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Video Art - 1970s

broad overview of 1970s video art

Ellen Mueller2

on 27 December 2016

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Transcript of Video Art - 1970s

Video Art
in the 1970s

Steina and Woody Vasulka
"Calligrams", 1970
In the rescanned image of Calligrams (1970), the horizontal drift is "deliberately maladjusted" (Steina) causing the image to repeat vertically.

While the horizontal visual "violation" of stretching the image is reflected in the audio noises, the rescanning camera, set at a 90-degree angle to the screen, reinforces the electronic structure in its verticality, where the instability of the "frame" appears in transition to spatiality.

Yvonne Spielmann © 2004 FDL
"Vertical Roll" - Joan Jonas (1972)
This is a seminal work.
Jonas constructs a theater of female identity by deconstructing representations of the female body and the technology of video.

The relentless vertical roll, which repeats throughout the tape, disrupts the image by exposing the medium's materiality.

Subjected to the violence of the vertical roll and the scrutiny of the video mirror, these disjointed images of the body — including a photographic representation of a female nude — are even further abstracted and mediated.

The tape's staccato, insistent visual rhythm is heightened by the regular, sharp crack of a spoon hitting a surface, which resounds as if Jonas were smacking the video equipment itself.

Near the end, Jonas confronts the viewer face-to-face in front of the aggressively rolling video screen, adding yet another spatial and metaphorical layer of fragmentation and self-reflection.

The 1st book about video art,
"Expanded Cinema"
is published in New York.

Stephen Beck builds the first
The Kitchen
has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape of this country for more than three decades.

Founded as an artist collective by Woody & Steina Vasulka, and incorporated as a non-profit 2 years later, in its infancy The Kitchen was a space where video artists, experimental composers, & performers could share their ideas with like-minded colleagues.
"Baldessari Sings LeWitt"
John Baldessari
1972, 12:38 min, b&w, sound

In an ironic intersection of two systems — arcane theoretical discourse and popular music — Baldessari sings a tract by Minimalist artist Sol LeWitt. Introducing this performance by noting that "these sentences have been hidden too long in exhibition catalogues," Baldessari sings Lewitt's forty-five-point tract on Conceptual Art to the tunes of The Star-Spangled Banner and Heaven, among other songs. Baldessari's witty "art aria" functions as a meta-conceptual exercise.
Paul McCarthy: Black and White Tapes, 1972

Sony introduces
video tapes
"Three Transitions"
Peter Campus
, 4:53 min, color, sound

This work is one of the seminal works in video. In 3 short exercises, Campus uses basic techniques of video technology & his own image to create succinct, almost philosophical metaphors for the psychology of the self.

In each episode, Campus displaces an image of himself and eventually eradicates it. The tape's precise formalism & simplicity of execution advance the psychological wit & symbolic content.
Nacy Holt & Richard Serra
00:10:27 min
Gestures is a series of performance-based works in which Wilke faces the camera in extreme close-up & performs repetitive or durational physical actions.

At times she kneads & pulls her skin as if it were sculptural material. Often her gestures — rubbing her hands over her face, smiling so hard that she appears to be grimacing, sticking out her tongue — take on a loaded significance when seen in the context of gender performance.
Hannah Wilke
, 35:30 min, b&w, sound
Paik's possibly most famous video work was produced as a gap-filler for an empty wall in his fourth show in the Galeria Bonino, New York. Shortly before the opening, he hit upon the idea of making a TV viewer out of an antique Buddha statue once purchased as an investment. The subsequent addition of a video camera meant the Buddha now watched his videotaped image on the screen opposite – past and present gaze upon each other in an encounter between Oriental deity and Western media.
Nam June Paik, "TV Buddha"

Closed Circuit video installation with bronze sculpture

Chris Burden

He was shot in his left arm by an assistant from a distance of about 5 meters.
"Performer / Audience / Mirror"
Daniel Graham

00:22:45 min
In Performer/Audience/Mirror, Graham uses video to document an investigation into perception and real time informational "feedback." The performance is doubly reflected back to the audience by the artist's lecturing, and the architectural device of a mirrored wall. Graham has written extensively on how video, which can deliver information in real time, functions semiotically as a mirror.
She continually repeats an action regarded as typically feminine, reinterpreting it in the context of art history through her performance: The artist combs her hair forcefully, without a pause, for more than 50 minutes. During this time, she repeats the sentence “art must be beautiful, artist must be beautiful” like a mantra.

The constant repetition of the words and the action give the work a sustained intensity that puts the artist and the audience into a trance-like state, in which overcoming the physical pain frees the body and mind from the conventions of Western society and culture.
Marina Abramovic
"Art Must Be Beautiful"
"Semiotics of the Kitchen"
Martha Rosler
, 6:09 min, b&w, sound
This work adopts the form of a parodic cooking demonstration in which, Rosler states, "An anti-Julia Child replaces the domesticated 'meaning' of tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration."

In this alphabet of kitchen implements, states Rosler, "when the woman speaks, she names her own oppression."
"Island Song/Island Monologue"
Charlemagne Palestine
, 31:34 min, b&w, sound
These two works, both produced on the island of St. Pierre, a French territory off the coast of Newfoundland, confront confinement, isolation and powerlessness. In Island Song, Palestine straps a video camera to a motorcycle and then drives around the island as though searching for an escape.
"When I look for the lightning, it never strikes. When I look away, it does." Filmed inside a car, this tape focuses on observation of natural phenomena, presenting the obverse of the "If a tree falls in the woods..." conundrum. Does observation change the course of events? Can you believe in things you don't see? In this experiment, the camera occupies a privileged position -- showing the woman and what she sees, as well as what she cannot see.
Paul and Marlene Kos: Lightning,
Bill Viola: He Weeps for You,
A drop of water emerging from a small brass valve is magnified by a video camera and projected on a large screen. The close-up image reveals that the viewer and part of the room where they stand are visible inside each forming drop. The drop swells and shudders as it reaches surface tension, finally falling and creating a loud resonant sound as it lands on an amplified drum below. A new drop immediately begins forming and the cycle continues in infinite repetition.
JVC Introduces

VHS Cassette
Gordon Matta-Clark
Clock Shower

The Clocktower Gallery,
Full transcript