Monday, August 3, 2009

Strange World Video

For a work that is almost fifteen years old, Pipilotti Rist’s 1995 “I’m a Victim of this Song” remains as compelling as it did when it appeared in the Biennale of Sydney in 2000. Then only five years old, and still fresh, I described Rist’s voice as she works her way through Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” as sounding as if she were gargling with broken glass. Hearing her version again after so long, my initial thoughts remain intact.

What surprises me after such a long time is how, somehow, we have witnessed a transformational moment in image consumption in which, for the everyday viewer, the idea of Rist’s intervention is almost unimaginable as art. Now, when everyone has the chance to mash up the latest hit and post it somewhere until a bot removes it, “I’m a Victim” seems almost nostalgic.

I mention this because what we are witnessing is the realignment of expectations in video art. That’s not to suggest that any of its core principles have changed – the non-linearity of its relevations, the real-time experience of viewing. But somehow viewers now approach these types of works without even the understanding that they are art. Videos posted on may have the YouTube logo emblazoned in their lower right corner in many instances, but viewers of YouTube videos don’t even experience these images as art. Instead, I would argue, these have become part of a fine arts detritus that is overlayed on the visual experiences of the everyday.

Still, the notion of art as video, rather than video as art, might just be revolutionary, the insidious idea that an artwork might somehow slip up onto the YouTube favorites.

Just wait until some hipster thinks they’ve discovered Peter Campus for the very first time. Then you’ll see what I mean.

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