Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 2#2 Jans Possel, Willem Velthoven 1 Jan 1987


If there's one trend to be observed at the video festivals of the last few months (The Hague, Ljubljana, Linz) then it's independent video's ever-growing TV ambitions. And the festivals' as well. More and more of the productions presented are (co-)financed by a network. A still greater number meet the demands of television. In that sense video has a consistency and time basis that makes it suitable for transmission. This is a gratifying development that points the videomakers' increasing professionalization.


Mediamatic Merk - ontworpen in de jaren 80 van de twintigste eeuw. Willem Velthoven

This development makes things clearer from the visual arts' point of view. Video is employed more and more as proto-TV. The ultimate product is a transmission which is art in the same way good advertising can be art. The transmission an sich, as artistic given, is all history by now, except for a few satellite experiments. A wider and wider gulf is growing between visual art and alternative television.

In an interview during the World Wide Video Festival, SUSAN REYNARD and DENNIS DAY spoke about DAY's Oh Nothing: ... There is an absolute obsession with everything being designed (...) I wanted to show the products that people smoke, show the brand (...) here is no distinction between narrative, product, romance, consumption, marketability (...) everything is very flat and colorful... These interests fit in well with the image of recent developments on the American art front. They fit in with the work, for instance, of KOONS or MCCOLLUM, you could almost expect a tape in the next show by COLLINS & MILAZZO. However, the video itself appears to be a humorously-acted romance which would be brilliant as a comic and socially-critical intermezzo but has absolutely no function in an art context.

Is video still contributing to the art dimension? If so then is the video festival an appropriate place for that discussion to be carried out? The first question can surely be answered positively, the second less and less so. Apart from screening circumstances (see SIMON BIGGS marginal notes), the festivals are gradually evolving into broadcasting license-holders. Professional visitors are being disturbed less frequently by ordinary people during the festivals. That's great, you can dedicate yourself in absolute privacy to the maintenance of business and personal contacts - where the medium's much-valued intimacy is being lost at the festivals, we are regaining it amply on another level.

Meanwhile the public at large is being catered to by means of the cable or simply via a local television station as in Linz (ORF) and Ljubljana (TV-LJUBLJANA). In all cases the programs made form a reasonably-made framework for a selected number of videos, which alternate with interviews with makers, jury members and other passers-by. As a guest of the festival in Ljubljana, you actually had to watch yourself on television with a Slovenian voice-over during dinner - a surreal experience.

These transmissions signify a tremendous public increase. However, they are only suitable for a particular sort of video: the proto-television mentioned above. Much video art looks no better in a television program than a painting does in a book. A separate festival should perhaps gradually be organized for this kind of work. Or an exhibition?

SIMON BIGGS examines this issue in his Dreamtime article, a story which was a useful contribution to the Art for Television symposium that was recently held in Amsterdam. He explains why, as an artist, he thinks that video should not be shown on television. Here in Amsterdam, the artists' lamentations could regularly be heard over the miserly inaccessibility of the institution of Television. In addition, he discusses a number of post-post modern videos from past festivals in Reclamations. WALTER SCHEEMA covers Art for Television in somewhat more general terms in his Desire and Television Autism analysis. This symposium was held to mark The Arts for Television and Revision exhibitions: massive anthologies of respectively fertile fusions of various art disciplines with TV and of Art Programs from European Television Stations. By a curious twist all these television programs were not shown on Amsterdam cable TV but exhibited in a museum. From the viewpoint of exhibition technology a monstrosity, documented in exemplary fashion by two catalogues (see our new Printed Matter column). These exhibitions (which due to their wealth of programs are highly recommendable) will travel throughout the world next year (see our Calendar which is also new). Symposiums will too be held for the openings in Madrid (january) and Cologne (Spring).

Time Code was also premiered in Art for Television. This international Video Art Magazine was cut down to size by WOLFGANG PREIKSCHAT in the German magazine Kirch und Rundfunk: Considering the ferocity of discussion surrounding the televisual alternatives and the trouble one had to go to get this magazine on the air, it all comes down to a mere hiccup in the superficial waves of entertainment (...) MTV's jingles are a just as interesting alternative to the video-makers' dazzling lack of orientation.* Poor WOLFGANG ... Nevertheless this program includes some beautiful videos and still has to be transmitted in various countries (see our Calendar once again).

The same feared PREIKSCHAT (see the interview in our previous issue) discusses the new book by VERA BODY and PETER WEIBEL in Printed Matter. LIDEWIJDE DE SMET profiles Videodoc and there are a number of short descriptions including those by our new colleague JOHAN RAYMAKERS.

This issue also includes MAX BRUINSMA's major interview with Documenta star MARIE-JO LAFONTAINE, ALBERT WULFFERS writes about GUSZTAV HAMOS and PHIL HAYWARD takes notes on PEE WEE HERMAN. ANTONI MERCADER and LAIA OBREGóN have written a theoretical discussion about the philosophical and artistic implications of computer simulation. There are artists' contributions from HAMOS and MARIA NO MATURANA (see also Reclamations). From now on, our magazine will include an extensive Calendar of exhibitions, symposiums, festivals and television transmissions edited by MARGA BIJVOET. Meanwhile, there is a modest sample in this issue.

* For the original quote we refer you to the Dutch version of this text.