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Video art is an art form which relies on moving pictures in a visual and audio medium. Video art came into existence during the late 1960s and early 1970s as new consumer video technology became available outside corporate broadcasting. Video art can take many forms: recordings that are broadcast; installations viewed in galleries or museums; works streamed online, distributed as video tapes, or DVDs; and performances which may incorporate one or more television sets, video monitors, and projections, displaying 'live' or recorded images and sounds;.
Video art is named after the original analog video tape, which was most commonly used recording technology in the form's early years. With the advent of digital recording equipment, many artists began to explore digital technology as a new way of expression.
One of the key differences between video art and theatrical cinema is that video art does not necessarily rely on many of the conventions that define theatrical cinema. Video art may not employ the use of actors, may contain no dialogue, may have no discernible narrative or plot, or adhere to any of the other conventions that generally define motion pictures as entertainment. This distinction also distinguishes video art from cinema's subcategories (avant garde cinema, short films, or experimental films, etc.).
Nam June Paik, a Korean-American artist who studied in Germany, is widely regarded as a pioneer in video art. In March 1963 Nam June Paik showed at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal the Exposition of Music - Electronic Television. In May 1963 Wolf Vostell showed the installation 6 TV Dé-coll/age at the Smolin Gallery in New York and created the video Sun in your head in Cologne. Originally Sun in your head was made on 16mm film and transferred 1967 to videotape.
Video art is often said to have begun when Paik used his new Sony Portapak to shoot footage of Pope Paul VI's procession through New York City in the autumn of 1965 Later that same day, across town in a Greenwich Village cafe, Paik played the tapes and video art was born.
Prior to the introduction of consumer video equipment, moving image production was only available non-commercially via 8mm film and 16mm film. After the Portapak's introduction and its subsequent update every few years, many artists began exploring the new technology.
Many of the early prominent video artists were those involved with concurrent movements in conceptual art, performance, and experimental film. These include Americans Vito Acconci, Valie Export, John Baldessari, Peter Campus, Doris Totten Chase, Maureen Connor, Norman Cowie, Dimitri Devyatkin, Frank Gillette, Dan Graham, Joan Jonas, Bruce Nauman, Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, Shigeko Kubota, Martha Rosler, William Wegman, Gary Hill, and many others. There were also those such as Steina and Woody Vasulka who were interested in the formal qualities of video and employed video synthesizers to create abstract works. Kate Craig,Vera Frenkel and Michael Snow were important to the development of video art in Canada.
Much video art in the medium's heyday experimented formally with the limitations of the video format. For example, American artist Peter Campus' Double Vision combined the video signals from two Sony Portapaks through an electronic mixer, resulting in a distorted and radically dissonant image. Another representative piece, Joan Jonas' Vertical Roll, involved recording previously-recorded material of Jonas dancing while playing the videos back on a television, resulting in a layered and complex representation of mediation.
Much video art in America was produced out of New York City, with The Kitchen, founded in 1972 by Steina and Woody Vasulka (and assisted by video director Dimitri Devyatkin and Shridhar Bapat), serving as a nexus for many young artists. An early multi-channel video art work (using several monitors or screens) was Wipe Cycle by Ira Schneider and Frank Gillette. Wipe Cycle was first exhibited at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York in 1969 as part of an exhibition titled "TV as a Creative Medium". An installation of nine television screens, Wipe Cycle combined live images of gallery visitors, found footage from commercial television, and shots from pre-recorded tapes. The material was alternated from one monitor to the next in an elaborate choreography.
On the West coast, the San Jose State television studios in 1970, Willoughby Sharp began the "Videoviews" series of videotaped dialogues with artists. The "Videoviews" series consists of Sharps' dialogues with Bruce Nauman (1970), Joseph Beuys (1972), Vito Acconci (1973), Chris Burden (1973), Lowell Darling (1974), and Dennis Oppenheim (1974). Also in 1970, Sharp curated "Body Works", an exhibition of video works by Vito Acconci, Terry Fox, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Dennis Oppenheim and William Wegman which was presented at Tom Marioni's Museum of Conceptual Art, San Francisco, California.
In Europe, Valie Export's groundbreaking video piece, "Facing a Family" (1971) was one of the first instances of television intervention and broadcasting video art. The video, originally broadcast on the Austrian television program "Kontakte" February 2, 1971, shows a bourgeois Austrian family watching TV while eating dinner, creating a mirroring effect for many members of the audience who were doing the same thing. Export believed the television could complicate the relationship between subject, spectator, and television. In the United Kingdom David Hall's "TV Interruptions" (1971) were transmitted intentionally unannounced and uncredited on Scottish TV, the first artist interventions on British television.