Unit 3: Art and the Moving Image

Video Art and Installation


Advances in moving image technology and computers meant the video medium was also more widely available as a cheap and convenient tool for artists, one which also enabled increasingly complex exhibition opportunities; from video walls at Video Positive in Liverpool to the multiple projections of artists such as Bill Viola and Gary Hill.

Intimacy and Immediacy

The intimacy of the small screen monitor format, with its allusions to television, provided artists with new possibilities to engage with wider popular and political culture. Video equipment, despite being unwieldy in its early days, offered a new way of producing moving image that was not encumbered by the lengthy processing stages required by film. Artists were attracted to the immediacy of video play-back and the different viewing mode of its monitor format.

Alteration of Time and Space

As technological advancements and art school provision made the medium more widely available, an increasing number of artists turned to video. By the mid 1970s the growing number of artists working with video encouraged the formation of London Video Arts, providing a space for screening, watching and eventually producing video. In The Tennis Dialogues Cate Elwes combines live video playback with performance to explore how the sensation of time and space are altered by video. Tina Keane's Playpen is an early example of video installation, where video monitors, almost like surveillance cameras, mirror the interaction of the audience within the gallery space. David Critchley also explored the formal qualities of video and the monitor, and poked fun at the seriousness with which many artists applied themselves to the new medium in his 1976 video Pieces I Never Did.

What does it mean to broadcast Video Art?
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From pioneer David Hall's early engagement with the video image as a broadcast medium, television has provided rich source material for video artists. In videos like Yes Frank No Smoke, George Barber combines fragments of sound and image sampled from familiar TV movies and advertisements with video effects and ironic voice-over. Ian Bourn refers to the small scale intimacy of television within its domestic setting, in his roles as 'talking head' characters such as Lenny in Lenny's Documentary. Stuart Marshall was one of video art's most accomplished writers on the subject of television and video, his three part video The Love Show is an exploration of television's modes of address and representation

What happens when a video artist uses Multiple screens?

New developments in digital technology mean that the poles of video versus film no longer define artists working with moving image. Indeed, in the double screen video works of Sutapa Biswas, Breda Beban and Jananne Al Ani we see a quality of image and projection that returns us to the conditions of film, but this time installed in a gallery space rather than a cinema. The high quality of digital projection is now seen as an equivalent to film in many art galleries and museums and for many artists. However, the specificity of the video medium; its relationship to the television image, its monitor-bound form and sense of immediacy has created three decades of artistic innovation.

TENNIS DIALOGUES Catherine Elwes 1979

Tennis Dialogues

‘I performed two tennis dialogues in 1979 which involved me arguing live and interminably with another me pre-recorded and playing back on a monitor’. I pinched the idea from Kevin Atherton in revenge for his lifting my anti-strip performance. The game of tennis was played independently against a real and a video simulated wall. the first dialogue was between a young, sweet and conforming Catholic version of myself and a hard-bitten, foul-mouthed adult who violently dismissed the all the nice-girls-don't rules that the little Catholic self was regurgitating. The second dialogue was between two adult selves, one the angry feminist, the other the realist who tries to teach her alter ego patience. CE

LENNY'S DOCUMENTARY Ian Bourn 1978 45mins Black & White Umatic video
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http://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/ian_bourn/lennys_doc 'Lenny's Documentary' takes the form of a monologue. It involves one character who thinks aloud the script for a planned or imagined documentary about his life and environment. Lenny is obsessed by a bleak vision of his past and present circumstances. We are given fragments of what seems an eternal evening of dark introspection. A glimmer of hope remains in the tape's one visual metaphor Leytonstone High Road, which acts as a release from the dark interior and a possible way out for Lenny.

TV INTERRUPTIONS (7 TV PIECES): INTERRUPTION PIECE David Hall 1971 2.2 mins (compilation total 22.4 mins) B & W 16mm/Video

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h_5rSrZgL0 Ten works commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council were broadcast, unannounced, by Scottish TV in August/September 1971. Later, seven were compiled as TV Interruptions (7 TV Pieces). 'These have come to be regarded as the first example of British artists' television and as an equally formative moment in British video art.' Diverse Practices: A Critical Reader on British Video Art, 1996. In the first piece '..we see a TV cabinet burning.. periodically a voice calls out 'interruption'.. and there is the implication that a burning TV makes better television than most of the output to which we are subjected.' Nicky Hamlyn, Film Art Phenomena, 2003. 'The idea of inserting them as interruptions to regular programmes was crucial and a major influence on their content. That they appeared unannounced, with no titles, was essential.. These transmissions were a surprise, a mystery. No explanations, no excuses. Reactions were various. I viewed one piece in an old gents' club. The TV was permanently on but the occupants were oblivious to it, reading newspapers or dozing. When the TV began to fill with water newspapers dropped, the dozing stopped. When the piece finished normal activity was resumed. When announcing to shop assistants and engineers in a local TV shop that another was about to appear they welcomed me in. When it finished I was obliged to leave by the back door. I took these as positive reactions...' DH, 19:4:90 Television Interventions catalogue, 1990. Hall's transmissions formed part of the SAC's Locations Edinburgh event, the first exhibition in Britain to be staged outside the confines of a gallery.

PIECES I NEVER DID David Critchley 1979 35 mins Colour Video
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuwLVJ12Hks By 1979 when Pieces I Never Did was made, colour cameras, U-matic cassettes and a wider range of colour monitors were available. Consequently I was able to visit many performance, film, video, installation and sculpture ideas in the work. Talking to camera, I described ideas that had never got beyond a note in a sketchbook. Paradoxically, I was able to resurrect on video these items of personal performance that had been edged out by the structuralism of early video art, such as shouting the words "Shut Up!" until I lost my voice, having objects thrown at me until I changed colour, and proposing to end the piece by blowing myself up. I intended the piece to be colourful and action packed - far removed from the forty-minute single-take of 'Changing' in 1973. Pieces I Never Did was probably the last piece of work I made which tried to reconcile some of the material differences in the various media and methods I was using, and at the same time presented a self critique and by inference a critique of other video art work going on at that time. The work was intended to be screened on three monitors, and the thirty or so sections of all three tapes were edited to run in analogue sync for the thirty-five minute duration. This differed by fractions of a second from one screening to another depending on how the pause and start buttons were pressed, in turn resulting in a very different sound environment for the visuals to work in.In various combinations this work put together about eighteen propositions for art works covering performance, film, video, installation and sculpture. The complexity of the video recording and editing in the making of this piece went far beyond anything I had done before, yet was not the primary focus of the work. It is more about the reading of each distinct piece as realised on video in one minute sections against the justification for making them, or even thinking of them in the first place. It is about why we make art at all. D.C. FOOTNOTE 1 Pieces I Never Did was first screened as an installation of a work in progress in a London Video Arts show at the Acme Gallery, Covent Garden (February 1979) Ian Bourn showed Lenny's Documentary at the same event, and Helen Chadwick selected both pieces for the 1979 Hayward Annual which was curated by several artists. Kevin Atherton had been selected by another artist to show video, but when we saw the arrangements for screening the video component of the exhibition - a small screened off area with a thinly spread programme - Kevin and I objected and asked the Arts Council's representative for equal billing with painting and sculpture in the form of a continuous display of each video piece. This was seen to be too difficult technically, so Kevin and I withdrew our pieces from that years Hayward Annual.

Video Installation

Video installation is a contemporary art method that combines video technology with installation art. It is an art form that utilizes all aspects of its surrounding environment as a vehicle of affecting the audience. Its origins tracing back to the birth of video art in the 1970s, it has increased in popularity as the means of digital video production have become more readily accessible. Today, video installation is ubiquitous, visible in a range of environments--from galleries and museums to an expanded field that includes site-specific work in urban or industrial landscapes. Popular formats include monitor work, projection, and performance. The only requirements are electricity and darkness.

Incorporation of space and Place (Immersion)

One of the main strategies used by video-installation artists is the incorporation of the space as a key element in the narrative structure. This way, the well-known linear cinematic narrative is spread throughout the space creating an immersive ambient. In this situation, the viewer plays an active role as he/she creates the narrative sequence by evolving in the space. Sometimes, the idea of a participatory audience is stretched further in interactive video installation. Some other times, the video is displayed in such a way that the viewer becomes part of the plot as a character in a film.

Nam June Paik (July 20, 1932 January 29, 2006)

Nam Jan Paik was a Korean-born American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the first video artist. Born in Seoul, Paik studied music at the University of Tokyo and in Germany at the Munich University. While studying in Germany, Paik met the composers Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage and the conceptual artists Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell who inspired him to work in the field of electronic art.

Early Developments

Nam June Paik then began participating in the Neo-Dada art movement, known as Fluxus, which was inspired by the composer John Cage, and his use of everyday sounds and noises in his music. He made his big debut at an exhibition known as Exposition of Music-Electronic Television, in which he scattered televisions everywhere, and used magnets to alter or distort their images. In 1964, Paik moved to New York, and began working with classical cellist Charlotte Moorman, to combine his video, music, and performance. In the work TV Cello, the pair stacked televisions on top one another, so that they formed the shape of an actual cello. When Moorman drew her bow across the "cello," images of both her playing, and images of other cellists playing appeared on the screens.

Electronic Superhighway

In 1965, Sony introduced the Portapak. With this, Paik could both move and record things, for it was the first portable video and audio recorder. From there, Paik became an international celebrity, known for his creative and entertaining works. Paik also wrote extensively on the effects of technological integration. He developed the idea of an "Electronic Superhighway" as early as 1974 in his text "Media Planning for the Postindustrial Society“. Many of Paik's early works and writings are collected in a volume edited by Judson Rosebush titled Nam June Paik: Videa 'n' Videology 1959-1973.


Something Pacific (1986), a statue of a sitting Buddha faces its image on a closed circuit television. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v =8s6imG7UJ1Q&feature=related Positive Egg, displays a white egg on a black background. In a series of video monitors, increasing in size, the image on the screen becomes larger and larger, until the egg itself becomes an abstract, unrecognizable shape. Video Fish, from 1975, a series of aquariums arranged in a horizontal line contain live fish swimming in front of an equal number of monitors which show video images of other fish.


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Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii,(1995) on permanent display at the Lincoln Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is a stunning example of his cultural criticism. With this piece, Paik offers up his commentary about an American culture obsessed with television, the moving image, and bright shiny things. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rdeB_VsYIE&feature=related Paik was also known for making robots out of television sets. These were constructed using pieces of wire and metal, but later Paik used parts from radio and television sets. A retrospective of Paik's work was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the spring of 1982. During the New Year's Day celebration in January 1, 1984, he aired Good Morning, Mr. Orwell, a live link between WNET New York, Centre Pompidou Paris, and South Korea. With the participation of John Cage, Salvador Dalí, Laurie Anderson, Joseph Beuys, Merce Cunningham, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, George Plimpton, and other artists, Paik showed that George Orwell's Big Brother hadn't arrived. In 1986, Paik created the work Bye Bye Kipling, a tape that mixed live events from Seoul, South Korea, Tokyo, Japan and New York, USA. Two years later, in 1988 he further showed his love for his home with a piece called The more the better, a giant tower made entirely of 1003 monitors for the Olympic Games being held at Seoul. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_M_8z-WE6g&feature=related

Tony Oursler 1957 

Tapes, Installations: 1977-1989 Tony Oursler is known for his fractured-narrative handmade video tapes including The Loner, 1980 and EVOL 1984. These works involve elaborate sound tracks, painted sets, stop-action animation and optical special effects created by the artist. His early installation works are immersive dark-room environments with video, sound, and language mixed with colorful constructed sculptural elements. In these projects, Oursler experimented with methods of removing the moving image from the video monitor using reflections in water, mirrors, glass and other devices. For example, "L-7, L-5", exhibited at the Kitchen NYC 1983, used the translucent quality of video reflected on broken glass.

Projection: 1991

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Oursler began working with small LCD video projectors in 1991 in his installation "The Watching" presented at Documenta 9, featuring his first video doll and dummy. This work utilizes handmade soft cloth figures combined with expressive faces animated by video projection. Oursler then produced a series of installations that combined found objects and video projections. "Judy", 1993, explored the relationship between multiple personality disorder and mass media. "Get Away II" features a passive/aggressive projected figure wedged under a mattress that confronts the viewer with blunt direct address. Oursler’s works seem like animate effigies in their own psychological space, often appearing to interact directly with the viewer's sense of empathy. These installations are consistently disturbing and fascinating and lead to great popular and critical acclaim. Signature works have been his talking lights, such as Streetlight (1997), his series of video sculptures of eyes with television screens reflected in the pupils, and ominous talking heads such as Composite Still Life (1999). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aqIk_ynVak http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhVZ6O5rp1E An installation called Optics (1999) examines the polarity between dark and light in the history of the camera obscura. In his text "Time Stream", Oursler proposed that architecture and moving image installation have been forever linked by the camera obscura noting that cave dwellers observed the world as projections via peep holes. Oursler's interest in the ephemeral history of the virtual image lead to large scale public projects and permanent installations by 2000.

Public Projects

The Public Art Fund and Art Angel commissioned the "Influence Machine" in 2000. This installation marks the artist's first major outdoor project and thematically traced the development of successive communication devices from the telegraph to the personal computer as a means of speaking with the dead. Oursler used smoke, trees and buildings as projection screens in Madison Park NYC and Soho Square London. He then completed a number of permanent public projects in Barcelona, New Zealand, Arizona including "Braincast" at the Seattle Public Library. He is scheduled to complete a commission at the Frank Sinatra High School in Astoria New York. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-s4xzB5D2Q

William Latham - Evolution of Form


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