The rarefied history of video art is foreign to all but a niche group of academics and art-world types. When artists first got their hands on portable video equipment in the late ’60s, they made incredibly odd things. Most of those things remained in academic obscurity — until, of course, internet video hosting exploded. Now, the strange history of video art is at your fingertips.
Flavorwire recently posted a list of 50 great works of video art (and some film) viewable on YouTube. Click on any of them, and you are likely to either scratch your head, roll your eyes or just lose interest after a minute or so. The tradition of video art is one of long conceptual explorations. There is usually very little conventional drama or narrative. Expect to be bored out of your mind.
Although some are really fun! Like Peter Campus experimenting with chroma-key, or William Wegman with his iconic weimaraners:
Overall, this is a glimpse of a vibrant time in art history. Video technology (not to be confused with film) in the 1970s was only just becoming accessible to people outside of corporations. Artists wanted to see what could be done with it, how they could adapt this tool of mass communication. Flavorwire’s list extends from those early years into the early 2000s, when video art had evolved and melted into genres like experimental film and installation art.
Whether you love or despise this type of thing (lock and load your that’s not art comments), the great thing is that before internet video sites took off, it was impossibly hard to view these kinds of works. You had to visit a university collection, or come across the videos in a gallery exhibition. When I was studying video art at Syracuse University in the early 2000s, I would make bootlegs of my favourite tapes from old 3/4″ tapes (a format preceding VHS). Now, it’s an absolute treat to view these artifacts of art history — anywhere at any time. [Flavorwire]