With over forty years of existence, Video Art has earned its place in Art History, museums, private collections and specialized galleries. Originally linked to the improvement of television technology in the 60’s, or even to the invention of the videotape recorder in the 70’s, video production also benefited from the launching of the first affordable portable camera, the Portapak system (a revolutionary tool which even offered instant playback) by Sony in 1967. At a time when television started dominating the cultural scene, Avant-garde experimental filmmakers, performance and conceptual artists and photographers willing to work with this new medium, were offered huge creative opportunities.
Initially used to record performance art sequences, or acting, poetry, dance, music and painting presentations to a live audience, video production, quickly served as a platform to criticize and question the sociopolitical power of mass media while mocking motion picture conventions by undermining the viewer’s expectations.
Art historians, museum directors and curators around the world, recognized the importance of video as the art form of the future and began building collections from the 70’s onwards, when reels were still cheap and easy to find. The variety of formats, however, makes the preservation of the works challenging as many of them no longer match existing technologies.
In Europe, The Netherlands Media Art Institute in Amsterdam, the Brandhorst Museum and famous Goetz Collection in Munich, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne and the Centre pour l’image contemporaine in Saint-Gervais Geneva are all well-known for their extensive video art collections.
Furthermore, ‘Video Vintage 1963-1983’, an exhibition presently displayed at the Centre Pompidou’s Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris (until the 7th May, 2012), traces back the first video experiments by presenting seventy-two works among the one-thousand-four-hundred tapes included in the museum’s collection. Visitors can watch ‘Button Happening’ (1965) the first video preserved to our day, or the manifesto ‘Global Groove’ (1973), produced by famous Korean-born Fluxus artist Nam June Paik, considered by many to be the father of video.
Additional works include commissions from the ORTF, national French television, to directors like Jean-Luc Goddard and from the BBC to playwrights like Samuel Beckett. The exhibition also aims to present various ‘self-filmed’ performances by artists like Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Mona Hatoum, Gina Pane, Nil Yalter and Sanja Ivekovic among others.
Often with a Fine art background, a different category of video artists, (European Joseph Beuys, Daniel Buren, Valie Export, Imi Knöebel, Brazilian Anna Bella Geiger or Americans Dennis Oppenheim and Peter Campus) use video more conceptually as a tool to attack issues such as consumerism, machismo, politics and the shaping of society or architecture and the use of space.
Although video is a prevalent medium today, its presence is still much rarer in museums than in biennales. This is partly due to the ambiguous character of artworks that can be easily and infinitely reproduced, thus raising the issue of their aesthetic and commercial value.