Assignment 8

The last paragraph of Laura Cottingham’s Outer & Inner Space state:

“Although the technical and artistic foundation of art video was formed during the 1960s and 1970s, the medium is still in its infancy at the dawn of the twenty-first century.  How video will continue to challenge our understanding of what art is or could be remains to be seen – and heard.”

It’s here that I undergo a departure from the rest of her article on the history of video and its function as an art medium.  I like that she defines video and how it differs from film, but I don’t think she goes into the specifics well enough.  The closest she says is that “video shares no material constituents with its photography and film relatives and even looks different.”  Upon further investigation, I found that this was true, but I wonder why she doesn’t explicitly lay that difference out because I think film and video – especially for [younger] audiences nowadays – have a conflation with each other.  More and more now it’s easier to mimic the film-like qualities especially since both the video and film industries have embraced digital and use almost the same technology to execute a finished product.  I think people my age and older who can remember tapes like VHS or( what wasn’t used popularly when I was a kid, but was still around) Betamax have a better grasp at “seeing” in our minds the difference between the to.

It’s incredible how quickly and enraptured the first video artists became with the medium.  And I don’t limit that to them but to other mainstream artists who used that medium – either primarily and continued in that vein or not.  I also didn’t know that a lot of that weird public access television programming I remember seeing as a kid grew from this movement of artists who were anti-TV and anti-video, but used the medium to show their opposing views about how it was commoditized in popular culture.  Sure as a kid in the late 80s (truly 90s), what had started with being experimental, satirical, and political in the 1970s still continued twenty years later, but I think in not such overt ways.  It seems like those video artists were trying to find a way to be combative to television’s influence and reach but by the time I was a kid I think that attitude changed and that kind of programming became more a venue for other televising points-of-view rather than anti-televisionism (ha! I created a new “ism”).

I don’t think video is any longer in its infancy, maybe its techniques are in their infancy because the technology that makes video has been so rapid-changing,  but couldn’t that also be said of the camera and photo techniques.  There was quite a jump from daguerreotype to the first film cameras, and that only took about 40 to 50 years.  By the time Kodak film was developed, photography was no longer in its infancy, the technology to execute it was just advancing rapidly.  I think Cottingham confuses that notion. Video has been around technically since about the 1920s with the invention of cathode ray tube television. We’ve really had almost a century of video and right now a half century of video art; I think it’s established.  I do agree, however, with her that how video challenges our understanding or what art is or may be does remain to be seen.

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Assignment 1

It was nice to see that we looked at John Cage in this class firstly as an example of an artist who does the unconventional.  I know of him because of his music.  Having studied piano and clarinet as a kid and a teenager (and a bit with the piano still as an adult), John Cage cropped up when my fascination with minimalist music began.  It started with Philip glass for me, and then I sought out other composers who explored music in similar ways.

Philip Glass was a composer who used music like repeating patterns that had no particular goal or phrasal quality that told you a “musical narrative”.  Many of his early works just “were”.  The sound of the music was almost like what was happening in the moment rather than telling a musical story.  Once I found John Cage and 4’33”, I was amazed, and it helped me make sense of the two composers.  John Cage was very concerned, especially with 4’33”, sounds in the now — in the moment.  That performance is one that could never be replicated since it depends on the ambient noise of where and when it is performed.  Everytime it’s experienced that experience only lasts in the moment.  That is what I loved about Philip Glass’s minimalist music and other composers like Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, and John Cage.  It was a liberating and mind blowing way to experience a “classical” composition for me.

My two rules:

Do fail.  You should.  It’s okay.  Don’t let it stop you, though.

Good work brings joy.  Even painful work brings joy.  Joy in accomplishment.  Joy in effort.