Since 1963
Date November 12 27, 2005
Curator Wulf Herzongenrath

Concept Note

A relatively young medium, viewed with scepticism until very recently , video art has now become an integral part of cotemporary art arena. This video art exhibition curated by Wulf Herzongenrath is part of the exhibition folio of ifa or the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, a mediator of German foreign cultural policy on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office, fostering cross-cultural understanding through international co-operation in all aspects of culture, for over 30 years.

In an effort to compile a representative collection, signifying changing concerns, techniques and media in German art, Wulf Herzogenrath issued an invitation to a total of 17 artists, both male and female, living and/or teaching/working in Germany, to contribute. 'Old masters' such as Nam June Paik, who teaches at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art, or Wolf Vostell are represented, as is the youngest artistic generation in this genre, exemplified by Anna Anders and Birgit Brenner.

There are, therefore, many and varied contributions to this exhibition including video sculptures or installations,as well as prints and drawings. These individual and exemplary works represent significant historical phases of development and address several themes of discussion in the art scene in Germany over the last 40 years.

These include a number of experimental art movements that have come into prominence such as Fluxus , minimal art, concept ( ional ) art. The works also engage with other theoretical questions and issues as well as with a rapidly evolving social context.

Video as the focal point of the exhibition, emerges as much an opportunity and a medium of artistic expression as brush and paint, hammer and chisel. The exhibition presents eighteen video sculptures and 47 works on paper ( gouaches, silk screen prints, photographs , photocopies) , al created since 1963. An effort has been made to include recent works , some created especially for the exhibition. By and large , four generations of artists are represented.

1. Nam June Paik, the father of video art, who made a beginning with his “ exposition of music – electronic television” in Wuppertal in 1963 and ahs been teaching in Dusseldorf sine 1989, and wolf Vostell , who introduced video sculptures to the USA for the first time in his show at the Smolin Gallery in New York and is still using video in performances , exhibition rooms , theatres and elsewhere.

2. The second generation : Claus Bohmler, Klaus vom Bruch , wolf Kahlen , Marcel Odenbach, Ulrike Rosenback , Reiner Ruthenbeck, Jeffery Shaw, Herbert Wentscher, all of whom have since become instructors at German art academies in Karlsruhe, Berin, Saarbrucken , munster, Weimar.

3. The younger generation : Ingo Gunther, Jean Francois Guiton, Dieter kiessling, Franziska Megert, wolfgang Staehle , who all work almost exclusively with video and have exhibited at solo and group exhibitions.

4. The youngest generation: Anna Anders , a representative of the first generation fo art students to graduate from the new art and media technology centres and Birgit Brenner, who is currently studying for her masters degree with Rebecca Horn at the Berlin Academy of the Arts.

The artists featured include:

Anna Anders( *1959)
Claus Bohmler ( * 1939)
Birgit Brenner ( *1964)
Klaus vom Bruch ( * 1952)
Franziska Megert ( * 1950)
Marcel Odenbach ( *1953)
Nam June Paik ( *1932)
Ulrike Rosenback (* 1943)
Reiner Ruthenbeck ( * 1937)
Jeffery Shaw ( * 1944)
Wolfgang Staehle ( *1950)
Wolf Vostell ( 1932-1998)
Herbert Wentscher ( *1951)

Commenting on the development of media art in Germany, curator and artist Peter Zorn remarks:

“Contemporary media art in Germany covers such a wide range of categories that a course of studies could be designed around simply exploring its genealogy: experimental film, expanded cinema (including film installations, multi-projection and film performances), videotapes, video installations, closed-circuit installations, video performances, computer art, computer graphics, computer animations, CD-ROMs, Internet and web art, virtual reality, sound art, multimedia installations and performances which may or may not be interactive, net radio and net TV, live broadcasting, VJ raves, and fon and fax art – all of these may be categorised as media art.

Media art is not limited to electronic and digital media, but has older roots that go back to experimental film and the avant-garde of the twenties in Europe. So as not to have to extend the word “medium”, which in the original Latin denoted a means or a mediating element, to all other (older) kinds of art, one could perhaps agree that a fundamental technical prerequisite for media art is that electricity is required for its production and/or reception.

What are the characteristics of the different categories of media art? Experimental film is more closely orientated towards the visual arts and music, for example, than towards literature and theatre. While feature film, within its own specific dramaturgy, tends to pursue a psychologically-motivated linear plot, and documentary builds up a logical line of argument, experimental film seeks to include audio-visual dimensions which transcend the usual narrative structure. Many forms and techniques that have developed in experimental film are also to be found in video art. Nevertheless, it was video art in particular which has been more successful in asserting itself on the art scene, presenting itself in the form of sculpture or installation. The development of video art shows in exemplary fashion how technological innovations can prompt new departures in art, and the great extent to which artists themselves are involved in technological developments.

Video art began by criticising the dominant mass media, particularly television and its potential for manipulation. Many artists are aware of the potential power inherent in the media, and reflect upon it, subversively undermine it or set up their own images against media manipulation. Since this kind of criticism did not lead to results of any significance, some artists retreated to their studios to concentrate on the inherent possibilities of the medium. That is how video installations, among other things, were created, which define themselves through their form of presentation as being distinct from television and cinema. They usually use several monitors or video projections, thereby specifically emphasising the sculptural element of installation. They also use so-called closed-circuit installations, where a live camera is used to project simultaneously the recorded objects onto the screen, thus forming a closed, self-reflecting circle that can also involve the observer in the work of art. While installations have long since established themselves in the art scene at exhibitions, it is much more difficult for videotapes to be recognised or marketed as an art form as they are so easy to reproduce, i.e. there is no original, although particularly in the eighties, collections were founded by the museums and supplemented by media art, and new festival centres were established. A similar problem arose with web art in the mid-nineties, as the only artists to assert themselves on the art market seemed to be those who managed to combine virtual cyberspace with more or less complex installations in galleries.

Improvements in computer technology and the spread of personal computers have provided artists with new tools and thus with the opportunity to use technology to re-implement in a new way concepts from the sixties and seventies for engaging the viewer in the work of art. Interactive computer installations and completely virtual environments are very popular, for example, where the viewer uses a data interface such as a joystick, helmet, glove or other such item to move through two or three-dimensional projections and to interact with virtual figures or objects. Besides interactive installations, which technically usually tend to be rather complicated, CD-ROMs, an interactive medium that is inexpensive and widespread, thus constitute new experimental terrain for many artists, as does the World Wide Web, which has allowed ever more developments towards multimedia since its introduction in 1993/94.
With the spread of the Internet, many artists and activists – including those in particular who had already worked with film and video – hoped (at least) to call into question on the net social and cultural-policy power relations as reproduced on the mass media, and to create new virtual "communities". For the most part, they had experiences similar to those of their colleagues in "real" space and have returned to their sub-cultural niches. Artists have countered the “updating” to ever newer, better and faster technology pursued by the industry, requiring constant new investments by users, by developing low-tech strategies which consciously do without the latest expensive technology, seeking instead to creatively use cheap or older computer and video technology. “Open source” programming, for example, i.e. using freely available software and source codes, is often used in order to break through Microsoft’s software monopoly.

Meanwhile, the "new media" stand side by side on equal terms with established art forms at many art exhibitions and festivals. What is meant by the new media is digital computer art, including DVD, CD-ROMs and the Internet. The question of the production and carrier medium is also becoming less and less significant: film, video, animation and graphics will all ultimately be digital. The price and the contents often determine the choice of medium.
Germany has often been the starting point for new processes and new directions in this art form, since both experimental film (the first abstract animation film was produced in 1921 by Walter Ruttman, a painter who later became a documentary film maker), and video art (created in 1963 by the two Fluxus artists, June Paik and Wolf Vostell) were founded in Germany or by Germans. However, at no point do any national characteristics emerge in media art, as it has always been a "nomadic" form. This is an inherent phenomenon of the field. Artists go where training, production resources and jobs are available. Hundreds of international festivals and events, and not least the Internet, also ensure the brisk exchange of information. As a result, discourse, aesthetics and application techniques are disseminated internationally very quickly and national styles differ at most in their level of playfulness, embellishment or humour. Germany lives up to its claim of being a Mecca for media art, as no other country has so many festivals, media artists, media centres and schools.

Peter Zorn
is film maker and media art curator. He founded the Werkleitz Society, the Centre for Artistic Visual Media in Saxony-Anhalt, from 1994 to 2000 he headed the Werkleitz Biennal.

The workshop is based on the premise that contemporary art practices , though globally informed and challenged, are entrenched in local cultures and have traversed specific regional trajectories. While Peter Zorn ( Werkleitz Centre for Artistic Media, Halle) and Claudia Giannetti(MECAD Media Centre of Art and Design, Barcelona) will trace the legacies of video and media arts in Europe and South America, Indian artists will give accounts of their specific journeys from ‘old’media like canvas , marble and celluloid to the ‘new’ media .The artists include Ayisha Abraham , Sheba Chhacchi, Shilpa Gupta, Sonia Khurana , Ein Lall, Ranbir Kaleka, Amar Kanwar, Vivan Sundaram.Art theorists Geeta kapur, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta will reflect on the impact of this transition on the contemporary Indian art scene and its local as well as global perspective.In this context , the workshop will also address the future of cinema(digital production and dissemination) and will conclude with a panel on ‘Media –Artists- Networks-Politics: media Art in the 21st Century’.

The places where the exhibition has travelled previously
29.05.2004 - 01.08.2004 Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand, Dunedin
10.10.2004 - 27.10.2004 National Gallery, Thailand, Bangkok
07.12.2004 - 28.01.2005 Chiang Mai Art Museum/Chiang Mai University in cooperation with Goethe-Institut (Max Mueller Bhavan) Bangkok, Thailand, Chiang Mai
07.06.2005 - 30.06.2005 Aula Barat, Institute of Technology Bandung in cooperartion with Goethe-Institut Jakarta