Video, an Art, a History

video didn’t kill the artist

Video, an Art, a History 1965-2010. A Selection from the Centre Pompidou and Singapore Art Museum Collections presents Centre Pompidou’s well-received new media travelling exhibition with an added Southeast Asian touch …”
(extracted from exhibition website)

The generous collection from Centre Pompidou (France) assembles a decent collection of video works that demonstrates how video – moving images captured live or pre-recorded – is used to express themes related to seeing and social commentaries.

Video didn’t kill artists, it gave them a new means of expression, different from photography. What is touted as new media isn’t exactly new – the formats in which they are recorded in, Video Home System (VHS) developed in the 70s is possibly obsolete, with museums clutching onto Betacam SPs or high definition transfers. What we see in the exhibition are possibly assimilations of VHS, a format in which the artworks were made in; some would argue that what is presented in this exhibition – DVD or media players – were re-cloned, and thus relevant as new media. Hard core video artists might insist these works have been changed – VHS has an estimated digital resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, a painful blur when compared with High Definition Television, which could be as high as 1920×1080i.

This exhibition is significant in a few aspects. Firstly, It is the first major exhibition featuring many video artworks, though not necessarily all iconic, they help to define the interest in video as an art form in the 70s and 80s. Secondly, it highlights the importance of experimenting with a tool, adapting it to create visuals not possible with other art materials. Video art, along side installation art, pushed the boundaries of what was accepted by the public as art. With the ability to create moving visuals, cheaper than film, makers found it possible to make their artworks more accessible using video. Technically, you could make copies just as how you made prints. Print making in that sense, served as a reference concerning the distribution of video as art: collectors could buy art in editions.

Thirdly, the inclusion of southeast asian artist, despite the difference in year of production, suggests the appreciation of video is not only a Western-only aesthetics. VHS technology, was developed by the Japanese. Together with the other increasing means to make moving visuals, artists from around the world have used tools in a similar fashion to those used in video art – live feed, pre-recorded and playback – to critique the internet, phenomenon of media saturation, technology, augmented realities and more. Knowing video art arguably is as important as acknowledging the renaissance oil paintings had used mathematical perspective to depict a world within a frame and on a canvas. Understanding the tools and technique of the Renaissance artists explains why paintings can be so realistic and allow us the have a deeper appreciation and respect of this art form. What is more than meets the eye, what the laypersons cannot easily reproduce, should get some respect,

Fourthly, from an institution perspective, the Singapore Art Museum is flexing its curatorial muscles to claim a stake and a voice in the global production of meaning of art. The museums traditionally set standards of what art is, and our national museum is trying to have it’s voice heard – by a local and visiting audience alike.

What was commendable is the museum’s effort in producing a range of programmes to accompany this major exhibition from centre Pompidou, France. For example, the screening of ‘home movies’, that examines the idea of independent film-making, that relate to local artists such as Tan Pin Pin. Also commendable, is the museum’s conscious decision to establish a Moving Image Gallery this year. What might be lacking, which the museum had done so in the past, was commissioning new works – in new media. That may have allowed (renewed) interest in public or corporate support for art in new media, and better illustrate why video art is ‘a history’ when it barely begun locally.

Video didn’t kill the painter either. The immediacy of painting is far too powerful than a video that takes 15 minutes to sit through can overcome. As such, it may take more than Video, an art, to liberate us from demanding paintings as de facto art. And that will also take more than blockbuster contemporary art exhibitions or biennales to change.

7.0 of 10 stars

Video, An Art, A History 1965 – 2010

Credit Suisse: Innovation In Art Series
Video, An Art, A History 1965 – 2010
A Selection from the Centre Pompidou and Singapore Art Museum Collections
June 10 to September 18, 2011
Singapore Art Museum, admission charges apply.
3 Activity booklets for most ages are available at the reception.

An exhibition catalogue is available for $85+ from the museum shop.

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