Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 2#4 Preikschat, Wolfgang 1 Jan 1988

Identitei/ä/y/ tsnomadism /e/us


After a three-day conference, the Marler Videokunstpreis will be awarded on June 5th to BETTINA GRUBER and MARIA VEDDER for their new production Der Herzschlag des Anubis. As a member of the preliminary jury, WOLFGANG PREIKSCHAT had to make an initial selection out of some 140 recent German art videos. After fulfilling this obligation, he returned to Amsterdam deeply depressed. This article is an adaptation to his text for the Marl catalogue, which expresses his doubts about contemporary art video practice.

This year, the American photographer HOWARD CHADNICK was quoted in an article about the World Press Photo prize as saying that he saw something like a million photos each year and if there were a hundred good ones he considered that a lot . I suspect that as a photojournalist he has seen more good photos then I have videos, good and bad. One never knows whether there were relatively more good ones. Perhaps you first have to see that million before you can really make any judgement about a work, a photo, a film or a video . It would be easy if there was only one art video: it would simply be the best. But would it be Art?

Identity Nomadism

Those 140 West German video productions from the last two years are 140 questions; they represent 140 ideas and go off in 140 different directions. Vital productions? It 's too much to expect 140 answers, or video art . Video Art? Perhaps it's a mistake to ask the question (and he answer does not lie in selecting a winner): what is video art? Suppose this question were not a question but a prejudice, a projection?
Aesthetically, one does not have to combine video with art. You simply solve a problem of identity - and then only temporarily. We gather from the form of the work that the maker is not so much interested in the formal aspects of his work as in the shelter of theory, a social refuge which he shares with many other identity nomads. It 's enough for him that Art is read as content. All he has to do to make art is use technology and energy as well as possible to erase any competing or hampering significance. So that the slogan of ART cannot be smothered by the work's importance.

The Pain of Looking

The information accompanying the submissions demonstrated a deep gulf between verbal myopia and videographic lunacy. Here too , intensions concealed by the video still remain unclear. Seldom does anyone defend the quest against the grail. And as seldom was it
found. Hence, quest was served up as grail - by way of precaution. If today's videography is no longer the narcisistic hall of mirrors of the 1970s, then it is an aimless, vicious labyrinth of pretention . They want to make Art, it doesn't matter how, as long as it is VIDEO ART. (I do accept the existence of doors that connect our labyrinth with painting, film and literature). Blindly, behind the camera, one allows oneself to be led by the brown -black plastic like ARIADNE's thread in the hope that one's burdensome art detector will react.
This is how many Hoffnungsvideos and failed quests for Art are created, all of which end up on the jury's desk. To elevate metaphysical realism to new heights of rethoric. Once more the ship-in - a bottle of electronic art gets stuck on the slipway of daydreams.
In chosing a prizeworthy work, a jury awards itself as much as the winning artists. The final jury of the THIRD MARL ART VIDEO AWARD had a narrow escape selecting
the Heartbeat of Anubis, the outstanding of this year's competition. Anubis is an Egyptian God of Death, represented by a human body with a jaqual's head. BETTI NA'S dog has like times before shown that he is able to master the challenges of mythological drama - and therefore has to be named a true successor of the famous MAN RAY. The apparent solicitude of the arrangement and the unquestionable feeling for timing the visual and musical flow archieve a poetical expression that makes a description of it look dull. So I'll only mention the other prizewinners: CLAUS BLUME for Knee Play and ANGELA MELITOPOULOS for Aqua Sua.

The Kiss of Conciliation

Here is yet another misunderstanding: that there should be a prize for video (art) so as to establish the existence of a winner. There is no greater mistake possible. Art, which is erroneously considered to be the great sanctuary for personal development, is as productive as it is restrictive. By limiting oneself to Video Art, one blocks the work in three ways. Firstly, Art inevitably make s claim to the aesthetic. In this sense, SIEGFRIED KRACAUER was also talking about video when he wrote : Sneak ing art into film cripples the potential that cinema possesses.
Secondly, video imposes a particular technique on the work. And thirdly, one tries to keep video separate from the mass media by incorporating it into art. So Art becomes the knife to sever videography from its social hinterland. And hence video art form s the
glacis of real art, a battlefield where the video-maker can be sacrificed by aesthetics for the sake of elucidation.

The Wages of Fear

What particularly strikes me about recent German videoworks (along with a lack of even the most basic wisdom, engagement and purpose, the lack of experience and obvious fluency ) is the unnecessary limitation of potential in combination with the atrophy of a new gene ration. A comparable situation in photography would soon lead to an aesthetic catastrophe. Such a strict division of art photography from all other kinds of photography would at a single stroke rob art photography of its history , its standards and its raison d'etre. The fact that the electronic media haven't already end ed up in this kind of catastrophe is only due to their own standards and potential.
If you speak of a medium's potential, its wealth of expression, then you must be assessing it according to none other than its own standards .
Here is a little something for videography' s book of quotations: Videography's place is not with art, it can only be with videography itself.

translation ANNE WRIGHT