So what is video art…?

Video art defies attempts at definition because of its essential eclecticism. It draws from diverse art media as well as from communication and information

Type of artwork which began in New York in the mid-1960s, made on videotape usually for viewing on a television screen. Since video is an electronic medium rather than a style, the results tend to be almost as varied as the artists using it. …

Video art is a type of art which relies on moving pictures and comprises video and/or audio data. (It should not however be confused with television or experimental cinema). …

Ok…what they said.

The genesis of the term “video art” was really in the late 1960s/70s with the introduction of the actual video tape and the first commercially available 1/2-inch portable video recorder in the US – the Sony AV3400 Portapak. It allowed regular consumers to produce and manipulate, as well as record sound. It was this clunky machine and camera combo that Nam June Paik reportedly purchased in 1965, used to film a parade of the Pope’s visit to New York, and then screened the video that evening at a Greenwich Village Cafe. According to disputed mythology, that was the birth of video art.

It was considered a way of producing television, and thus challenging that cultural icon’s power in shaping communication. Paik went on to become the “founding father” of video art  – he went from building installations with tv sets in the early 1960s, to working with lasers in this decade.

Of course, video art TODAY is probably more appropriately called media (or new media) art today given the state-of-the-art technologies and modes of electronic communication that are readily available to artists.

To take two random – but awesome – examples that I happened to be looking at today, look at the distinction between Qiu Anxiong’s Sound of Chiarascuro and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries’ hilarious Cunnilingus in North Korea. There is a huge variation in look as well as expression. There are some buffering problems with the first work – it was shot in another format and then posted to the web. The second work was actually created for the Internet – is actually “Internet art”. For me, they represent the diverse ways in which media art speaks to/for/with us.

I usually like the term “moving image art” in lieu of “video art” – but of course this moniker omits work that is text driven like the Heavy Industries work (like ALL of their work). “Moving image and text art” is too clumsy. With regards to the work on ShinyArt, the term “media art” has some problems because there are specific constraints around the kind of work our platform will support, and the kind of work that can be projected on a flat screen tv. We cannot show, for example, some work that is considered multi-media.

But the stickiness of this subject points to why the potential of this artwork is so intriguing and is as bottomless as the well of technological developments. As Marc Mayer has noted in Being and Time:

…For the purposes of art, video’s theoretical and practical possibilities are so inconceivably vast, its versatility so immeasurably profound and of such perplexing unorthodoxy, that even after a quarter of a century, the medium’s defenders are still stuck with vertiginous awe as if glimpsing the sublime.”



About shinyartshinyart

KKP is CEO and Founder of ShinyArt - a company designed to transform dull HD flat screens into canvases for some of the world’s most compelling moving art. She is also an art historian and adjunct professor at several schools in the Bay Area.
This entry was posted in artists, contemporary art, new media, video art and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to So what is video art…?

  1. Pingback: Video art to the masses- Sneak preview: Shiny Art « A Musing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s