Chip Lord discusses the influence of early video on the art world
17 October 2012
"It's unwise to despise an enemy, especially a more
powerful, older enemy, who happens to also be your frightful
parent. So it is with television that we have to begin to consider
video, because if anything has defined the formal and technical
properties of the video medium, it is the television
industry." David Antin, Video: The Distinctive
features of the Medium
Antins's definitive essay was first published in the catalogue for the exhibition Video Art at the ICA, Philadelphia in 1975. Sony had introduced the portapak in 1967, and a 2nd generation, the AV series, in 1970. The influence of 1968, McLuhan, Buckminister Fuller - via the Whole Earth catalog, the anti-war movement, - all of these things contributed to a situation in which students and young artists just didn't trust their parents' generation and sought to "change the world."
Video, as manifested in the Sony portapak was a new technology to be explored and tested, and along with cable TV delivery, it seemed to offer the possibility of a democratized form of television. A form of communication that could be interactive and two-way in contrast to the one-way broadcast that was television in the US.
Artists who turned against the commodity art system seized on video as a medium that could be integrated with performance, embodied the element of time, and could be used to critique the frightful parent" - television, using it's own language to attack it.
Works by Vito Acconci, Lynda Benglis, Joan Jonas, Richard Serra, and William Wegman embodied subtle or pointed attacks on the Broadcast system.
Ant Farm, informed by the alternative journal Radical Software, joined this movement in 1975 with the production of Media Burn, a public spectacle and performance, staged before a live audience, covered by local television news crews, and recorded on video by alternative videographers. Media Burn was a simple, satirical and nuanced assault on the monopoly of the three major networks, and one of the first direct interventions in the Broadcast News flow.
Hear more from Chip Lord at the Random Acts event at FACT on 26 October. Other speakers include Channel 4's Commissioning Editor for Arts Tabitha Jackson, artist Marisa Olson and artist collective LuckyPDF.
Tickets are £10 / £8 (FACT Members & concs), you can book yours online, by calling 0871 902 5737 or in person at the FACT Box Office.