<videovortex> Video Vortex report by Malka

Sabine Niederer sabine at networkcultures.org
Tue Jan 22 10:38:17 CET 2008

Hi all,
Thanks to Malka, who works at the Netherlands Media Art Institute  
(www.nimk.nl) and posted a conference report on Moving Web.
Best, Sabine

all the fantastic photos in this entry were taken by Anne Helmond -  
thanks a lot!
You can also visit the Institute of Network Cultures flickr set of  
all Video vortex events.

On a rainy morning in Amsterdam (that demanded lots of coffee!), the  
Video Vortex - Responses to YouTube Conference was kicked off at Club  
11. I will be blogging on the conference for movingweb, but I was  
also there because I have been involved with the project through my  
work at the Netherlands Media Art Institute where we made an  
exhibition with the same title and related topics. Well, the program  
of the conference is quite extensive, and I was very disappointed by  
some of the presentations today (that seemed unprepared, unfocused,  
had nothing new to say…a total contrast with the first Video Vortex  
conference in Brussels!). So I will focus on the gems of today’s  

The conference started with a presentation by Tom Sherman, a video  
artist, writer and professor in the Department of Transmedia at  
Syracuse University in NY. He gave a more general introduction to  
video art, explaining the constant death and revival of the genre  
that have come forth (also) through technological evolution. The  
analogue has changed to the digital, the linear to the non-linear,  
distribution and exhibition were transformed through the method of  
file sharing. Sherman sees video (art) not as a product, but a  
process: It’s about the taping, re-taping, experimenting, deleting,  
not the finished thing. He also described the development of the  
genre as very much dependent on the cultural sector such as  
galleries, musea, and funds. In fact video art had it’s ‘hey day’  
between 1972 - 1978, and then again in the early 1990s when video art  
was embraced by musea in the form of installations. The upcoming of  
the internet again has changed the way video art is perceived. It  
stays an art form difficult to sell and also (even more important)  
difficult to conserve. Video art has been de-professionalized over  
the decades and is now often seen only in its relation to traditional  
visual art forms. Its ongoing “life support systems” are educational  
and art institutions concerned with video art, the limited funds  
available, collectors, as well as genres such as the music video  
clip. Sherman describes vernacular video as “the people’s video” made  
possible through file sharing. Vernacular video is thus characterized  
through being short (becoming shorter and shorter), the use of canned  
music, voiceovers replacing writing, vidually dynamic but  
semantically crude forms, the proliferation of video tourism and road  
films, as well as the use of standard paint programs and filters. The  
vernacular puts the content first, makes it more important than the  
form. As Sherman explains, video art was traditionally a response to  
television, and now that the web replaces TV, it will become an  
answer to the web. And just toquickly mention it, I loved Sherman’s  
story about how he had once met Marshall McLuhan who had insulted him  
for being a video artist (quote: “…and I thought: wow, he really IS  
an asshole!”).

Florian Schneider, a filmmaker and initiator of the campaign Kein  
Mensch ist Illegal at dokumenta X in 1997, then explained his concept  
of ‘imaginary property’. His research has produced a series of texts,  
films and video installations researching the question “What does it  
mean to own an image?”. He claims that we do not live in a knowledge  
economy, but an “image economy”, constantly translating information  
into images. Platforms such as youtube where users hand over all  
their copyrights to a commercial corporation make us rethink the  
question of ownership. Schneider proposes a concept of ‘imaginary  
property’ in contrast to ‘intellectual property’. His concept can be  
read in two ways: property produced by imagination, or images as  
property. In this case, ‘imaginary’ does not mean unreal or  
fictional, it defines a situation beyond real and unreal, an  
impossibility of distinguishing between what is owned and what is not  
(and by whom). Yet, he says, this does not mean a form of  
indifference, but it makes us aware that copyright issues are not  
about the relation between us and the object of property, but between  
us and the other users and what they could do with the object. So  
sharing is not the problem at all, but multiplication is!

The next interesting talk was by Andreas Treske, a filmmaker, media  
artist, and teacher of courses in new media, video production, and  
visual communication design at Bilkent University in Ankara. In 2005  
his feature length football documentary Takim Böyle Tutulur was  
actually screened in over 50 cinemas all over Turkey. Treske  
explained the differences in format between movies made for huge  
cinema screens, and those that now have to be produced for small  
mobile devices such as mobile phones or the ipod. The size of the  
screen influences the way we view an image, and the huge cinema  
screens of the past have aesthetically influenced the way we view  
film today. In a cinema room or in front of a huge television set, we  
get absorbed into the image and there is nothing to distract us. But  
when we are watching images on a small device, there are lots of  
things that surround us that distract our attention. So while cinema  
is ’shutting down the senses’ as Walter Benjamin wrote, the mobile  
video on a small screen is competing with all our senses. Therefore  
formats for portable devices have to follow a different design  
principle: The image has to be more intense, simplified, and this can  
only be reached through making them short, using close ups, lesser  
detail, strengthening of a reduced number of colors, and an emphasis  
on sound. Such formats could be done drawing inspiration from other  
art form that are essentially ’short’, such as the literary forms of  
haiku poetry, jokes, fables and aphorisms.

And now my favourite thing of today: Tal Sterngast’s video blog  
Karasek spricht for netzeitung.de! Tal Sterngast is a visual artist  
and freelance writer with Israelian roots, living and working in  
Berlin. And she is also the Berlin correspondent for Israelian art  
magazine Studio and has worked as a camera woman for several European  
documentary projects. In 2006, she started the weekly video colum  
Karasek Spricht for netzeitung.de, a series of little videos in which  
Manual Karasek, son of the famous German literature critic Hellmuth  
Karasek, gives the review of a new novel. The project ran for about a  
year and i nthe end had to stop due to a lack of funding and the  
limited availability of copyright-free footage to use - what a shame!  
Sterngast showed some of the videos, and explained how she addressed  
the projects, what she had to keep in mind while making video to be  
watched on the net, and what kind of footage she used (for example  
from public archives). It is really quite a nice project, especially  
because the camera really focuses on Karasek, the background is very  
plain, and the image of him is only interrupted by found footage that  
in some way relates to what he is talking about (for example a topic  
in the book he reviews). The movies had to be done very quickly, but  
the crude editing and sometimes ‘trashy’ look only increase the  
charm. And, of course, the fact that Manuel Karasek resembles his  
father to a degree almost a bit creepy - especially in the way he  
speaks and uses specific gestures!

Last but definitely not least, let me tell you more about tank.tv, an  
online gallery for video art and very interesting project indeed!  
Philine von Guretzky, who has been involved in the project since 2004  
and has a background in media design, introduced tank.tv and the way  
they work. They describe themselves as a platform and archive of the  
contemporary moving image. The works online are either gathered by  
addressing the artists or through submission- basically anyone can  
submit their works to the site and hope for them to be shown there!  
The project has been widely acceptedover the last few years and  
they’re getting a lot of support and interest. Recently they have  
started showing their online shows in actual art institutions, such  
as Amsterdam’s Zuidas Videoscreen and the Tate Modern, and they have  
just released their first publication of works by UK based artists.  
They have also collaborated with the Dutch Park DDDD TV.

Well, that’s it from me and the conference for today….and hopefully  
tomorrow there will be an even richer outcome! Looking forward to the  
session about curating online video! Until then…cheerio and good night!

Conference report day 2:
Conference report by Malka, Netherlands Media Art Institute
...And on yet another rainy morning in Amsterdam (not surprising, you  
get used to it after a while!), full of curiosity and hopes for the  
day, I went to the second day of the Video Vortex - Responses to  
YouTube conference. I was hoping that today would be more fruitful  
than yesterday, and indeed, what a pleasant surprise! Well, call me  
selfish, but instead of giving a general overview I will focus on the  
session that was the most interesting for me personally: Curating  
Online Video.
The session started with a very inspiring presentation by Sarah Cook.  
Sarah is co-founder, editor and researcher at CRUMB (Curatorial  
Resource for Upstart Media Bliss), an online resource and mailinglist  
for people involved with New Media Art. She did her PHD at the  
University of Sunderland and is now a post doctoral fellow working  
with Eyebeam in New York for 2008. She is also a curator, and has co- 
edited several publications on new media art. Currently she is co- 
curating the exhibition Broadcast Yourself at AV Festival 2008.

In her presentation, Sarah talked about the works that she selected  
for this exhibition. One of the main questions of her research was  
whether such a thing as “tv art” actually exists, and what can be  
seen as “tv art”. A great source of inspiration was Dieter Daniels’  
essay “Television-Art or Anti-Art” in which he discusses artists’  
interventions with television. One of the most famous examples is  
Chris Burden’s TV Hijack (1972) in which the artist was invited to a  
talkshow and, during the course of the interview, attempted at  
kidnapping the show host by holding a knife to her throat.

More examples are ANT FARM and their residency at a Texas news  
organization, during which they produced news items with their own  
fictional content (which were shown at the end of every news show),  
and the first reality tv show ever made, American Family (1971).  
Interestingly enough, American Family also includes an episode that  
documents how the family goes to visit the Andy Warhol exhibition at  
the Whitney Museum. And, luckily, the show can be found on Youtube!

As you can see, Sarah had quite an impressive list of examples, and  
that’s not even all yet! UK’s Channel 4 also produced a series of  
‘art tv’ called Dadarama in which artists could basically develop  
their own tv show concept, including the decisions on length, time of  
airing, feature film or series, content, etc. And at  
joanie4jackie.com, you can submit your very own favorite video  
material, and every once in a while a list including all sorts of  
different submissions will be send to all members of the mailinglist.  
Other projects mentioned are tv swansong and the Bastard Channel.  
Sadly, make tv was not as successful as its biggest competitor,  
YouTube, which was lounged just a few days later. At make tv, users  
can have their own 15 minutes of fame. They get to pick an airing  
time and can either show uploaded material or do a live show.In order  
to find out how such projects can work curatorially, and explore the  
question of the producer vs. distributor relationship, Sarah  
suggested looking at projects such as Cory Archangel’s Blue Tube ,  
Jeff Krauss’ you3b.com that shows 3 youtube channels next to each  
other in a sort of simulation of a gallery installation form, and  
Nina Simon’s blog Museum 2.0.

The last project that Sarah mentioned is one she is involved in  
herself, Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle - a cinema completely  
built and run through volunteer work that blurs the boundaries  
between producers, distributors and viewers by letting people submit  
their own work for the film nights. They also host art exhibitions  
and give workshops on film making and presenting.

The next and also very interesting presentation was Thomas Thiel’s  
talk about the Curator as Filter / User as Curator. Thomas works at  
the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany, and has  
curated and organized several events such as MindFrames Media Study  
at Buffallo 1973-1990 with the Vasulkas. This exhibition was  
experimental in so far as it consisted of more than 150 hours (!!!)  
of video works that could be viewed in three different ways: As a  
static exhibition (single presentations), as a dynamic exhibition  
(program schedules), and as an on-demand exhibition (visitor’s choice).

Thomas claimed that YouTube is just another form of video  
distribution, just like galleries, art institutions, festivals,  
archives, and collectors. He participated in a symposium in 2005 with  
the title The Future Of Video Art Distribution, and some of the most  
important questions raised were: What are the financial models of  
internet distribution? Will supply increase in demand? Is there a  
need for video art watched at home? This can lead us further to think  
about why artists do NOT want their work to be published online. For  
many artists, this means losing a certain control over the context in  
which the work was made and in which it will be shown (as anyone can  
show it anywhere they like in whatever context). This also raises  
questions of exclusivity, availability, quality and rights. General  
video platforms do not allow to include other media such as PDF, so  
they cannot serve as an alternative to a personal site with a  
portfolio. Furthermore, sites such as Youtube only work for single- 
channel works (that’s why you3b.com is such a great idea!). Thomas  
rightly pointed out that actually most video material on such sites  
is not art in itself, but a lot of things about art, such as  
marketing, gossip, openings of exhibitions, walkthroughs, artist  
talks and interviews…basically, a documentation of art and the whole  
community around art. As an example, see the clip below about the Art  
Radio WPS1 at the Venice Biennale 2007. So, Thomas concluded, YouTube  
should be seen not as a platform for art itself but as a resource for  
the arts.

The last presentation I (quickly) want to mention was that of Emma  
Quinn who basically introduced the Institute of Contemporary Art UK  
where she works. Emma is also a curator, and director of Live and  
Media Art at the Institute of Contemporary Art UK. At the ICA she has  
helped setting up the digital studio, a sort of media lab, that  
initially started off with workshops for people who wanted to learn  
what the internet was. They gave people lessons in the history of the  
WWW and showed them how to use it, how to create an email account,  
and so on and so forth. Later they were being addressed by artists  
working with the net, and this developed into exhibitions and  
collaborations with festivals and other organizations and projects  
such as tank.tv. The digital studio is now being changed into a real  
working space for artists, and they’re also planning to create an  
online gallery. Their most successful exhibition so far was the Viral  
Awards Exhibition in 2006. Bizarrely enough, although people could  
have watched all the material at home on their computers, the crowds  
were literally lining up to see the exhibition that combined works  
from artists as well as amateurs.

So, after all, the second day of the conference made up for the chaos  
of the first day! The presentations of Sarah, Emma and Thomas were  
really interesting, I loved that they showed lots of examples, so  
thanks to them for saving the conference for me! =)

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