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Re: <nettime> The Premature Birth of Video Art
twsherma on Thu, 18 Jan 2007 15:20:21 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> The Premature Birth of Video Art


Hi Andreas,

Thanks for your comments about my interrogation of the Paik Portapak myth.
I've had a few people write to point out Paik's earlier work with modified
or prepared televisions, in Wuppertal in 1963, stating they believed his
distortion of television pictures with magnets was the beginning of video
art. While Paik's television sculptures were radical and important, they
were not video works, because video was not yet a medium accessible to
Paik or any other artist in 1963.  Wolf Vostell's TV d-coll/age works,
exhibited as early as 1963, were television pictures shot in 16mm film
(the timing flicker denotes film).

My intent is not to question the importance of media art made before Paik
and others began using Sony's Portapak.  Using television directly in art
making was extremely important, as television had for whatever reason been
off-limits and uncontested by artists from 1946 until 1963.  But "VT is
not TV," as Gene Youngblood pointed out in _Expanded Cinema_ (1970).

My contention is there could be no video by artists until video as a
medium was available in 1965 (with the release of 1/2" reel-to-reel studio
recorders).  Further, it does not appear that it was possible for Nam June
Paik to make a video recording using a Sony Portapak in 1965, as the
battery-powered Portapak was not introduced until 1967.

On your point of whether or not Paik was a 'proper' video artist, my text
did not use the term 'video artist,' nor did I make such a claim.  Paik,
like Vostell, worked across several media throughout his career.  But
Paik, as you stated, hardly abandoned tape and camera, as he continued to
shoot and edit single channel video into the late 1980s.

Consider my text, not as an argument for video art or media art beginning
in 1967 with Paik's likely initial use of the Portapak, but as a critical
examination of a widespread myth that obscures and diminishes the work of
other artists at the time, including Vostell.

--Tom.


Professor Tom Sherman
Department of Transmedia
Syracuse University
Syracuse, New York, USA


On Wed, 17 Jan 2007, Andreas Broeckmann wrote:

> dear tom,
>
> thanks for the minute description of the history of video cameras and
> their use by artists.
 <...>



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