Art Videos – Art or Entertainment??
By F. Lennox Campello
Art Videos – Art or Entertainment??
As the Covidian Age begins (to the dismay of newspaper editors all over New York and LA) to show signs of slowing down, I got to think about art stuff that I originally thought about decades ago, whenever some shiny “new” thing popped into the art scene.
Remember when everyone was doing “art videos” as the new thing?
I don’t hide the fact that most art videos (which I have sometimes called artists’ home movies) left me pretty ambivalent, especially as I try to view them as art, rather than entertainment.
In the nearly 70 or 80-year history of artists’ home movies, I can probably count in one hand the number of them that I would even remotely consider as something more than a low budget attempt at making a film, and most of those on that list start before the VCR was invented.
And even after all these years, no one has ever surpassed Salvador Dali’s “Un Chien Andalou.” And for the really “artsy” ones, Ana Mendieta’s still rule.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that most of the voices in the art world that count and weigh-in a lot more importantly than mine, once upon a time a decade or two ago viewed video (pun intended) as the leading edge for creativity in the modern dialogue of the visual arts (even though the genre was then in its 7th decade).
Witness the video overloads in the Whitney Biennial lists of the 2010s for example.
History lesson for anyone born after 1980 or so: Before everyone had streaming as a matter of fact, they had VCRs or DVD players in their homes… and before that, if you wanted to see a movie, you generally had to go to a movie theatre, and many American cities had a seedy neighborhood area where porn theatres were concentrated – when I was a kid in Brooklyn, that seedy area was in and around Times Square in NYC.
And just like video killed the radio star, it also killed seedy porn theatres all over the landscape but concurrently it gave the porn industry a huge new life that they had never hereto dreamed of and also gave them access to the privacy of the home as it eliminated the requirement to visit a seedy theatre in order to view a porn movie. It flourished to new heights in the age of the DVD! In 1996 I did an exhibition of classic drawings of the then “new” set of Internet porn stars. In reviewing that show, the Washington Post art critic wrote that my drawings managed “to find a delicate balance between the black charcoal and cream-colored paper resulting in a grainy, film-noir effect, making his subjects, traffickers in mass-consumption prurience, seem tough but vulnerable, like a flowering plant in a sexual wasteland.”
Talk about art jargon!
Then the Internet killed the DVD porn industry, as free porn streamed into homes everywhere and everyone became a porn star if they so desired.
Let’s stop talking about porn and get back to art.
Then, also a few decades ago, Tim Tate took video out of the DVD player – which is how art video used to be “watched” back then — and incorporated it into novel sculptural work, so that the video became “part” of the final artwork – NOT the artwork itself. Tate was the very first one on planet Earth to do… I don’t know about any other planets.
And then amazing and tiny cell phones handed all of us all a brilliant opportunity to once and for all do for art videos what VCRs and DVDs did for the porn industry (in a sense), but in this case remove them from our galleries and museums and put them on the web, where we can watch them whenever and wherever we want!
This is sort of a win-win situation for nearly all.
The reduction of artsy videos from the gallery/museum/art fair scene re-opened gallery, art fair, and museum space for other artsy stuff… and suddenly painting was back with the art crown at all these places.
Whatever else “new art” may be lurking out there now disguised as technology (I predict some sort of hologram-type stuff) … the cycle will start again as soon as the Covidian Age expires. And for art video aficionados, it will deliver an exponential growth in the genre, as hologram technology lands in our homes in a few years.
And as soon as your Aunt Elvira (I did have an aunt so named) sets aside her weekend watercolors and oils, and picks up the new family digital holocamera and starts making art movies by the millions, I can guarantee that curators will leave tire tracks on their way to find something “new” in art.
The allure of the “new” in art has been always an interesting topic for discussion, but somehow, painting (so far) always returns to the top.
Mask back on.