“Signals: How Video Transformed the World” Dennis Lim, δημοσίευση στο e-flux [24/3/2023]
“Video is everywhere,” begins the wall text at the entrance to MoMA’s largest video show in decades, as if on a cautionary note. Equally, to borrow an aphorism from Shigeko Kubota, subject of a recent MoMA exhibition: “Everything is video.” (It is worth noting that Kubota said this in 1975.) In tracing the evolution of video from its emergence as a consumer technology in the 1960s to its present-day ubiquity, “Signals” covers a dauntingly vast sixty-year span. A lot happened—not least to video itself—in the years separating the Portapak and the iPhone, half-inch tape and the digital cloud, and as the material basis of video changed, so too did its role in daily life.
This sprawling, frequently thought-provoking show proposes a path through these dizzying developments by considering video as a political force. In their catalog essay, curators Stuart Comer and Michelle Kuo call the exhibition “not a survey but a lens, reframing and revealing a history of massive shifts in society.” Not incidentally, this view of the medium—as a creator of publics and an agent of change—is in direct contradiction to a famous early perspective advanced by Rosalind Krauss, who in a 1976 essay wondered if “the medium of video is narcissism.”1 Seen in this light, Song Dong’s Broken Mirror (1999), on view in the first gallery, acquires a neatly symbolic function. In Song’s four-minute loop, one Beijing street scene after another is revealed as a reflection when a hammer enters the frame, smashing the mirror to expose an entirely different scene behind the glass, often startling bystanders who direct curious gazes at the camera. The mirror-reflection that was, for Krauss, inherent to early video’s operations vanishes in an instant, giving way to an altered social situation, a more complicated reality.
Occupying MoMA’s sixth floor galleries and spilling over onto an online channel, “Signals” includes more than seventy works, drawn largely from the museum’s collection, and running the gamut from single-channel tapes to multi-screen installations. The multiplicity of forms speaks to video’s adjacency to performance and conceptual art, and also to its eventual absorption into the broader categories of multimedia and digital art as well as artists’ cinema. Many of the pieces here were conceived for the gallery space, but a significant number have also circulated on television, in cinemas, or on the internet. The plasticity of the medium is pronounced throughout, evident in the glitch and ghostly decay of old analog tape, the synthesized distortions of Nam June Paik and other formalists, and the increasing malleability of the video image as it is coupled with CGI, game technology, or AI software.
The show’s notion of politics affords an alternative genealogy, bypassing many of the usual suspects who might otherwise populate a decades-spanning video exhibition. Conflict zones, historical cusps, and social movements are well represented, in works that encompass acts of witness and testimony, performance and protest, allegory and ethnography. Many share an oppositional stance, and “Signals” suggests that one way to tell the story of video is to note its many adversaries, the systems and structures that this most viral of formats has attempted to circumvent or infiltrate: broadcast television, corporate media, government repression and censorship, surveillance technology, the carceral state, and various regimes of visibility that have shaped and skewed our understanding of the world.
This exhibition captures the early promise of video in an array of works that seize on the nascent technology’s ease of recording, playback, and transmission relative to film. The documentary impulse, prizing vérité immediacy and spontaneous vox-pop testaments, is strong in the late ’60s and early ’70s—in electrifying footage of Fred Hampton, interviewed in Chicago in 1969 by the Videofreex collective weeks before he was murdered by the police, or in TVTV’s guerilla foray behind the scenes of the 1972 Republican National Convention, Four More Years. Pre-internet telecommunications experiments reveled in the wonders of simultaneity: for their “Send/Receive” project (1977), Liza Béar and Keith Sonnier secured the use of a NASA satellite link to create a live feed between artists in New York and San Francisco; with Hole in Space (1980), Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz staged a proto-video chat, establishing real-time interaction between public spaces in New York and Los Angeles, to the delight of unsuspecting passers-by who happened upon screens showing their counterparts in the distant city at life-size. Fujiko Nakaya’s Friends of Minamata Victims – Video Diary (1972) documents the eighty-first day of a sit-in at the Tokyo headquarters of the Chisso Corporation, responsible for a wastewater discharge that caused widespread mercury poisoning. The tape concludes with the day’s footage being replayed for activists on a portable monitor, refiguring video’s signature feedback loop as a dynamic political process.
Η συνέχεια εδώ.