Kathy Rae Huffmann
Art, Video, and Television (1993)
Тематика: Медиа-технологии
Язык оригинала: русский

"It may be unfortunate that television isn’t totally an artistic medium: you have to consider it a commercial medium that makes use of art. The art that is successful on television has to be art that is acceptable to large number of the viewers".
Roger Seltzer, Audience Survey Institute, Los Angeles 1

The presence of television has prevailed as a prominent element in video art’s history. In fact, TV is responsible for the medium’s international and multi-disciplinary impact on large, diverse audiences. TV has offered artists and socially concerned individuals a forum for their common alternative voices. In keeping with the spirit of the 1960s, and the Avant Garde and Fluxus art movements of the time, video was the perfect vehicle for anti-art opposition to “high” art and its institutions. The medium of video also permitted enterprising artists a chance to combine technology, community interests, and a personal view point and/or political perspective - for exhibition on television for the alternative art audience. But from the onset, a dichotomy emerged within video aesthetics - was this new medium art or television?

Video was an essential component of the 1960s utopian dream to establish free communication channels and to build a global village 2. Still, the early achievements of video artists ( a name later abandoned by many) demonstrated the medium’s vitality and flexibility to be a meaningful component of performance and installation art, as well as taking new forms in documentary, personal narrative, and the experimental investigations begun by an earlier generation of Avant-Garde filmmakers. In the 1960s, cable TV and an educational “public” network were launched in the US. Artists were attracted to these new broadcast possibilities, encouraged by many empty hours of broadcast air-time to fill, and hopeful to reach new audiences. At that time, artists’ video was created on an “unbroadcastable” format, 1/2 inch open-reel tape, and was no threat to commercial television. But video allowed radical thinking a new form and alternative ambitions for non-commercial TV’s potential as a public information system.

TV remains the antithesis of the art museum, and by embracing it’s perimeters, artists make the symbolic leap beyond what is often called esoteric art, into popular culture. However there remain common factors. Video art in both systems has few viewers. TV requires entertainment values to attract its viewers and rarely asks what the “art” in art television is all about. At the same time, video with its time-based principles, has an uncomfortable setting in an art museum, where visitors spend an average of 5 seconds looking at a painting. In the early 1970s, a television monitor was a strange presence in a museum, and videotapes by artists a confusing medium. But, after three decades the art museum finds the medium compatible with their concerns for individual expression. What began as a passionate belief that developed in a few institutions has flourished to provide consistent support for video as an art form 3. Today, most important contemporary art museums have hosted a major exhibition with video art. Many art institutions have co-sponsored artists television projects 4, thereby making theme mote acceptable for the “mass medium”.

The first steps in the US and Europe

Artists had a practical introduction to the television studio, and television regulations when the non-commercial, public television stations began the first artist-in-residence programs in 1967. WGBH (Boston) established the New Television Workshop, and KQED (San Francisco) inaugurated the Experimental Television Workshop 5. The Boston workshop was a 1/2" open reel studio, where John Cage, Nam June Paik, Otto Piene, Peter Campus and William Wegman were among the first artists given funding, equipment access, technical training, and a broadcast. In close proximity to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the New Television Workshop was an active, and exciting experimental milestone. Hundreds of artists were invited to work there. WGBH’s Workshop, is the only artist’s TV Workshop to operate continuously since it was founded by Fred Barzyk. A young producer with zany ideas, Barzyk began introducing experimental production styles, including interactive, audience directed camera movements, in Boston as early as 1964 6.
Just two tears later in Europe, Gerry Schum succeeded to broadcast “Land Art” a series of commissioned artists work on films, conceptual in style but conceived of specifically for German television. Schum envisioned his series as exhibition space on the air, and called his program concept “TV Gallery.” In 1969, “The Medium is the Medium,” the first compilation of video art was produced by WGBH, and aired nationally in the US on the newly created Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). It brought public attention and critical response to the “new” medium. This early experiment demonstrated a unique language of pictures, sound and images, presented in the Avant-Garde filmmakers’ mode of expression - but to a television audience. Schum was a zealous advocate of artists access to television, and supported the unframed, free standing broadcast of art 7.

The 1970s marked a high point in the expansion and dissemination of video as art. It was a time when the terms video and television were interchangeable when used by critics, curators and artists, but clearly it was also a time when criticism of the media - an ongoing analysis of the power and magnitude of televisions presence in society - became a tradition for video art 8. In Europe, there were numerous artists who persuaded broadcasters to collaborate with their program concepts in the early 1970s. In the United Kingdom, David Hall produced a series of auto-biographical tapes, and in Austria, Peter Weibel’s performance video was shown of ORF. The Belgium program “Videographie” was began by Jean-Paul Trefois in 1977 at RTBF, and featured a regular international survey of video art and experimental video documentaries. ZDF, Germany’s second channel, had originated Das Kleine Fernsehespiel several years earlier to commission “Little Television Plays.” But, their first video co-production was mot until 1978, which was “Video 50” by Robert Wilson. Since then, many more video projects have been produced. France was the only country to establish a laboratory for new directions in television, the Institute national de l’audiovisual (I.N.A.), in 1975. Many artists production, including video art by Jean-Paul Fargier, Thierry Kuntzel and Robert Cahen have been co-produced by I.N.A. In fact, nearly every European country boasts of early examples or art on its television 9.

In New York, the Artists’ Television Laboratory was established at public television WNET-13 in 1971. Together with the first public funding programs for video from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), New York City became the main center for production and broadcast of artists’ TV in the United States. The numerous artists involved in New York’s channel 13’s TV Lab established a video elite, and created an international interest in the “experimental” (i.e. technical) nature of art on TV. New York artists had the first access to special effects like slow motion and superimposition, and to professional frame-accurate-editing. At that time, public television was the only place artists could work with “broadcast quality” 2" tape technology. Most residencies included a broadcast of the video, usually into existing series like the longtime alternative film & video series “Independent Focus.” The TV Lab in New York closed abruptly in 1983. Artists residencies which had been heavily underwritten by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), were dropped as soon as the station was expected to match money of raise funds for experimental programs. Usually “lack of audience” is given as an explanation for American public television’s low priority for art video on television.

The early TV workshops generated great enthusiasm and interest among artists and activists to access broadcast technology, even though television management rejected most of the artists’ proposals. The few broadcasts of video art, however, motivated hundreds of artists across the country to try video. The TV workshops had limited space, high costs, and were conservative in their choice of residents. In response, artists organized themselves and created independent workshops, which later became known as media art centers, in the mid-1970s. Also supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Nations Endowment for the Arts (NEA), these centers were established as a way to share the cost of expensive studio equipment, to develop skills in the medium, and to build audiences and support. As income generating programs they offered public workshops in video production and editing, maintained video libraries, and presented regular programming of artists’ video. The NEA supported media art centers in the US were also known as “video ghettos.” They focused on internal priorities, and isolated artists from contemporary art aesthetics. Many centers were however, democratic havens for media enthusiasts, and essential service organizations that mandated open access for all.

Europe in the 1980s

The differing expectations American and European artists have of TV are necessarily affected by the different influence television has had during their lifetime. An artist growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s had at least twelve channels to watch (growing up now she could have as many as 120), with programming available around the clock. Europeans have had, until very recently, quite different viewing experience. Television had a smaller influence on the lives of Europe’s video pioneers, than their American counterparts. Broadcast tine was limited, and in some countries there was only evening programming on one or two channels. The majority of European TV was educational, news, of film, selected by politically appointed producers rather than determined by commercial advertisers. With the increase in international satellite services, MTV and CNN, the commercial American style now dominates all of Europe 10.

By the mid-1980s, countless performance, multi-media and video artists in Europe had infiltrated their respective television companies. The 1980s witnessed the beginning of European video art festivals, modeled after film festivals, the more open-minded of which included video as a sidebar, like Berlin and Rotterdam. The video festival brought museum curators, TV producers, artists and critics together with the public to view and celebrate new work in a festive, yet demanding environment. Several of the important video festivals scheduled local television broadcasts of artists work, concurrent with their closed-circuit programming, notably the World Wide Video Festival in Den Haag, The Netherlands which still regularly incorporates cable TV programming.

The largest annual festival of electronic culture: art, performance and music, the Ars Electronica in Linz (Austria), is co-sponsored by the ORF Landestudio OberOsterreich since the mid-1980s. It features special artists’ broadcasts, commissions of new work, and cash prizes in the field of computer animation, all planned with full cooperation of the regional television station. In 1986, the ORF & Ars Electronica organized the “Videonale” a curated retrospective of video art, broadcast for eight nights in collaboration with ORF’s weekly culture program “Kunst-StБake.” Several artists were commissioned to create new broadcast works, including Max Almy, Klaus vom Bruch, Richard Kriesche and Gottfried Bechtold, Bernd Kraake, and Ulrike Rosenbach. In 1990, Ars Electronica sponsored a spectacular live program, “ Hotel Pompino” created by the Hamburg based artist group Van Gogh TV VGTV, as well as the Linz based artists’ collective Stadtwerkstatt TV,, had previously collaborated with Ars Electronica for live TV and radio broadcasts. “Hotel Pompino” was broadcast nationally on ORF, and throughout Europe over 3SAT 11, and gave viewers the opportunity to call-in and direct the action of each nightly broadcast.
In 1984, a monthly art TV program was established in the former Yugoslavia, and was broadcast nationally on Belgrad TV. Directed by Dunja Blazevic, artists from all regions of the country were given camera crews, studio time, and editing facilities to create works foe “TV Gallery” (named after Gerry Schum’s series). Dozens of artists were invited, and several co-productions were planned with TV Ljubljana and Skopie TV. In collaboration with the Student Culture Center in Belgrade, national TV promoted artists who were invited to the Center’s annual Video Week, with interviews and broadcast of artists and their work. In Ljubljana, the international Video Biennial (1983-1989) was co-sponsored by TV Ljubljana which offered equipment for workshops and production facilities for artists. Local as well as international artists were given broadcast and production, including Marina Grzinic and Aina Smid, Bill Seaman, and Miha Vipotnik.

In 1987, a major museum exhibition, "The Arts for Television” was organized jointly by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, to recognize the involvement of television with art and artists’ video. After nearly three years of research, and viewing of television productions from around the world, curators Dorine Mignot, Julie Lazar and Kathy Rae Huffman assembled 24 hours of exceptional examples of artists video, specifically created for television. A collaboration on an international scale, the presentation in Amsterdam included a conference on the history of art and television in eight European countries, a catalogue. The first international television collaboration for artists premiered on this occasion. “Time Code” was an experiment where eight countries produced one short artists’ work. All countries then had the right to broadcast the one hour video art compilation. “Time Code” continued for three successive editions, and eventually included East European and South American artists.

American PSB and video art

During the 1980s several public television series in the US included independently produced film and video, but the first national program series on PSB dedicated to the contemporary media and performing arts was begun in 1985. “Alive From Off Center” established anew format featuring avant-garde dance, performance and experimental film and video. The program producers initially selected those works and artists inclined to imitate commercial TV’s slickness, hoping to establish an appetite and a new audience. The series attracted enough support to prosper, and engage in international co-productions. at the beginning of the 1990’s “Alive from Off Center” has institutionalized for television what the museum has for the general cultural viewer. It is now considered the standard for what is regarded as Art on TV. Meanwhile, the alternative artists program “New Television,” produced by WGBH and WNET, struggles as a national PSB series, after a long history of local programming in Boston, Los Angeles and New York. “New Television” keeps the artists vision as a high priority, but is restricted from expanding because of funding. In its 1991 ten week series, it was sadly only able to include a fraction of the video art that met its criteria.
The Center for New Television, a Chicago media art center, sponsored “The 90s,” a radical, upbeat art series aimed at a young audience, and took responsibility with WTTW (Chicago) to introduce it on public TV as a local program in 1989. A quick paced, edited collage of independent works, this program combined segments of artists’ video, music videos, and computer graphics with human interest “reports.” Alternative political responses by well known artists, and pioneers of the medium like Skip Blumberg, to controversial subjects like the Gulf War, Drugs, and Gun Control laced an otherwise light paced program. “The 90s” gathered strong grassroots support from cable television companies and local viewers and by popular demand, the series was offered national satellite time by PBS in 1991, but it was to strong as subject matter for American PBS, which is continuously embattled
by conservative political pressure. Many hybrid forms of art television like “The 90s” will continue to emerge, and will attract growing audiences. As “video artists aspire to no less then transforming how we see all the television that we watch” 12 the discussions surrounding the content of art on television will continue and be important for the 1990s.
Because of national public television’s closes-system of selection and conservative instincts, American film and media artists formed a political lobby to assert pressure of PBS and government agencies to significantly increase attention to multi-cultural points of view. As a result, all independent programmers have been forced to reconsider their priorities, and taste, to include Black, Asian, ethnic and native peoples as well as work by women, and gay and lesbian artists. With this solidarity of perception, a new constituency of viewers has formed. This reformation of creative TV programming goals did not come about by chance, but by the dedicated attention of artists who have learned to influence their own support system in a professional manner. The power of the independent was demonstrated fully in 1989, with the establishment of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), an overturning of CPB’s system of funding to television system producers, and earmarked several million dollars of funding to independent and minority film and video makers.

Cable TV alternatives

Cable TV plays an important role in local information and it is considered an alternate programmer in the US, in addition to its delivery of multi-channel program selections. Although Cable TV is privately owned and operated, public access channels in the US are regulated by the government. The law demands that production facilities and training for community participation be offered free of charge or for a minimal fee. Beginners, as well as experienced, politically motivated artist, have turned to public access as a center for activism and production. Cable TV’s public access channels have formed a national organization, and exchange programs and encourage new ideas and forms by annual awards and recognition of excellence. Many artists began utilizing cable TV facilities as early as the 1970s, and program content has covered the full spectrum of conceptual art and performance for TV, to programs that advocate activist concerns. By working with Cable TV, artists have established a clear path away from their dependence on the culture industry and public support systems. This has been especially important during the early 1990s wave of reactionary conservativism and censorship.

New audiences have grown rapidly in response to the specialized interests of community productions. “Paper Tiger Television,” for example, brings artists and media critics into a live studio to analyze communications systems in its weekly New York City cable program. Its offshoot, the satellite series “Deep Dish Television,” organizes theme series of politically charged tapes by independents and artists. The success of “Deep Dish TV” is due, in part, to its network of activist fans around the country, who are well-suited to implore local cable TV station to receive, or “pick-up” the weekly satellite feed of programs. The several “Deep Dish TV” series have been ambitious challenges to the historic concept about what is art and who is an artist. It has also influenced the taste and market values of video art with VHS distribution of its programs demonstrating a surprising acceptance of alternative ideas. In addition, the artists and producers involved with “Deep Dish” and “Paper Tiger” television productions take an alternative position of control over the production content and the distribution of their programs. Public knowledge about the censorship of art and the federal control of news from the Gulf War, were influences of “Deep Dish Television’s” rise in popularity in 1991. The programs unite artists and activists in a common goal: to challenge the status quo, and keep freedom of expression alive and active on television.

Interactive artists TV

New technologies are necessary considerations for artists, and many artists have, of will in the near future, combine media art and TV with other information systems. There ate many early examples of live and interactive television by artists. In all cases, documentation falls short of the intensity experienced during the actual broadcast, which TV professionals agree is the most challenging in their field. Douglas Davis, a New York based interactive video pioneer, employed satellite technology in 1976 with his “Seven Thoughts,” which was broadcast from the Houston Astrodome. He has since created many interactive (and some mock interactive) video performances, internationally. In 1978, Nam June Paik began utilizing AT&T’s corporate Picturephone offices to bring groups of students and artists together in performance events. But, Paik’s tour de force was his 1984 New Year’s broadcast, “Good Morning, Mr. Orwell,” a live program featuring rock stars and celebrities, co-produced by WNET-13 and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz created an interactive public communication sculpture, “Hole in Space,” in 1980. A real window where people could meet one another, it was a direct microwave link between a shopping center in Los Angeles and New York’s Lincoln Center. Supported, in part, by the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Broadway Department Store, photo and video documentation from “Hole in Space” was exhibited in the museum shortly after the event, was produced by the University of Iowa, The Long Beach Museum of Art/UCLA, and New York University, and directed by Jaime Davidovich of New York’s Artists Television Network and host of its weekly “The Live Show.” Transmitted from three cities, and mixed for broadcast from Iowa City, “The Artist and Television” combined videotape performance and interviews with curators, critics and media professionals for broadcast over a national cable TV station. “Piazza Virtuale,” iniciated by Van Gogh TV, was an experimental interactive television program in 1992. “Piazza Virtuale” was broadcast daily—for 100 days—over 3 SAT, and the European Space Agency satellite Olympus, from a temporary container studio located at the Documenta, Germany’s major international art exposition. “Piazza Virtuale” was an open system for real-time participation TV. Various data inputs from the audience, as well as more than 20 international newly organized “amateur” studios, were combined into one transmission signal, controlled by a network of approximately 50 pc’s. The home audience participated via telephone, FAX, and modem, while the artists’ studios and public entrypoints also used picturephones (ISDN and consumer models). Within the pre-designed automatic program blocs, the content was completely determined by the participants, except for an occasional act of censorship. Three examples from the nearly two dozen program blocks were: “Coffeehouse,” a chat program; “Atelier,” a drawing program for two players; and “Muscart” a surveillance camera in the broadcast studio controlled from the viewer’s telephone keypad.

“Piazza Virtuale” was a technical milestone for the makers and Deutsche Telekom, a main sponsor, who recorded as many as 10,000 attempted calls to the program per hour, It demonstrated that live television needs extended exposure, so that an audience can learn to use it thoughtfully. A repetitious and mundane “hello” was overwhelmingly evident in the dialogue. In contrast to the content driven programming of “Deep Dish Television” or “Paper Tiger Television,” or other numerous artists series, “Piazza Virtuale” was a technical experiment, which allowed the audience to determine the content. In an attempt to involve a network of artists, “Piazzettas” were organized, especially interesting was the participation from the East countries, whose artists previously had little opportunity to participate in international communications projects. Their contribution was a reminder that artists were the core of the “Piazza Virtuale” program.

Future questions for video art on television

TV has been described by broadcasters as a simple transmission system, unable to assume magical properties or to create a home for video art. While television executives repeatedly claim that the technology itself cannot transform society or peoples lives, their marketing departments produce statistics to prove the medium’s potential to deliver masses of willing “buyers” to advertisers. By the late 1970s Jerry Mander and other media specialists reported that television’s technology had reached proportions to effectively become the environment of our awareness 13. Video artists and independent media producers have vigorously struggled to work with TV, and their experience has excellent examples to by studied. The TV Labs in US encouraged artists and independents to intervene in the established forms of television and to envision a new television concept. Artists have been at the forefront of experimental interactive TV in Europe, and have exploited cable TV in the US. Artists have contributed to the massive communications revolution, offering alternatives to television’s insistence to seek a mass (i.e.: stupid) audience.

Video art on TV poses a different set of questions for the artist of the 1990s than it did when television was eager to pioneer new ideas in the 1960s, when new technologies were curiosities rather than profitable commodities. Broadcast television in the 1990s is one among the many available possibilities for video art to reach an interested audience. The future of TV’s entertainment technology includes virtual reality, computer environments, and sans-O-newsystems to offer ways to experience ideas, places and situations impossible to know, today. In this process a new visual literacy will emerge, hopefully with new vision and insight into a world empowered by control over the media, rather than being conditioned by it. Artists have known from the beginning that, rather than being shaped by TV, they must define a new dialogue for it and provide content that surpasses form. Only then will TV become a forum for the illumination of the individual spirit.

The power of the medium, and the ultimate test of video art, will be when it is alters the perception of the TV viewer toward an expansive world view. Future art television projects will require the participation of many organizations and individuals, and new, alternative television systems. Arts programming must be multi-cultural and international in order to express social issues and individual concerns along with human values, feelings, and experiences. Voices from many segments of society, representing a multitude of viewpoints will be called art, and without threat of censorship they will appeal to a increasingly appreciative audience. In the future, the socially concerned statement will be the artists’ statement. Meanwhile, commercial TV will continue its formula language dedicated to selling products that nobody needs.

Foot notes:

1. Hal Himmelstein. Television, Myth and the American Mind. New York: Praeger, 1984.
2. In part, this dream has been realized through telephone lines, with electronic mail over computer networks, not television - see: Piazza Virtuale.
3. The Long Beach Museum of Art, California; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Syracuse Museum, New York state.
4. The Long Beach Museum of Art began cable television programming in 1976, and continues to sponsor production and programming of artists video on a network of cable station of California. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, co-sponsored The Contemporary Art Television (CAT) Fund, with WGBH’s New Television Workshop from 1984-1991, and more then 20 major artists videotapes were produced and broadcast. The CAT Fund was not a broadcast program, but co-produced with broadcast companies, and promoted the broadcast sale of CAT artists to television. Kathy Rae Huffman was curator/producer of The CAT Fund, and was also curator at the Long Beach Museum of Art from 1978 to 1984.
5. Peter D’Agostino, editor. Transmission. New York: Tanam Press, 1985. The Rockefeller Foundation granted funds to both WGBH and KQED to establish artist-in-residence programs. Later the Foundation would support WHET-13 in New York. All the TV workshops experimented with live broadcasts and technical developments.
6. Fred Barzyk produced “Jazz Images” from 1964-1966, a weekly livemix, where improvised abstract images were created to music, created by the studio technicians and by artists invited into the WGBH studio.
7. Dorine Mignot, editor. Gerry Schum. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1979. In April
1969, “Land Art” was broadcast over Sender Freies Berlin (SFB).
8. Kathy Rae Huffman and Dorine Mignot, editors. The Arts for Television. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1987. p. 12.
9. Mignot, Dorine, editor. Revisions. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 1987. A collection of essays describing the history of television and video art in the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, France, The Netherlands, Austria and Italy.
10. Huffman/Mignot. Op cit, p. 10. In 1987, when this exhibition was premiered, the bombardment of international satellite services was just beginning. Most countries then were still isolated with national TV programming.
11. 3SAT is s satellite channel run jointly by ORB, Austria; ZDF, Germany; and SRG, Switzerland.
12. Michael Nash. Tele-Visions: Channels for Changing TV. Long Beach Museum of Art, exhibitions brochure, April 4 - June 2, 1991).
13. Jerry Mander. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. New York: Morrow Quill, 1978.

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