Video/media Culture of the Late Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

The opportunity to edit an issue of the College Art Association's "Art Journal" provides yet another chance for the academic art history community to rediscover the roles of video in today's culture. As we prepare this issue, we are looking forward to a veritable catalogue of major video representation within the art world: Bill Viola's representation of the United States in the 1995 Venice Biennale; the Henry Art Museum's touring Gary Hill exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum; Bruce Nauman's Walker Art Center-organized traveling retrospective and Barbara London's international survey of video installation art, both at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Bruce and Norman Yonemoto's exhibition at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; a Joan Jonas retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; new media galleries and flexible exhibition spaces at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; video installations by Mary Lucier and Shigeko Kubota in the Whitney Museum of American Art's permanent collection (with a survey of Kubota's new video sculptures also scheduled); Nam June Paik's touring exhibition "The Information Superhighway;" and finally, the preparation of a largescale historical video exhibition by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England.

Along with these exhibitions we are witnessing an increasing acquisition of video installation and single-channel art for the permanent collections of such museums as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Private collectors are also increasingly wanting to represent the history of video art in their own collections, among them Richard and Pamela Kramlich of San Francisco, while such private foundations as Fredrick B. Henry's Bohen Foundation use innovative means to actively acquire or support new video projects. The expansion of international rentals and sales of artists' videotapes by Electronic Arts Intermix and the distribution initiatives of Video Data Bank reflect an increased attention focused on the work of independent media artists.

All of this current activity-and this is just a samplingfollows upon a long-term production, over the past thirty years, by artists working with video in the United States. Within the video arts community, the prominent position of such artists as Paik, Peter Campus, Nauman, Francesc Torres, Julia Scher, Hill, Antonio Muntadas, Chip Lord, Alan Rath, Jim Campbell, Adrian Piper, Juan Downey, Terry Berkowitz, Rita Myers, Matthew Barney, Buky Schwartz, Peggy Ahwesh, Leslie Thornton, Willie Varela, Renee Tajima, Steve Fagin, among others, can be seen in relation to the complex history of an aesthetic discourse that has lent itself to a variety of distinctive bodies of work within multiple genres, styles, forms, and formats of multimedia presentation, as well as within performance-based work and in videotapes created for television broadcast and for private, gallery, and theatrical distribution. This much-abbreviated list of artists and events alludes to a nonlinear history of video, a history that does not unfold within a sequential logic of developments defined by technology, nor does it lend itself to a reductivist and essentialist reading of video as a medium uniquely created by one sole community of artists.

At a time when video production is increasingly common in all aspects of media and multimedia production, the status of video art remains on the margins, its recognition and support largely contained within a small media arts community. The film community itself often chooses to ignore works produced in video, shunning it in film festivals and in the process losing the opportunity to discover a body of strong, innovative works. If videowork is considered, it is most often presented as a subcategory, as in the case of the renowned New York Film Festival's sidebar offering, the littlerecognized poor relation, the New York Video Festival. …