In Stories from a Generation, Dougherty describes her discovery of an archive of early video art done by women at the Los Angeles Woman’s Building. She discusses the importance of this place and its archive as a resource for the female art community in the area and how the communal atmosphere of the Woman’s Building influenced the collective nature of much early video art production, and how this idea of collectivity and communal practice continues to be relevant today.
In Busting the Tube, Kate Horsfield charts a history of the development of independent video practice, ranging from the video activism of the Raindance Corporation and People’s Video Theater to experimentation with the body its operation in social space in the work of Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. Seeing the rise in independent video as a response to the increasing cultural significance of television and its function as an instrument of socio-ideological homogenization and political disengagement, Horsfield considers video art as a new field of cultural production meant to give a vehicle for the communication of alternative subjectivities critical of the official cultural norm in all aspects of daily life, ranging from political oppression and its use of mystifying rhetoric to sexual politics and gender-based discrimination. Alongside the formal and ideological development of video art, Horsfield also analyzes the parallel development of the infrastructure and cultural policy that would enable video art to be made and exhibited on an increasingly wider scale. Through the delineation of the various agendas and modes of expression video art has lent itself to since the late 1960s, Horsfield sees ever more room for critical engagement with the video medium and offers encouragement for its continued utilization to critique dominant structures of power.
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.
Surveying the First Decade: Video Art and Alternative Media in the U.S. 1968-1980: Attention! Production! Audience! Performing Video in its First Decade, 1968-1980
This essay examines the sociopolitical context in which video art emerged in the late 1960s. Hill addresses the media theory of Marshall McLuhan and Herbert Marcuse’s concepts of personal agency and community in order to outline the political climate in which video art developed. Given this growing convergence of calls for democratic change and the increasing awareness of the role technology would play in that democracy, Hill considers how the video medium was taken up as a tool for experiments in radical activism by early video collectives, and how these collectives participated in the realization and articulation of alternative communities.