Mediamatic Magazine Vol. 2#3 Roberto Fischer 1 Jan 1988

2e Semaine Internationale de Video - Geneve

The need for video art to find selling points beyond the galleries and museums has again brought it to television where, however, it has lost much of its experimental passion.

The latest video productions, as seen in the 2e Semaine Internationale de Video (Geneva, October 1987), are surrounded by a television-like aura to hot up the monitor public.

The rise of this new form of working creatively with electronic images (which could be called TV art) does not obstruct the further deepening of the established forms of this relatively new medium. This is clear not only in Geneva but also at other video festivals and conferences held previously.

Television Aesthetics

The festival's main event was the competition between around 40 videotapes that had been selected by a specialist jury from more than 350 submissions. The astonishingly homogeneous selection demonstrated current video aesthetics. In one respect, this result of the video-makers' battle cry for television to create more space for their work, the penalty being that video's medium specific characteristics are no longer a priority. In spite of this the newly created TV art with its flickering momentum and direct accessibility means a welcome change from everyday TV. Equally, the technical side also contributes to the new aesthetics. Products for TV must have a higher image quality. Editing must be be flawless. Costly special effects must demonstrate the kind of expensive equipment that is at one's disposal. Here, there's no question of experiments with raster screens, formal roughs or discussion of language and sign. In this respect, television has established new guidelines for the field of video creativity which at the same time have led to unification. Viewed in this way, price-winners such as Oh Nothing! by DEN IS DAY (Canada, Prix de Jeune Createur), a tape of glossy amusement inspired by comics, clips, advertising and slapstick, or DAN REEVES' Ganapati, a Spirit in the Bush (USA, Prix Gestronic), a mythic-poetic video documentary about the relation between man and nature which mainly uses (expensive) dissolves, have grown from the same technology tree.

Although their concepts differ in essence, they have both neglected or lost the potential for a personal stylistic stamp like experimental video's. The first prize (Grand Prix de la Ville de Geneve, SFr 10.000) went to Viewers of Optics by ALEXA DER HAHN (CH). Now this tape is far removed from the superficial TV glamour of TV art. But its images simply crackle with electricity; they exaggerate the current high-tech mentality and push it to the point of the absurd. HAHN's tapes look as if someone's been soldering together electronic garbage in a ruin after a world disaster - long after clips, ads and TV art have ceased to exist. This working method also forms the tapes' content. They are about the phenomena of fragmentation and decay; about the blurring of boundaries and established values; about forgetting; about dream and reality and abolishing the distinction between an inner and outer world. His complicated do-it-yourself language consisting of technological sets is in itself a metaphor for his operation of dissection.

Basics of Video Art

The 2e Semaine lnternationale de Video included a series of additional activities that were more involved with the basics of video art. There was a seminar conducted by RAYMOND BELLOUR and PHILIPPE DUBOIS about the relation between video and writing; an exhibition of five installations ( G ERD BELZ, SILVIE and CHE:RIF DEFRAOUI, GARY HILL, JACQUES-LOUIS NYST and MARCEL ODENBACH) called 5 Pieces avec Vue in the CENTRE GENEVOIS DE GRAVURE CONTEMPORAINE; a retrospective of works by MARCEL ODENBACH and GARY HILL; performances by NYST and HILL and also productions from ST-GERVAIS MJC including the latest tape from MARIE-JOSE: BURKI and JEAN-JACQUES LE TESTU from Geneva.

Also worth mentioning are the parts of the program compiled by video critics on the basis of personal taste. Apart from an interesting survey of the potential of the video letter (from, for instance, Japan) or working with the formal aspects of the electronic manipulation of images, the selection by REN:E PULFER (video historian and teacher at the SCHDLE FDR GESTALTUNG in Basle) introduces an important emphasis in terms of art and video that puts TV art in the right perspective. IMI KNÖBEL's nighty 40 minute tour through the city by the light of two projectors that depict an X on the screen which becomes burnt into the spectator's optic nerves (Projection X 1972) and the astonishing, wordless Fernsehspiele (in the literal sense of the word) which BECKETT wrote for the ZDF in 1981 were exemplary demonstrations of television as Object of Meditation - and likewise paraphrased the workshop's theme: Ecriture et Video.