Video History


“Nancy Holt’s Revolve, a videotape where the artist, off-camera, interviews her friend Dennis Wheeler who is dying of leukemia, uses his illness and mental reflection as a metaphysical site. Her interview is recorded from the perspective of three video cameras that each capture Wheeler from a different point of view. The three-point perspective was designed to give the illusion of infinity. Holt’s three-camera perspective grips the observer with the reality of the finiteness of death...

Revolving Upside Down

The inverted camera catches Nauman standing at the end of the room, slowly spinning around on one foot, first head down in one direction, then head up in the other direction. The tape seems to be as much a trial of Nauman’s endurance as an exercise in becoming a human machine, some type of cog or mechanized weather vane.

Riley, Roily, River

The seemingly groundless debate as to whether a river is "riley" or "roily" can be interpreted as an example of language's descriptive failure. A shouting match over how to describe the river has no effect; the face of nature continues unchanged. Riley, Roily, River graphically illustrates the gap of meaning that exists between the natural, empirical world and the language we use to describe it.

Videofreex, Rose Art Museum: Vision & Television

This title documents events at the opening of the 1970 exhibition Vision and Televison.  Held at the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts from January 21 - February 22, the exhibition is widely regarded as the first museum exhibition of artist's video.

This two disc title contains the following video documentation:

Dan Sandin: An Interview

Dan Sandin designed the Image Processor that, partly because of his decision to give away the building plans, has effected an energetic and aesthetic investigation of the technological structures of electronic media. He sees the Image Processor as both an event and an environment for artists to explore and experience. During the interview, Sandin spontaneously synthesizes his own image.

Interview by John Manning. Shot by Christine DeLignieres.

A historical interview originally recorded in 1980.

Satellite TV: Birth of an Industry (Parts 1 & 2)

Part of a cable TV series called Communications Update that aired on public access in New York City from 1979 through 1992, these tapes provide an early example of television made by artists. The series centered on the democraticization of the media. Birth Of An Industry covers a Miami satellite TV convention attended by thousands of backyard satellite TV enthusiaists, inventors, and entrepreneurs.


A Second Quarter is decidedly European; the “place” (Berlin) is the catalyst for the “action” (the work). The works recited in the film are concerned with barriers and borders, physical and geophysical phenomena. The characters also translate, count, and recite the alphabet. They build a narrative that is not a story to be followed dogmatically but rather a pattern from which to extract one’s version of what is seen.

Secrets from the Street: No Disclosure

Reading the billboards, the cars, the people, and the graffiti of the street as cultural signs, Rosler extracts the network of social power and domination that determines whose culture gets represented where, asking whose culture is reported in the press and whose is forced to exist in the street?

Seeing / Hearing / Speaking

Realizing the words by Jacques Derrida.

Selected Tree Cuts

Building a shimmering effect through a rhythmic collage, images of trees are spun, frozen, colorized and digitized by means of an imaging computer. The soundtrack shifts back and forth between mechanical and natural sounds as the jumping shifts of color and orientation, made possible by the computer, oddly simulate the effects of natural chaotic phenomena. The cumulative effect of the alterations is a dizzying sense of disorientation as nature is transformed and re-constructed through technology.

Selected Works: Reel 4

A newly re-mastered collection of 22 comedic performances to camera, produced during 1973-74. Absurd stories mix with word play; product demonstrations extol the virtues of a specially modified cocktail tray or canine selling aid; and throughout it all, Man Ray. May Ray woken by an alarm clock, tormented by paper-throwing and map-reading, and ever attempting to understand his master.


Wake Up, 1:33

Trip Across Country, 0:50

Down Time, 0:36

Laundromat, 0:43

Semiotics of the Kitchen

From A to Z in this mock cooking-show demonstration Rosler 'shows and tells' the ingredients of the housewife's day. She offers an inventory of tools that names and mimics the ordinary with movements more samurai than suburban. Rosler's slashing gesture as she forms a letter of the alphabet in the air with a knife and fork is a rebel gesture, punching through the 'system of harnessed subjectivity' from the inside out.

"I was concerned with something like the notion of 'language speaking the subject', and with the transformation of the woman herself into a sign in a system of signs that represent a system of food production, a system of harnessed subjectivity."

— Martha Rosler

Send/Receive I, and Send/Receive II

A primer in satellite system operation, Send/Receive extends the critique of media as commodity by asking questions concerning the people's right to access satellites. The objective of Send/Receive was specifically to connect groups of artists on the East and West Coasts via public satellite, and it was the first artist-initiated project to do so.

Shifted From the Side

Shifted From the Side is conceptually identical to To And Fro..., and was probably made the same afternoon. The object used to demonstrate five possibilities of what could — but not necessarily should — be the artwork is a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes. As in To And Fro..., the camera is static. The pack is on the right side of the screen; as the text is read, the pack is shifted back and forth. The hand retreats from the object each time an act is completed before sliding it from side to side across the table.

Videofreex, Shirley Clarke and the Camera

Parry Teasdale, David Cort and Chuck Kennedy visit The Kitchen in New York looking for Shirley Clarke, and bump into Steina and Woody Vasulka who are overseeing a show in progress.  A few doors down they find Shirley in her studio, dressed in white and full of energy.