Euphemisms: “Video Art” Versus “Poor Cousin of Cinema”
In Michael Rush’s introduction to “Video Art,” the conception of the moving image begins by tracing back to its very emergence in the 19th century. At this point, perhaps the the timeless pieces of the Lumière brothers such as Ship Leaving Harbor (Barque Sortant du Port, 1895) comes to mind, or how the first realization that the conglomeration of many frames at different points in time (Eadweard Muybridge) suddenly becomes a moving horse. The moving image was puzzling, disorienting, yet compelling: moving image suddenly combatted the still image. What was seen as the “absorbance” of the camera became ephemeral, and the viewer not only witnessed the movement of time, but something visually complex indeed– seeing life before them through the lens of another object and seeing life before them through the lens of another person. We manipulate this perspective in reducing the purpose of the lens to be subjective versus objective, the theme of which video art becomes fractured from film. It provokes artists to explore situations, physical movements, and spaces in embracing conceptual realms beyond themselves through a very strange, uncanny type of technology: a new medium of artistic expression.
Expectably, video was first disseminated in the role of serving as documentation. Videos became a vivid gesture in capturing civic life, segwaying an opportunity for the common people to see what was happening beyond their own home and experiences in the famous “day-to-day life.” Yet, it was only until the middle of the 20th century that the medium of video became accessible to the masses on a standardized screen, and accordingly, the industries of television, film, and entertainment grew unconditionally. In reference to Rush, “Video, once considered the poor cousin of cinema, soon became a significant medium itself in the hands of artists, documentary filmmakers, choreographers, engineers, and political activists who saw it as their ticket into the hallway of influence previously trafficked only by cameramen with ‘identification badges’…”
As Rush asserts, Video Art moved from being shown on the standard screen to alternative art spaces and installation. The question of the space which encapsulates the moving image becomes just as equally important as the moving image itself– and the choice of doing so, we can say, separates one video artist from another. As an “all-embracing art form,” the youngness of video art poses two difficulties for writers as Rush states: the fact that the language used for this medium is borrowed from film and that the traditional designation for speaking or writing about video art is ‘to film’ rather than ‘to video.’ To best understand the devolution of video art, the artist uses the medium in no way to designate themselves identifiably, nor to produce the service of a mere idea, as Rush puts it. It is not an identifying material or medium that defines the artist.
In seeking to understand the notions of Video Art, Rush asserts that one must take into consideration four major themes:
(1.) Artists used the video camera as an extension of their own bodies and as participants in performances, linking the conceptual and physical right from the beginning
(2.) Video Art has expanded the possibilities of narrative, producing linear and non-linear autobiographies and futuristic fantasies, defining the political and redefining the sexual, and exploring personal and cultural identity
(3.) The hybridization of technology, in which video is combined and recombined, often in interactive installations, with a vast array of other materials– digital video, film, DVD, computer art, CD-roms, graphics, animation, and virtual reality– to form new artistic expressions, such as “Filmic art’, not quite film or video
(4.) The pioneering works and influences to have emerged from the broad international arena