Video History

1-87, 1976

"Inspired by Ralph Hocking's fish biting video.  Eighty-seven stones thrown, volumes shifting of water sound, a real time performance event. Holding the camera and throwing 87 stones into the frame. 1/2" reel to reel Sony portapack." 

– Peer Bode

"My first digital recording and my first and only recording with Don McArthur's "Spatial and Intensity Digitizer". The digitizer was not working properly. I had no idea. The shift I saw was stunning. Digitalization of luminosity, strange notion, wonderful light and early digital embodiment. Image/signal in digitized state/space, noise field. I always thought of this to be 100 seconds of very beautiful digital light noise." 

– Peer Bode

Joan Logue cuts down considerably Andy Warhol’s projection of fifteen minutes of fame, with this compilation of 30-Second Spots. Produced to be broadcast as individual, mini-documentaries on the included artists and their work, Logue’s short interpretive video pieces feature a prime time selection of over twenty New York performance artists, composers, dancers and writers, including Maryanne Amacher, Robert Ashley, David Behrman, John Cage, Lucinda Childs, Douglas Ewart, Simone Forti, Jon Gibson, Philip Glass, Spalding Gray, Joan Jonas, Bill T.

Playing with cliched feminine personae, Eleanor Antin in The Adventures of a Nurse manipulates cut-out paper dolls to tell the story of innocent Nurse Eleanor who meets one gorgeous, intriguing, and available man after another. Nurse Eleanor is the fantasy creation of Antin, who is costumed as a nurse. Staged on a bedspread and acted by a cast of one, The Adventures of a Nurse moves through successive layers of irony to unravel a childlike, self-enclosed fantasy of a young woman’s life.

Affected and/or Effected begins with a close-up of a girl resting her head on her hand, reading. On the overlapping track a male voice states “affected,"—followed by a female voice that responds “and/or effected….”  This pattern of dividing words in half and presenting them in alternating male and female voices continues throughout the video. While what is seen is separated from what is heard, the boundaries between the audio and video portions of the piece are complicated by other sounds. The statement of intent is spoken: "An artist may construct an art.

This title documents the participation of artist Aldo Tambellini at the opening of the 1970 exhibition Vision and Televison. Held at the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts from January 21st to February 22nd, the exhibition is widely regarded as the first museum exhibition of artist's video. Tambellini (b. 1930) was a pioneer of expanded media in the 1960s, and one of the first artists to use video and television as a medium.

The title is comprised of the following Videofreex reels:

“Mining an ironic vein by turning technology against itself, AlienNATION undercuts the sociological ramifications of modern living. It is an astounding compendium of sci-fi images, textbook diagrams, special effects, and studio props, which together build multiple readings of the alien, the mysterious, and the obscure in American culture.

"This video reflects my interest in examining cultural institutions. In The Amarillo News Tapes, we were interested in observing and dissecting what makes news in a small, Midwestern television market. The video shows the three of us in our respective roles as anchor, weatherman, and sportscaster, interacting with the real Pro News Team on the set.

The only Benglis video with a discernable plot, The Amazing Bow-Wow follows the adventures of a talking, hermaphroditic dog given to Rexina and Babu by a carnival barker. Rexina and Babu soon decide to make the dog a sideshow act hoping to earn their fortune. Babu eventually becomes jealous of Rexina's devotion to the dog and one night attempts to castrate it, accidentally cutting off its tongue. The dog's head becomes hideous and skeletal, ruining its sideshow career and the profits.

An intimate portrait of the artist at his home in San Francisco, this film delves into Mike Kuchar's life and work. The artist portrait explores, among other things, Kuchar's movie/music collections, his mysterious Casablanca editing system and the comic books, religious iconography and sci-fi memorabilia that fill the apartment floor to ceiling.

"This is the first of a set of pieces that involve combining a series of electronic video process recordings, musics, texts and appropriated materials. These multiple elements, simple and tricky grammars, trigger expanding electronic narratives. The trajectories and drags of multiple narratives color the electronics and visa a versa.

With the Watergate hearings as a backdrop, quotes from various newspapers and magazines--including the story of Robert Smithson's death in a plane crash--build a picture of the confusing and tragic events of July 1973. Sonnier uses appropriated footage and reproduced newspaper clippings to create a richly layered video that attempts to sort out the truth from the available information. Sonnier's instructions to the computer operator reference the making of the video, and thereby create a self-conscious, limiting frame.

Concentrating on abstract shapes and color value, Animation 2 is a record of images manipulated through computer animation. By recording the data screens of the animators and the voices of the controllers, Sonnier discloses the process of making the video.

“This tape is about media, and it seems totally unedited, because we hear him talking over the intercom with the engineer… The engineer interjects, ‘Do you want to save any of this stuff?’ Yes, indeed; Sonnier saves and shows it all, the whole process.”

Using highly-manipulated and over-processed images, Latham investigates the process of video as inherently fragmented. Weaving together various people’s impressions of the artist and her work, the work demonstrates important parallels between video, storytelling, and the formation of identity — all processes of active fabrication that blend “lies” and truth in the construction of a certain reality, history, or past. Labeling an image of herself talking as “her most recent explanation,” Latham addresses “the construction of her video personality” as an identity outside of herself.

“In her brilliant video Art Herstory, [Freed] has restaged art history, putting herself in the model’s role in numerous paintings.... Time dissolves under her humorous assault — one moment in the painting, then out of the canvas and into that period, then back in the studio."

— Jonathan Price, “Video Art: a Medium Discovering Itself,” Art News 76 (January 1977) 

An excerpt of this title (14:49) is also included on Surveying the First Decade: Volume 1.

Artifacts, 1980

An important record of Woody’s process of experimentation and play: a collection of images initiated by basic algorithmical procedures to verify the functional operation of a newly-created tool—the “Digital Image Articulator”—designed and constructed by Woody and Jeffrey Schier. Saying at the beginning of the tape, “The images come to me as they come to you, in a spirit of experimentation.” Vasulka presents a series of manipulations in which the image shifts and moves, dissolving through two- into three-dimensionality.

As a document of an early performance, this video details the process of orientating the body and self in space, providing a physical metaphor for the process of adjusting oneself in society.

"Blindfolded, ears plugged: our goal is to sense each other’s movement and bearing, to attempt to assume the same movement and bearing. An off-screen voice, heard only by the audience, gives directions that would help us attain our goal."

—Vito Acconci, "Concentration-Container-Assimilation," Avalanche 6 (Fall 1972)

Shot by Bart Friedman with the Videofreex's Tivicon camera, this tape begins in Lanesville, New York with members of the Freex collective wishing Aunt Betty a happy birthday. Later the Freex find themselves on the streets of New York City on the way to James Lipton's home.  The party starts off with family, but the crowd soon grows to include Broadway writer Sheldon Harnick, actor Tammy Grimes, author Eric Segal, and Broadway composter Cy Colman. Singer Lena Horne also joins the group and sings two numbers with Cy Colman at the piano.
Bad, 1979

BAD is the mnemonic command for the B-Address register of the Buffer Oriented Digital Device, a tool for stretching or squeezing images. Starting with the register at zero and adding one level of distortion at a pre-programmed speed, the video moves to an increasing complexity of images that escalates in density of color, composition, and texture.

"One of Baldessari’s most ambitious and risky efforts. Seated and holding a sheaf of papers, he proceeds to sing each of Sol LeWitt’s 35 conceptual statements to a different pop tune, after the model of Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter. What initially presents itself as humorous gradually becomes a struggle to convey Lewitt’s statements through this arbitrary means."

—Helene Winer, “Scenarios/Documents/Images,” Art in America 61 (March 1973)

Beached, 1970

The soundtrack begins with the artist stating the conditions: “An artist may construct a work and/or a work may be fabricated and/or a work need not be built. I elected five possibilities for videotape.” These possibilities are the actions executed in Beached. They are shot in five sequences and consist of throwing, pulling, lifting, dragging, and using leverage.

This video has been remastered, though traces of historical picture loss remain.

In this angry answer to the expectations advertising culture places on women and their bodies, Tanaka deftly edits commercial images and sound-bite slogans to underscore the message such images carry: that women exist to please men, as wives, mothers, and lovers. Tanaka balances such mainstream images with black and white footage of herself lying naked next to her own doubled image, rejecting the mainstream model of female sexuality that regularly consists of seductive glances and suggestive poses arranged and pre-ordained for the male gaze of the spectator.

"Between the Lines is an exploration of what Muntadas terms the 'informational limits' of television—the selections, programs, decisions, edits, time schedules, image fabrications and so on—specifically addressing the means by which 'facts' in the network news are transmitted on television. Muntadas slows and examines the process, observing a newscaster’s exercise in assembling events, locating images, and constructing the news."

—Bob Riley, Currents: Mediated Narratives (Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1984)

In 1964, Steina Vasulka (then Steinunn Bjarnadottir) married Woody Vasulka, a Czech engineer with a background in film. They later moved to New York where, with Andreas Mannik, they founded the Kitchen, a performance space dedicated to new media. The Vasulkas collaborated on a series of video works whose imagery arose primarily through the manipulation of the video signal at the level of the electron beam itself.

The male/female, subject/object investigation in A Bit of Matter and a Little Bit More has no titillating introduction; the appetite is not whetted beforehand. Hardcore, the opening shot, shows the crotch areas of a male and female body engaged in coitus. At the end of the tape a male voice says, "Some questions and five answers relative to moved pictures, five questions and some answers relative to moved pictures—" a reference to the artists' book, 100 Rocks on a Wall.