independent video) as many called it. The organisations
that I, David Garcia, Kathy Rae Huffman and many others were involved in
from the seventies to the ealy nineties can be read as test cases for a lot
of the problems that are being discussed now. Not that I am saying net art
equals video art in any sense, but the whole discussion about communication
structures, networks, parallel distribution systems etc. has been
thoroughly gone through with varying results and there's a ton of written
material relating to this history. Knowing about other people's failed
attempts can help you to avoid failure yourself.

I am also baffled bt statements like "video art failed to break through in
the art world". Has anyone been to a show of contemporary art recently ?
Didn't you fall over the video equipment that is absolutely everywhere ?
And as was commented (ref quick and dirty) there is a new spirit in this
nineties video work that is a result of both an appraisal of seventies
artists like Acconci, Campus, Wegman, Rosler etc, and a reaction to the
phenomenenon typified by the YBA's. One should not forget that many of the
new generation of artists went to art & media schools where they studied
the works of the early video pioneers.

I also find it worrying that anybody at this moment in history shoul pusue
the relatively useless task of erecting a new formalism based upon
something so ethereal as a "net art". It is not a medium, it has no form,
it is a carrier of forms and of information and an enabler of communication
and it may also be some kind of a space. But a medium it is definitively
not. And I dare say that, despie the video art banner which has now passed
into history, video was never a medium either. The important thing with
both video and the things that are manifested on the net are that they
represent a further dissolution of the kinds of formalistic boundaries that
used to determine what art could or could not be. Many of the
correspondents whose thoughts I have read refer constantly to their work as
a form of collage. The kinds of things that are being done with
resampled/recombined data on the web are only a further extension of a
process that begins (provisionally) with the cubists and gets to be the
dominant aesthetic as a result of Scratch Video ( an undergournd movement
for about five monutes) and its subsequent incorporation in MTV,
advertising and mainstream cinema. Now that everything we look at is more
or less collage it would be ludicrous to contend that collage is in or of
itself a radical strategy. It's a tool that anyone can use, and precisely
this ubiquity makes it viable and interesting.

Finally, I'd like to say that I enjoy the discussions that are going on.
The fact that there is a discussion is the most important aspect. New
strategies will be developed, (his) stories and (her) stories will get
written and in the future somebody will emerge or get created who can
fulfill the need that chroniclers (not serious histroians) have for
catalogues of those who have invented new forms or movements. Remeber all
the anecdotes about Nam June Paik and be vareful when using hearsay as the
basis for decsribing the orihin of a movement (sic)

Jeremy Welsh
Professor of Intermedia
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Fine Art
Trondheim Academy of Fine Art

Address: Kunstakademiet, NTNU, N -7034 Trondheim, Norway
tel +47 73 50 91 00
fax +47 73 52 65 44

*  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: