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Record > Again! 40 years of video art in Germany, Part 2

Apr 30, 2011   //   by van Gelder   //   Blog, Events  //  Comments Off on Record > Again! 40 years of video art in Germany, Part 2

Record > Again! 40 years of video art in Germany, Part 2 is an exhibition and symposium covering the second installment of a large collection of newly restored German video works made since 1969. The first installment of this project was exhibited by the Goethe Institute, Boston five years ago and was focused on the chronology of the works included. Part two contains the videos that were either more difficult to restore or didn’t fit into the curatorial vision of the first exhibition. Don’t let that mislead you, though– if the first exhibition was “better,” then I really need to find a copy as soon as possible, as part 2 is filled with compelling artworks that have had very few viewings anywhere.

The symposium was convened on Thursday night with local academic all-stars Gregory Williams (Boston University), Judith Barry (Art Institute Boston), Joseph D. Ketner (Emerson), and Ute Meta Bauer (MIT). Each tackled these 40+ works in a different manner.

Gregory Williams started the night attempting to place the works into a context, curating a small group of works that fought against their being pigeonholed by their German origins and focused on video’s ability as recording device, locking ephemeral moments into a permanent state. Works like Ulrich Rückriem’s 1971 video 1. Teilungen 2. Kreise  3. Diagonalen (1. Divisions 2. Circles 3. Diagonals), arise out of Ruckriem’s work as a sculptor. Recorded with little editing or manipulation the video matches his task driven actions which follow the most basic rules of sculpture: perform an activity on a three dimensional object. Williams also discussed the affect that Joseph Bueys had on German politics and artistry by exploring the complicated relationships in two of his videos: first, his 1972 boxing match with one of his students during Documenta 5, and second, a video created by Michael Bielicky and Ricardo Peredo when they found out that his Fat Corner sculpture had been destroyed by accident around 1986.

Judith Barry then followed up Williams by exploring the thesis that video of the 70’s had a relationship to both performative and sculptural practice. Investigating the work of Nan Hoover in depth, she discussed how Hoover’s Movements in Light (1975/6) attempts to differentiate video and television practices with anti-theatricality and sculptural minimalism using just a hand, a camera, and subtle motion as drawing tools. Her sketches came from the era’s general interest in phenomenology. The space and light movement from California also helped guide her productions during this era. Hoover’s goal was to produce space that was inhabitable by the viewer and to unfold the space available to the artist with a formal process. In her videos she explored the technical limits of the camera and the edges and spatial information that eventually led her to produce installations in the 1980’s.

Barry followed up her exploration of Hoover’s work by drawing similarities with other artists in the exhibition. Wolfgang Stoerchle’s 1972 Untitled (Lamp Performance) used just a camera, a flashlight, and an empty room to create dynamic flowing spatial movements that contained no actual motion. These minute formal changes messed with the camera’s ability to see and produced an involuntary motion on screen, all without computers or editing. These explorations came about during an era where time in an editing suite was expensive. One fluid take was what was necessary as well as what was practical.

After a brief break, Joseph D. Ketner explored in depth the separation between television and video methods by looking at work outside of this exhibition. As the television becomes the central altar in the home, video artists tried to contradict the elevated status by formally attacking the television set and the strategies that broadcasters used in their daily programing. Starting in 1963, the same year that Germany gets more than one television station, you find Wolf Vostell and Gunther Uecker producing sculptures that minimized the television’s importance and even used them like pin cushions, driving numerous nails into a television set. At Boston’s WGBH, Aldo Tambellini, an Italian artist who worked with the German Otto Piene, famously said “Television is not an object, it’s a live communication media. Black Spiral brings you live information. One day we will look at nature as the floating astronauts do in a spiral or circular form where no up or down or gravity exists.” This radical definition of video as a delivery device that we should actively resist formed a working method that is best presented in Jochen Hiltmann’s 1972 video Für Künstler (For artists). In this work, Hiltmann produces a fake television show and broadcast announcer that introduces a fictitious work titled What are you Doing Now? He walks around in the space that the camera can see, banging on the envelope of space that has enclosed around him. He is stuck inside the camera’s space, and says, “You simply cannot get out.

Ute Meta Bauer’s exploration of this collection revolved around her direct experience at German art schools where the artists in this collection were teaching. Though she knew many of these artists personally, there was no public awareness of their video works. Access was impossible, and the original tapes were heavily guarded. The artists had no screenings and made no attempt to have their works distributed widely. The technological limits of tape length and the types of visual decay that arises from duplication also forced some of these works to be considered unfinished or imperfect until these editions were produced for the exhibition. Gerry Schum’s 1972 interview at Documenta is a good example of the lack of access. When Schum produced Land Art and then TV Gallery in approximately 1970, the model of production was based around the artist’s fee versus a model of object for sale. Each work was produced by block grant instead of selling multiples of the finished product. The Documenta interview was one of the only given by Schum, and was produced with no concern for selling copies of it to recoup the production costs.

The symposium was a significant introduction to the hidden treasures in the second part of Record > Again! at the Goethe Institute. The time available to see this exhibition is unfortunately brief, but should be on every festival goers list.

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