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Video Art

Video Art Collage

Started: 1965

"The fundamental aspect of video is not the image, even though you can stand in amazement at what can be done electronically, how images can be manipulated and the really extraordinary creative possibilities. For me the essential basis of video is the movement - something that exists at the moment and changes in the next moment."

Bill Viola Signature

Summary of Video Art

Video became an excitingly immediate medium for artists after its introduction in the early 1960s. The expensive technology, which had been available prior only within the corporate broadcasting arena, experienced an advent when Sony first created an economical consumer piece of equipment that allowed everyday people access to vast new possibilities in documentation. Understandably, this produced huge interest for the more experimental artists of the time, especially those involved with concurrent movements in Conceptual art, Performance and experimental film. It provided a cheap way of recording and representation through a dynamic new avenue, shattering an art world where forms such as painting, photography, and sculpture had been the long-held norm. This expanded the potential of individual creative voice and challenged artists to stretch toward new plateaus in their careers. It has also birthed an unmistakable population of artists who may never have entered the fine art field if stifled by the constraints of utilizing traditional mediums. With warp speed over the last half century, video has become accessible by the populous, spawning a continual evolution of its use; we live in an age where even your everyday smartphone has the ability to create high caliber works of art through the use of an ever increasing assortment of applications.

We now consider Video art to be a valid means of artistic creation with its own set of conventions and history. Taking a variety of forms - from gallery installations and sculptures that incorporate television sets, projectors, or computer peripherals to recordings of performance art to works created specifically to be encountered via distribution on tape, DVD or digital file - video is now considered in rank equal to other mediums. It is considered a genre rather than a movement in the traditional sense and is not to be confused with theatrical cinema, or artists' (or experimental) film. Although the mediums may sometimes appear interchangeable, their different origins cause art historians to consider them distinct from each other. So popular a medium, many art schools now offer video as a specialized art major.

Key Ideas

With the introduction of the television set in the second half of the 20th century, people gained a new all-consuming pastime. Many artists of the era used video to make works that highlighted what they saw as TV's encroaching and progressively insidious power by producing parodies of advertising and television programs. They pointed provocative fingers at the way society had become (passively) entranced with television or had succumbed to its seductive illusions. By co-opting the technologies of this medium, artists brought their own perspectives to the table, rounding out the brave new world of broadcasting ability to include creative, idiosyncratic, and individualized contributions.
Some artists have used video to make us think more critically about, and oftentimes look to dissect, Hollywood film conventions. By eschewing the typical templates of formulaic narration, or by presenting intensely personal and taboo subjects on screen as works of art, or by jostling our ideas about how a film should look and feel, these artists use the canvas borrowed from the cinema to eradicate preconceived ideas of what is suitable, palatable, or focus-group-friendly.
Looking beyond video's recording capabilities, many artists use it as a medium for its intrinsic properties with work that mimics more traditional forms of art like painting, sculpture, collage, or abstraction. This might emerge as a series of blurred, spliced scenes composed as a visual image. It may take the shape of a recording of performance meant as a reflection on movement or the perception of space. It may consist of actual video equipment and its output as objects in a work. Finally, it may be a work that could not exist without the video component such as art pieces that utilize video signals, distortion and dissonance, or other audiovisual manipulations.
Because Video art was radically new for its time, some artists who were trying to push limits in contemporary society felt video an ideal format for their own work. This can be seen in the Feminist art movement in which many women, who hoped to distance and distinguish themselves from their male artist forebears, chose the medium for its newness, its sense of progression, and its opportunities that had not been widely tapped or established yet. We saw this politically, too, as many artists with a cause began using video as a means to spread their message. It appeared socially as well, as many people working to expose or spread important, underexposed information, felt the medium was conducive to both grass roots affordability and yet very broad distribution capabilities.
Video Art Image

Beginnings:

Although artists have been creating moving images in some form since the early-20th century, the first works to be widely labeled as 'Video art' are from the 1960s. The first nationalities to pick up on the Portapak as an artistic tool - and therefore those who made the earliest pieces of Video art - were, unsurprisingly, from those countries where it first became commercially available (the US and the UK were the early practitioners).

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