Today, many use the words ‘film’ and ‘video’ interchangeably. In fact, these words refer to different mediums which evolved at different times, in different circumstances, and whose languages and practices originally developed around very different sets of concerns and purposes. In what ways is the distinction still useful in the digital age? This course will critically interrogate the ways humans use moving images to mediate our world, and the repercussions of these uses on individuals, culture, and the contents/subjects of the mediated messages. Many early video artists sought to distinguish the medium from film in that they wanted to create viewers who were active participants rather than passive recipients. In this class we will explore the political and self-expressive impulses in video art, and trace its history from 1965—the year in which previously established artists Andy Warhol and Nam June Paik first publicly exhibited video work - through to the current moment when film is almost extinct and video has become the world’s dominant moving image medium. We will look at video art’s ties to performance art and activism, and examine how many multi-media artists have situated their use of video in the context of their other practices. Artists whose work and writing about their work will be explored include: Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Dara Birnbaum, Tony Conrad, Hermine Freed, Joan Jonas, Miranda July, Mariko Mori, Bruce Nauman, Pipilotti Rist, Bill Viola, and William Wegman. We will also examine the role and work of artists’ collectives including Ant Farm, Broadside TV, Optic Nerve, and Video Free America. Through secondary sources we will look at the range of historical methodologies and critical theories that have been brought to bear on the works viewed. Evaluation will be based on participation in class discussions and two research papers. Students who come to class with experience working in video will have the opportunity to create their own original work in lieu of one of the two papers.
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