Video History

I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art

“‘I will not make any more boring art,’ John Baldessari wrote over and over again in a work done in 1971. The impulse for the piece, he says, came from dissatisfaction with the ‘fallout of minimalism,’ but its implications are far greater. It is typical of Baldessari’s work, for not only is it extremely funny, but it is also a strategy, a set of conditions, a directive, a paradoxical statement, and a commentary on the art world with which it is involved. Like all his work to date, it addresses, on many complex levels, issues about art, language, games and the world at large.”


Using the image processor as it was intended as a performance instrument, Icron exploits the processor’s real-time capabilities: the image and soundtrack were generated through simultaneous improvisation, although the color was added later. The title of the piece is a neologism created by fusing "icon" with "chron" as a reference to the effect of temporal changes on images. Snyder combines iconographic elements of broadcast television with the structural features of music by deconstructing the face of a newscaster into scan lines.

Illuminatin' Sweeney

Skip Sweeney was an early and proficient experimenter with video feedback. A feedback loop is produced by pointing a camera at the monitor to which it is cabled. Infinite patterns and variations of feedback can be derived from manipulating the relative positions of camera and monitor, adjusting the monitor control, becoming a swirling vortex. Sweeney and others were intrigued with feedback's ability to generate pulsing images like a living organism.

In Search of the Castle

In Search of the Castle is an optical journey that combines Steina’s abstraction of real images and Woody’s digital effects. Taped from a car passing through the flat landscape of New Mexico, computer effects create an interesting play of movement and lines, adding a degree of tension as the rhythm of the electronic distortion intensifies.

“Encapsulated in a computer globe, the Vasulkas’ imagery of America is revealed to us as an electronic journey.”


“In Baldessari’s wonderful Inventory, the artist presents to the camera for thirty minutes an accumulation of indiscriminate and not easily legible objects arranged in order of increasing size and accompanied by a deadpan description — only to have the sense of their relative size destroyed by the continual readjustment of the camera [in order to] keep them within the frame. Who can forget Adlai Stevenson’s solemn television demonstration of the ‘conclusive photographic evidence’ of the Cuban missile sites, discernible over the TV screen as only gray blurs?”

Peer Bode, Keying Distinctions

"Bricks, white noise, video. Free floating sync, altered, drifiting camera: video image and time. Keying permutations, switching via gray level values, using a modified b+w Sony special effects generator (SEG). Building the building, one brick at a time. In video what is a brick? In spite of what was then a fierce cultural doxa, an anti-materialist pressure, and being quite anti-anti-materialist I was working hard to coax out significant features as expressive intensity zones, electronic energy points always engaging with the signals."  

– Peer Bode

Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry

Using selected details of TV’s Hollywood Squares, Birnbaum constructs an analysis of the coded gestures and “looks” of the actors, including Eileen Brennen and Melissa Gilbert. Birnbaum exposes television as an agent of cultural mimicry and instruction. The actors’ expressions are far from valueless; they are the ideological content of such programming.

Videofreex, Laser Games with Shirley Clarke

In Laser Games with Shirley Clarke, the Videofreex visit the apartment of independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke. Someone brings out a laser pointer, which they then use from the top of their building to shine on the sidewalks below in an attempt to distract the passersby. After returning indoors, they experiment with optical distortion by shooting the laser directly into the camera lens while listening to psychedelic raga music.


In this video, the Videofreex host a party during which the main source of entertainment is a video-television feedback loop. In one room, a video camera linked up to a television set allows party guests to see themselves, as if in a mirror, while guests in the other room can also watch the recording, and may speak to them through a microphone. Although the voices of the off-screen guests can be heard on the tape, they are always imageless.


Timely concerns about the future of video, artists’ complicity in the money making system of the ‘establishment,’ and the effect of the camera’s presence on personal encounters, is discussed and debated in this late night video produced by David Cort, Chuck Kennedy, and Skip Blumberg.

Barbara Aronofsky Latham, Barbara Latham Videoworks: Volume 1

The five videos featured here investigate video as a tool for storytelling and the construction of alternate identities. Ultimately Latham concludes that video is an unsatisfactory and cumbersome tool useful only for the creation of dislocated narratives.

Learn Where the Meat Comes From

A classic feminist video, Learn Where the Meat Comes From depicts how “gourmet carnivore tastes take on a cannibalistic edge. This parody of a Julia Child cooking lesson collapses the roles of consumer and consumed: Lacy instructs us in the proper butcher’s terms for cuts of meat by pointing them out on her body. As the lesson progresses she becomes more and more animal-like, growling and baring over-sized incisors. Perhaps, in her role as a gourmet cook, she is herself as much consumed as consumer.”

Learning to Talk

This video is related to Seven Years of Living Art (a seven-year performance of personal endurance Montano began in December of 1984) and adopts the Zen Chakra system of seven centers as a structuring device. The adoption of the Chakra system arises from Montano’s commitment to the study of Eastern culture and religion.

Leaving the 20th Century

Believing that we are, "dragging our feet into the 21st Century," Almy made this video trilogy to celebrate technology and the future in an ironic melange of politics, sociology, sexuality, and economics. Flawlessly melding sound and image, the video moves through three sections, "Countdown," "Departure," and "Arrival." In the end, Almy posits this paradox: technology as a human development is rapidly making humans obsolete and interpersonal contact impossible, making the future of man’s presence and very existence uncertain.


“In Left Side Right Side, Jonas explores the ambiguities caused by her attempt to identify correctly the spatial orientation of images simultaneously played back by a monitor and reflected in a mirror. This is confusing because, contrary to what one might expect, the monitor image gives back a ‘true’ reading of the space while the mirror reverses it.… Throughout the course of the tape, the image switches back and forth between the double image of monitor and mirror to the simple ‘real’ image of Jonas’s face.”