Research: Video Art (texts)

Having considered a number of possible interests for my research paper, and allowed interest alone to take the lead in reading, I’ve decided to focus on video art and certain aspects of it that will relate to my final project, specifically ideas about reception and presentation, and the effect this has on works.

SIDE: When looking for artists to compare and contrast the work of, as in a number of examples seen when first discussing the paper,  it would be interesting to consider artists whose work might entirely rely on the internet, but whose work primarily or even entirely shown in gallery – maybe removing the outcome from the context in which it was created?

Video Art by Sylvia Martin (Taschen)

“No Beginning / No End / No Directon / No Duration – Video as Mind” – Bill Viola

Futurist founder Marinetti recognised radio as an organ that could bridge great distances… [and the] combination of theatre and television screens as a practical model for futurism.

A 1991 text by communications scientist Vilém Flusser defines video as “dialogical memory”.

“Video is an explicitly time-based artistic medium, the job of the technical apparatus is to record temporal sequences and produce temporal structures”. p17

We Are Here: Art After the Internet

“I don’t see what I’m doing as new,  see the materials as new, and the technologies, virtual communities and subcultures that are emerging a mine of material for artistic practice.” Jon Rafman

The Curators New Medium poses the idea that the connectivity of the internet and social media creates a comparable path of intellectual discovery that a museum curator might, and even so far as implying the algorithms of Amazon, etc. might be able to do so in an equally useful and considered way as a curator.

Makes an important point about the implied difference in accessibility between the exclusive (meaning all that comes with that) institutional context of the gallery or museum and the supposedly democratic arena of the internet – and questions this. [Examples of, etc. using the online arena but acting in a way that mimics or extends the structure of the institution. Also, the platform s(edition) that sells digital works that exist ‘in real life’ – “How does such a platform, engage with curatorial practice? …does this platform suggest that the virtual is additional to the physical, or are the two entwined? And if so how does this shift the position of artists or curators who choose to work solely or predominantly online, now that ‘real space’ artists are seeking to invade their territory by commoditizing their creative practice?”

SIDE: to be able to appropriately discuss this topic the definitions and their parameters of various terms and phenomena need to be addressed; e.g. what constitutes a work of video art. What constitutes its presentation or showing (works shown in person or via 3rd party sites in press increasingly common)

After Social Media by Bran Troemel – “Art must be placed in a context that declares it to be art. Art exists for discourse and people who recognise it as such… Even artwork not found within institutions carries with it formal and conceptual codes created by institutions.

So by this thinking, the online exists not as a new alternative to the institutional context, but simply a new arena for the existing conversation to play out on.

After Art by David Joselit mentions Benjamin’s Aura

“For the image neoliberal, art is a universal product that should be free to travel… meaning it is created through a work’s ability to reach the widest audience and not through any particular location at which it is viewed.”

On dissemnation: ” The image anarchst reflects a generated indifference toward intellectual property, regarding it as a beucratically regulated construct. This indifference stems from filesharing and extends to de-authored, decontextualised Tumblr posts. Image Anarchism: the path that leads art to exist outside of the traditional context of art.”

Art afer social media is paradoxically the rejection and reflection of the market.”





Having spent some time collecting various material, both primary-source landscape and interview from the Island and research around the wreckage, this project has lead to some unexpected thoughts around framing the narrative of this. The story around the sunken SS Richard Montgomery was always secondary, my interest in it initially sparked by the reaction to it by the nearby community. Stories of tidal waves engulfing the island, driving islanders to live in fear. Having spent some time thinking about this, it occurred to me this narrative, the narrative of misinformation, is so tied up in the socio-political make-up of the community – a community noted for nationalist views and all that come with that – that my very purpose for the project has acquired new importance since I began. It is representative of the faults I see in the global socio-political climate: of a status quo devoid of reason or fact, instead built on collective belief, thought steered by tabloid media warping facts in interests of the economic gain.

I was asked to pitch the project to the Guardian recently and wrote this summary of its contents; perhaps a useful starting point for the narrative:

In August 1944, American Liberty ship the SS Richard Montgomery ran aground in the Thames Estuary just north of the northern Kent Isle of Sheppey, breaking it’s back with 1,400 tonnes of explosives aboard. If these explosives were detonated, it would allegedly be the largest non-nuclear explosion in recorded history. They remain at the wreck- age to this day and continue to be a hazard to the surrounding area.

It’s three masts visible above the water’s surface at all tides, the wreckage leaves a lasting visual impression of the inhabitants of the nearby island since its sinking; convinced the explosives will one day create a wave that will engulf the island, an impending sense of doom hangs over the islanders like a sword of Damocles, permeating the very fabric of life in the community. Despite the grave-sounding nature of the projected danger, in reality, the wreckage poses no actual threat.

This film is about misinformation.

The footage I’ve captured so far consists of set-up shots of the island landscape and the decaying architectural relics of WWII that litter it, documentary footage of a journey to the wreckage, and interview footage with local shop assistants. I also have an archive of iPhone footage, the format and content of which might give a better sense of the residential locations.

My first thoughts of filmic structure are as follows:

  1. Open with long, coastal landscape shots that set the scene, paired with a droning score made from incidental sounds and a bleak, colour-drained grade that give a sense of the bleakness of the environment.
  2. A sharp cut to faster-paced footage of inhabitants of the island; opening with interview footage of a single person, perhaps whose voice continues to soundtrack iPhone footage of the town giving a sense of the space, and ending with a long string of back-to-back interviews explaining the story of the wreckage in the chinese-whispers-style way I first came across it.
  3. Cut to a journey to the wreckage itself, beginning in the muddy marina and ending at the wreckage itself with scratchy, shaky hand-held mini DV footage that abruptly cuts short.

I’m unsure where, if at all, to include actual factual information about the wreckage. My thought is as a final note, a reveal that pulls the curtain on the myth. The nature of a gallery screening, though, would mean this set up allows for viewers to enter the story at any part, and therefore learn the reveal before the word-of-mouth account. Perhaps a fitting format reflective of the subject?

Cosey Fanni Tutti and more

In a recent interview with founding COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle founding member Cosey Fanni Tutti retrospectively describes her art practice as “Just working with what presented itself, you know, going to jumble sales and finding these fantastic hoards, bringing [them] home and creating a small art work in the house, or costumes that would suggest something we could do, all ad hoc, based on chance, the way I still like it.” This touches on a couple of ideas that came up in the mid point review discussions yesterday.

The first, the idea of unknowing collection, of accumulating materials with no intention as a means of sparking action research by presenting a starting point that already has a process in place – that of collection. The other is the idea of acting on accident, or working with an input out of our control. One relevant example of this is the use of found footage – found in the traditional sense, whereby the results are entirely dependent on what is developed from a particular batch of film/tape/files, rather than selective sourcing from online. I have, in the past, had rolls of film developed that I’ve found in second hand cameras that have had fascinating and surprisingly relevant material on them – one in particular had two shots from a civil rights march that took place in the late 1960s (below, something that could be unearthed and used now?). Mini DV tapes bought second hand on eBay also occationally still have footage on. Something to actively search for? I had considered the possibility of using found footage to interweave into my final project’s documentary narrative, much like the narrative constructed from YouTube found footage in Leo Gabin’s A Crackup At The Race Riots.

On accumulation I actually have a fairly substantial and meaningful practice underway. Since the day I first went to a gig around age 13  I have been collecting tickets for everything that seemed significant in my life – every ticketed gig, theatre show, exhibition, aeroplane ride – knowing I would one day have a use for them. The initial idea was, once I had accumulated what felt like a lifetime’s worth of experiences, to record by scanning or photocopying and ceremoniously burn the originals. Though I certainly do not feel like I have a life’s worth of experiences to set ablaze, the process of documenting is an attractive one given the memories it will no doubt stir. The idea would simply be to arrange face down onto an A4 or A5 space and scan in no particular order, possibly binding together an a kind of first volume of experiences. As this would be fairly time consuming and I would want to give the appropriate attention to each ticket and associated experience, possibly noting down said experience in some way, this would have to be done over the course of numerous weeks/months/however long such a job takes.

Inspiration Session: Barbara Kruger

This week’s studio session involved selecting and sharing the work of an artist that inspires my own practice. In even approaching this process, a whole series of questions came to mind. My first instinct was to reach for the bookcase, which perhaps not surprisingly led me time and time again to select books by photographers – almost exclusively of the social documentary variety: Diane Arbus, Daido Moriyama, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Nobuyoshi Araki and Slava Mogutin, among many, many others.

Each time I selected a photographer or particular series, convinced of its importance to me, and therefore presumably my work, I realised it was pleasure and not inspiration I was drawing from it. Though interested in the seemingly no-holds-barred approach of the likes of Mogutin, Golin and Araki, or the eye of Diane Arbus that seems to pick out the most peculiar of subjects and simultaneously humanise and dehumanise them, I couldn’t define how their actual practice informs my own, though I obviously do take away much from each of them, if only in the sense that I see myself as a detached perspective, an outsider in the literal sense trying to make sense of, and in some cases manipulate, a world that I don’t fully fit into and that seems to not fit me.

Essentially, this is a rather long way of explaining my choice to share the work of Barbara Kruger, someone who seemed obvious to me, but perhaps that’s the point. Beginning her ‘creative career’ in advertising and magazine publishing – not a far cry from how I’ve found myself paying the bills – I’ve taken much inspiration from her approach, both literally and as a vague kind of sense of encouragement.

Utilising the language – both actual linguistic and visual – of the world in which she cut her professional teeth, and subverting that language, Kruger places her works into the context of the everyday, allowing its message to land feet first into the world of mere muggles and raise questions, make comment and point the finger. She is unapologetic not only of her love for so-called “low” art, the art of popular culture, but of her understanding of its power to influence – and her will to use it to do just that. She always had an agenda – be it political or social – and she approached it head on and in the most-direct way she could, speaking to the viewer instead of at him.

This direct approach extended beyond her visual works into a series of essays and articles written by the artist throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, which provide a scathing of modern life, executed with a sharp conversational tone, and often with a sense of humour, touching on subjects from sex and gender to power and death, all of which could be transported almost word-for-word to describe contemporary life.


Takeaways II

Using the format of the CD as a covetable takeaway object, I’m going to experiment with printing onto glass / perspex / metal/ cement as a presentation method – to follow with interactive electronic component:


Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, (The Large Glass), 1915-23


Angela Palmer, Renault F1 Engine (ink on glass)




Styles of Radical Will: Art, Film and Theatre

“Every interesting tendency now is a species of radicalism. The question each artist must ask is: What is my radicalism, the one dedicated by my gifts and temperament?” (Theatre and Film, 1966).

Upon reading a collection of essays by writer Susan Sontag I came across a number of interesting ideas and references related to a number of aspects of my project and the views I have around the wider themes that surround it: from accessibility and a general approach to the arts, to the consensus view on extreme topics (here, pornography) and on film and it’s relation to theatre, including references to both artistic forms as syntheses of a wider range of artistic media (re: Gesamtkunstwerk), and from this how these media also speak of the state of wider society’s relationship to the arts.

Firstly Sontag references a passage written by theorist and Furturist movement founder Marinetti between 1910 and 1914, where he proposes that film may be used as one element in the theatre experience: “He envisaged the theatre as a final synthesis of all the arts, and as such it had to draw on the newest art form, movies,” (Theatre and Film, 1966). In this Marinetti is presumably considering all of the media known to contruibute to film at the time: sound (i.e. music), narrative structure (the written word or script), mise-en-scene, and photography – in the conventional sense, i.e. cinematography, but also in the relationship between images (a kind of rapid-fire mise en page).

Approaching the discussion of the the connection between the two media she also references the later use – in fact the insistence of use – of film in theatre by Russian and Soviet director Vsevolod Meyerhold, where he “[described] his program as fulfilling Wagner’s once ‘wholly utopian’ proposals to ‘use all means available from the other arts’” (Theatre and Film, 1966), referring to the German composer’s theory of the Gesamtkunstwerk in theatre, and his assuming of the poisitin that this synthesis should involve new and therefore ever-evolving artforms, here the then-new medium of film.

In reference to Meyerhold’s practice, Sontag points out how “Wagner’s ideology of a total theatre played its role in confirming the philistinism of German culture,” (Theatre and Film, 1966), a position on the unwillingness of wider society to fully embrace the arts – whether out of inability or apathy. A year later, when discussing the concern of the increasing availability of pornography and the underlying idea that this supposed concern for the upkeep moral standards is really about the availability of a certain kind of knowledge, she proposes that:

“There’s a sense in which all knowledge is dangerous, the reason being that not everyone is in the same condition as knowers or potential knowers. Perhaps most people don’t need a ‘wider scale of experience.’ It may be that, without the subtle and extensive psychic preparation, any widening of experience and consciousness is destructive for most people,” (The Pornographic Imagination, 1967).

Here, Sontag is referring literally to a kind of psycological destruction that comes as the result of being shocked by disturbing images, or at least images that do disturb, if only for the fact that one is not prepared to see them. But she is also referring to the wider idea that certain kinds of information, as with certain kinds of images, cannot be appropriately appreciated or even witnessed without some sense of context, of understanding, and therefore of a kind of preparation for receiving them – whether actively or passively undertaken.

It may be fair, then, to apply such thinking to all art; with certain forms of extreme music – industrial, noise, techno, freeform jazz – is an appreciation of a piece of such music reliant on a greater understanding of the landscape of the field that surrounds it? I’d argue yes and no. If approaching any one of these without prior knowledge of their structure or style, why wouldn’t one recoil and declare “it’s too loud”, or repetitive, or lacking in beat or melody? The only possible answer would be that despite having no prior knowledge to the piece’s provenence, that it speaks to the listener in an innate or primal way.

However, this phenomenon is by no means common or consistent enough to be more than the exception to the rule. Sontag is perhaps right in both the idea that people may be neither prepared nor willing to receive this kind of information, these kinds of images or any extreme form of media that is inaccessible, uncomfortable, unfamiliar or even simply boring to them.

The obvious, if perhaps slightly overwhelming and maybe useless, question here is: why is this the case? Or, maybe more usefully, how has this become the case? A brief skim over the history of Western civilisation would suggest the answer is access and privilege; the rich are and have been privileged to information where the poor have not, and when and where the poor have gained access, compared to the difficulties of the daily grind, the pursuit of academic and artistic enlightenment understandably falls down the list of priorities.

But with the information revolution democratising that system, whereby said information is arguably accessible to all, has this changed anything? I’m reminded of a 2012 Vanity Fair article by Kurt Andersen, in which he argues the exact opposite: that as history has progressed, at least recent history, the development of the cultural landscape has slowed dramatically, especially in regards to the art of popular culture. Referencing the differences in music, fashion, literature, etc. each decade throughout the 20th Century, something so universally understood it shapes the way we reference history, the last two decades show the smallest change:

“[If we] try to spot the big, obvious, defining differences between 2012 and 1992, movies and literature and music have never changed less over a 20-year period. Lady Gaga has replaced Madonna, Adele has replaced Mariah Carey—both distinctions without a real difference—and Jay-Z and Wilco are still Jay-Z and Wilco. Except for certain details (no Google searches, no e-mail, no cell phones), ambitious fiction from 20 years ago (Doug Coupland’s Generation X, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow) is in no way dated, and the sensibility and style of Joan Didion’s books from even 20 years before that seem plausibly circa-2012.”


A War on Beauty (Short Film Project)

I am going to attempt a condensed (1-minute) version of the documentary output of my final project. Using the vehicle of SORT, the zine I co-creative direct, and the existing structure, aesthetic, ideas and following that already exists around it, I will create a fictional cult narrative, presented in mockumentary form.

Presented as an extreme political group made up of young people from a range of backgrounds, the cult narrative will centre on a core belief in rejecting contemporary western ideals of beauty –seeing such ideals as contributing to a system interfering with society making real change and a structure used to maintain an oppressive status quo – and through it express shared ideas found in existential nihilism and similar philosophical theories and belief structures.

Structurally the organisation will have a horizontal or flat hierarchy, with all members viewed with equal importance but a core group of founding members acting as spokesmen, documenting and distributing literature and media about activities.

Visually, members will be seen to adopt clothing and grooming styles that might be deemed (by wider society) as ugly, distasteful, grotesque, provocative or conversely adopt extreme versions of beauty conventions as a means of questioning their purpose or highlighting their absurdity. These will be seen in waves with large numbers adopting the same styles, including: shaved heads, extremely long false nails, (with chains) proportionally extreme pairing (extremely high waists, exaggerated shoulders, etc.), seemingly nonsensical styling (e.g. socks over shoes), sexual, fetish and military attire, contact lenses, symbol tattoos, etc. There will be no differentiation of styling across genders; all styles are deemed gender neutral and appropriate for anyone who choses to adopt them.

Activities performed by the group (seen in the film) will including ceremonial shaving of the head, hedonistic sexual and drug-fuelled gatherings, flyering and ‘corner preaching’, and conversely burning of literature (represented here by SORT zine), and conversely proclamations of a wish for anarchy.

The cult will adopt, adapt and misapply symbols from a wealth of religious and political sources not limited to, but including, Paganism, Christian religion, Western esotericism, Nazi propaganda, and The Tarot.

[Board of references]

Accessibility (Updated)

It’s becoming increasingly clear, given the (often-niche) nature of the subjects I am interested in and the spheres in which they exist, that accessibility could play a key role in communicating the messages I am interested in, penetrating another bubble – a way of preaching to the unconverted.
I’ve been thinking about the existence of an ‘entry point’ in a work: a moment of comfort in which a hesitant viewer can be receptive, with the intention of easing them into a situation outside of that comfort zone and provide a new environment in which they are presented with a new perspective – my perspective.
The most obvious (to me) of these is in music, where a kind of breaking point seems to exist within people (I believe all people) at which you find yourself unsympathetic or unable to appreciate something that later, with greater exposure and opportunity to properly digest, might be enjoyed.
This brings me back to an old idea developed in my teens – when music and its associated media held a significant place – in the idea of accessibility of cover songs. Presenting a song known by the listener provides the opportunity for them to have an immedate understanding of the song, its context, its structure, etc. and immediately reach a point at which they begin the process of experiencing the song by digesting the actual audio components of the song. The idea here being that a more intensity of approach is possible because the above-mentioned ‘breaking point’ would arguably exist further along the scale. Below is the current list, built upon for the past couple of years (and kept in the notes section of my phone):
Nina Simone – Feeling Good
Screaming Jay Hawkins – I Put A Spell On You
Lead Belly – In The Pines
Sleater Kinney – Call The Doctor
Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds
Throbbing Gristle – Discipline
The Cramps – Human Fly
Iggy Pop – I Wanna Be Your Dog
The Fall – New Big Prinz
Le Tigre – The The Empty
Bikini Kill – Double Dare Ya
The Distillers – The Young Crazed Peeling
Nirvana – You Know Your Right
Neutral Milk Hotel – Oh Comely
The Blood Brothers – Cecilia and the Silhouette Saloon
Throbbing Gristle – Very Friendly
I thought perhaps the introduction of a kind of arch of intensity, beginning with an accessible sound, i.e. something widely considered as such, which gradually builds into something louder, more intense, more aggressive.
Looking at the above list, there’s a clear gradient of songs – from more accessible and more well-known to harder and less well-known. Perhaps flipping the songs, taking those harsher and more aggressive-sounding songs and rendering them in an approachable way, and vice versa. These could then be presented from most-to-least extreme (in sound) or similarly most-to-least extreme (in originator).Colin Stetson – New History Warfare vol. 2 The second of the multireedist’s trilogy of albums

I’ve been noting various electronic musicians and contemporary composers who have made crossover or experimental projects:

Colin Stetson – New History Warfare vol. 2
The second of the multireedist’s trilogy of albums (featuring performance artist Laure Anderson)

Koreless – Sun
A live string quintet rendition of the electronic producer’s track.

Mica Levi – Under The Skin Soundtrack

A doom-laden classical score for Jonathan Glazer’s sci-fi horror