Video Art and Cinema

Exploration of difference of human experience

Stefan513593 - part 5 - Video Art

Stefan513593 – part 5 – Video Art


Art tradition

Video art relates to the device (TV, videocamera) and the process (moving images). Videos or films can be shown in various venues and spaces, and even can be archived on mobile devices (e.g DVD, mp4 etc.). Nowadays, videos screened online are mostly streamed, i.e. the remote screening device is dislocated from the archive. Thus, the place of recording, the place of the archive and the place of the viewer are temporal and spatial disconnected, contrasting to paintings (place of viewing is the same as place of archive – ignoring for the moment remote viewing of copies in books and online) and installation art (place of recording and viewing the same – ignoring recordings of installation). Another form of video art is life streaming, i.e temporal synchronous viewing and recording. Although, one should keep in mind that life streaming as e.g. life show on TV are not really synchronous in time, but there is a certain time delay in order to allow interventions before ‘airing’.

Video art shares with painting a sense of rectangularity and uprightness, with sculpture a spatial occupacy and institutional setting (in wider sense), and with installation a sense of theatricality and narrative mise-en-scène (Taylor, 2012:232-238).



“How we make video is our only hope of remaining vital in this culture” – Tony Oursler

As with performance art and installation art the earlist exploration of the new technology of video (moving images) was a reaction against the modernist paradigm and commercial television. Early examples could be seen as a rejection of aesthetic value and redirecting the viewer’s attention to time perception and way of representation.

Early examples:

  • Andy Warhol  Sleep (1963) videorecording Warhol’s friend sleeping for more than five hours, and Empire (1966) with more than eight hours Both can be considered as critique.
    => Warhol’s long duration silent films of one static image (even extended through slowing down speed) subverses the cinematic perception of films, but also can be seen as a visualization of presentation of time
  • Nam June Paik (1963) T.V. Clock => related to Fluxus, a row of TV set showing each one image of a straight line, each with a different angle, resembling the hand of a clock, an exploration of time and time perception, sculptural as object
  • Peter Campus (1973) Three Transitions => exploration of the creation images as self-portrait, illusion of masking and identity

Later examples:

  • Gary Hill (1986) Mediations  => reminding of Serra’s Boumerang (1974) an interplay of speaker and the voice bouncing back from the loudspeaker, the addition of sand disrupts the connection and interplay in a kind of visual conflict
  • Bill Viola (1995) The Greeting  => inspired by  Jacopo Pontormo’s painting (1528-29) Visitation transforming the static image into a contemporary dynamic narrative in extreme slow motion (1:10) to enforce the psycholigical aspect of the encounter
  • Douglas Gordan (1996) 24 Hour Psycho (and as video extract)=> First Turner prize winning video art shows a slowed down Hitchcook film lasting one full day. By that it reveals the construction of film as a sequence of still images as well as addressing notions of memory in watching moving images. A notion that I always find fascinating when watching a very short sequence looped in original speed, and taken a photo of that squence, a still image, the expression and the difference between what I believe to see in the moving image and the still image.

Video Art shown on screen could be also considered as a symbol of post-modernist conceptions. The question around video art is whether it should be considered as a separate medium in itself (would make it rather specific and relating back to modernist paradigm) or as something beyond that extends, similar to installation art, the psychological and cultural experience of the audience (see also my notes on Richard Serra short films). With more conceptual thinking behind video art, and extending the medium beyond documentary reason and abstract experiments.

Example: Dan Graham (1975) Video Show and Dara Birnbaum (1978) Technology/Transformation: Wonderful Woman


Change with Digital:

With the rise of digital imagery and photographic indexicality and veracity was attenuated. Artists were facing now new challenges to translate more sophisticated technology into meaningful visual art projects embracing the new sensibilities of a virtual and multiple collaged world. But it also allowed access to more affordable high technology. The creation of new illusionary spaces and further flattening of pictorial spaces similar to painting allowed to interrogate the interstices between cinematic entertainment screens and traditional painting static image.

Further exploration of mentioned video artists:

(all online data accessed between 02 – 15 Nov 2017 )

Bruce Nauman (b. 1941) :

In the beginning of video art aroun 1967-68, Nauman often captured his own performance of doing repetitive tasks. Later he removed his presence form the film and exploring the audience in its movement and experience.


  • Walk with contraposto (1968) => a video recording of the artist’s performance walking through a narrow corridor between two high walls (a prop), reminiscence to the classical contraposto posture
  • Performance Corridor (1969)  => This work was based on the first one but through removal his own presence he invited visitors to walk through. Unsatifisfied with a  ‘lack of control’ on performance he installed two monitors that capture the visitor’s performance as welI as a time delay of an empty corridor. Through this installation for visitors acting unconsciously Nauman raised an ‘unsettling self-conscious experience of doubling and displacement’. One could relate this work to surveillance and an intruding manipulation of human’s experience.

Stan Douglas (b. 1960):

Douglas started to work from 1982 and 1983 with slide projections presented in movie theaters. In his video works of the 1980s Douglas explored historical events and class and race consciouness as underlying epistemological structures impacting language. In his video installations he often uses a split screen presentation as a disruption of represention and narratives leaving uncanny sensations with the spectator.


  • Television Spots/Monodramas (1987-1991) => short video sequence put together incoherently and appropriating televsion editing techniques. Interrogation ways of misunderstanding and disclocation.
  • «Win, Place or Show» (1998) => a recording of a one room ‘betting’ scene between two actors in context of later 1960s context. Recorded with 2 x 10 camera positions, shown on two slighty tilted screens after digitally generated combines, to accomodate multiple variations of the looped scene eventually ending in 20’000 hour screening time. The context is the traditional ‘nickel game’, refecting through technology as an endless game.
  • Der Sandmann (1995) => A split screen installation showing a German ‘Schrebergarten’ at different time points (1960s as plot for urban gardening and 20 years later as construction site), fused with the narrated short story ‘Der Sandmann’ by E.T.A Hoffmann and explored from a psychological viewpoint  of the uncanny, repressed memories and repetition by S. Freud. It explores aspects of temporality and its effect on history.

Ann Hamilton (b. 1956):

Hamilton’s focus is on complex site-specific installations combining sculpture, architecture, video, spoken and written word, and human presence. She investigates local and regional culture as well as inteventions with the architectural history.


  • (the capacity of absorption • video) (1988/93) => originally a complex nstallation of video monitor inside a megaphone explored the absorption capacity of the human ear alongside the intervention of sound, it was later revised and replaced by a flatscreen
  • draw (2003) => a video-audio recording of a small surveillance camera following the movement of a red thread through silk organza. One could see this a gesturral and tactile interrogation of red thread and puncture.
  • Songs of Ascension (2007-8) => This is a more recent collaborative work with the composer and choreographer Meredith Monk

Douglas Gordan (b. 1966):

Gordan’s mixed work of films, video installations, photographs and text explores difference and oppositions between doubles, self and other, leaving an uncanny sense of parallel identities.


  • Through the Looking Glass (1999) => Gordan appropriates the film material of Taxi Driver (1976) by Martin Scorsese. He embraces the materiality of 16mm with at times painting directly on it, is a comment on human’s fascination for the ‘other side’ alongside a loss of mental control and integrity. Gordan play with the original mirror-scene (reminiscence to Lacan’s mirror stage) and installs the video on two screen in the exhibition room, adjacent to each the other on opposite wall, one showing the original sequence the second a flipped video. Over time a developing asynchronous falling apart reflects on the human condition.  It is a hallocenic experimental visualization that alongside the music reminds me of some music videos, experimental though. This video plays as earlier video works with time, delay, asynchronous timing, and refection on a human in-between experience .

Tony Oursler (b. 1957) :

Oursler main interest reside in the ‘psychological impact of humanity’s headlong dive into cyberspace’ through an exploration of mystical phenomena, science and spirtualism.

Examples are:

  • Influence Machine (2001) => embracing the virtual online world through an disembodied ghostlike face speaking without interruption from the internet space, an hallucinogenic visual encounter and a more recent work is
  • Imponderable (2015-16) =>  a ‘5D installation’ based on a book and video installation as a presentation of an archive and collection related to his grandfather Charles Fulton Oursler (1893 – 1952) who was a writer and magician in the tradition of the debunker Houdini. It relates to Oursler’s spiritual exploration of 19th-century spirit photography and debunk trickery and deception in the first half of the 20th century.-  video here



  • Video art compared to cinema is mainly to reveal patterns, cultural beliefs and assumptions, as well as epistemological structures in society.
  • Video art applies techniques borrowed from experimental film, television, commercials, and cinema to place the spectator in a conscious awareness of process of seeing and thinking.
  • Ofter uncomfortable and unsettling viewer experiences are intended.
  • The artist’s role is often one of a director of a stage play.
  • Video art goes at times beyond flat screen projection, embracing spatial setting, ambiguous installations, and partly joined with performative acts.
  • Quite often, elements of time and space delay are mirrored in screening to enforce mental conditions of experience.
  • Overall, video art is a pastiche and an extension of traditional medium specificity to place the spectator into an active role.
  • Video Art extends medium specificity as it works beyond semiotics of traditional media.



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