Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age – Video as time, space, motion

I chose to read the chapter “Video as time, space, motion” from the book “Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age” by Margot Lovejoy. This chapter talks about the when video first became a medium for artists and how artists’ attitude towards video changed since then. Ever since the first portable camcorder, Portapak, was released by Sony in 1965, there was a huge change in the art scene. A portable camcorder gave artists the opportunity to use videos as a medium for their art. Back then camcorders did not have the ability to record and playback videos, however it had the ability to view videos in real time or with a slight delay through the use of ‘close circuits’. However as the technology advances, artists’ attitude towards using video as a medium changed due to the wide use of it in the media industry on television, where things could be aired and were mainly used for commercial purposes.

One of the works that made use of the close circuit technology was Wipe Cycle. Wipe Cycle by Frank Gillette and Ira Schneider is an installation work that features 9 monitors, each playing a different clip of delayed or real time videos of the viewers. 

Ira Schneider & Frank Gillette – Emily Mae Aston Art

Upon entering the exhibition space, viewers will find themselves looking at 9 monitors with live footages of themselves and also footages with 6 or 12 seconds delays. This was aimed to manipulate the viewer’s perception of time and space whilst looking/experiencing this artwork. As Schneider stated in the book Expanded Cinema by Gene Youngblood in 1970, “The most important function … was to integrate the audience into the information”. This was one of the works that was directed towards the “unidirectionality of commercial media” (Youngblood, 1970) that was broadcasted on television.

The fact that the television could reach a broader group of audience was indeed tempting for some artists but going to the television meant the possibility of losing one’s production control over their works. Therefore it was a known fact that the “relationship of artists to television has always been complex”.

Another work that I found interesting was Media Burn by Ant Farm, which was founded by Chip Lord and Doug Michels. Media Burn was a video that documented the entire process of the event whereby a car was filmed driving full speed into 45 flaming television sets. As mentioned by Chip Lord in the video, they didn’t have control over the captions that came with the media coverage, which was one the problem that artists had with the television back then.  


To read about how videography started out to be considered as a form of art was eye opening. I did not expect that there would have been a conflict between the media and the art scene. The whole issue of mass culture versus high culture was interesting and yet still relatable in our current context. 

Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema. Dutton, 1970.
Lovejoy, Margot. Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age. Routledge, 2009.


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