Grow Gills and Swim: The Evolution of Activist Video

Author : Gregg Bordowitz

Gregg Bordowitz considers the nebulous enormity of works subsumed within the category of ‘activist’ video.  He begins by discussing the role that television played as the principal antagonist for early video artists like Richard Serra and for theorists of new media like Marshall McLuhan.  Bordowitz sees McLuhan’s concept of the ‘global village,’ the new world of interconnectivity allowed by the global reach of television’s transmitted signal, as the springboard for video practitioners wishing to engage with this newly broadened scope of communicative possibility.  In his estimation, these artists took up the video medium as a tool to oppose its use as a tool for the transmission of an ideology of normalization and political disengagement, and instead use it to help bring about the realignment of our social fabric towards one characterized by authentic democracy and the freedom to express radical ideas.  For Bordowitz, video activism is an important form of interventionism whose vitality continues to grow in light of the expanding possibilities for artistic expression due to increasing technological advancements in the video medium.