Philo T. Farnsworth Video Obelisk

Skip Sweeney

1970 | 00:27:56 | United States | English | B&W | Mono | 4:3 | Video

Collection: Early Video Art, Single Titles

Tags: Conceptual Art, History, Image Processing

“Video is a fugitive medium,” said Getty Research Institute’s Glenn R. Phillips, and he should know. As curator for California Video, a 2008 at the Getty Museum, he enjoyed the luxury of a massive archive produced during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Most of the tapes, recorded in obsolete formats, were crusted with oxidation, making the work unwatchable and threatening to ruin any deck that would play them. Jonathan Furmanski, an Assistant Conservator at the Institute, describes one particularly unruly video installation, Philo T. Farnsworth Video Obelisk (by Skip Sweeney and Video Free America) was recorded on “a phenomenally obscure 1-inch tape that plays only on a specific type of Sony deck. I needed to locate and repair such a deck in order to extract the signal from the tape. The signal itself was loaded with its own problems because the artists created a montage from a variety of sources that caused the video signal to fluctuate dramatically from scene to scene. Artists are not engineers and like to push tools like video equipment until they do something unexpected. And that unexpected thing is often the art."

The original installation of Philo T. Farnsworth Video Obelisk was presented live on a stack on five monitors from May to September of 1970 in San Francisco. This condensed edit was created for the exhibition California Video at the Getty Museum in 2008, and rereleased in 2019.

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Getty Museum
Los Angeles, CA