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9.3: Cinematographic Art (1960 - 1999)

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    Video art exploits audio and visual technology using multiple formats of recorders, computers, videotapes, television sets, projectors, and newer digital equipment. Video art began in the 1960s with analog video recorders and tapes. Nam June Paik was considered the pioneer of video art concepts. In 1965, he recorded and played it in a local café. Previously, only 8-mm and 16-mm films were available, and they had to be played on expensive, cumbersome equipment. Paik used new technology from SONY to easily record and play videos, the first step for ordinary consumers to afford video-recording technology. The inexpensive technology gave artists an experimental platform, challenging them. In the 1970s, artists and technicians combined elements like multiple television sets to display video images. Many artists used the camera to create and project personal or taboo images and videos onto displays, challenging the ideas of what was acceptable and shattering traditional art concepts. When confronted with this new technology outside the conventional art description, museums were horrified at the concept of sounds, movement, and unknown objects sitting in their white-walled spaces.

    Technological abilities increased exponentially during the 1980s and 1990s; hardware became more sophisticated and smaller as software added more capabilities. Artists found it easier to create video installations with unknown innovations. Artists used the newer capabilities to develop installations, virtual reality, or performance art. Video art also allowed artists to express social concepts and political causes in methods common to how people received information. Social movements became dependent on video technology to define and expand their messages. The video capabilities allowed artists to mimic more traditional art forms, utilizing video signals' distortion and dissonance as the creative platform. By the 1990s, the museums finally accepted the new forms of artwork as the advance of technology propelled the art form into the mainstream. Video obtained the rank of the other art mediums, and art schools offered video as a viable specialization. Artis in this section:

    • Joan Jonas (1936-)
    • Pipilotti Rist (1962-)
    • Diana Thater (1962-)
    • Jennifer Steinkamp (1958-)

    Joan Jonas

    Joan Jonas (1936-) was born in New York City. Her family focused on multiple types of arts, including taking her to museums, operas, and the theater. Jonas always said she wanted to be an artist, believing it took her a long time to succeed because she was a woman. Jonas graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a degree in Art History and followed this with an MFA from Columbia University in sculpture. In the New York art scene, Jonas worked with choreographers in the theaters and, by 1968, started working with mixed props and symbolic works, frequently using mirrors. By the early 1970s, new video concepts started, and Jonas began experimenting with making different short videos. She incorporated images of herself in the live video shots, the first artist to do that and perhaps the forerunner of the selfie. Jonas' central motifs covered choreography, nature, and rituals, all enhanced with mirrors. She made her scripts retelling myths and tales into visual landscapes. Jonas could mix performance art with her video art through dance, music, costumes, and video technology.

    Her video, Light Time Tales (9.3.1), was a video installation compiled from ten different installations she made on ten single-channel videos. Jonas used an old, empty factory site over 5,500 square meters. First, Jonas removed all the walls and constructed the exhibition through a long snaking pathway for viewers to follow. Every video piece had its own space and sound. However, each one was visible from multiple points, and the individual sounds from each video resonated through the building. Reading Dante were performance videos Jonas created based on Dante's Divine Comedy. She initially made a short video with different gestural drawings and percussion noises. In 1994, Jonas expanded the concept and made a series of videos, all incorporated into an installation running over distinctive video projections. For the videos, she integrated chalk drawings (9.3.2, 9.3.3), masks, photographs, and other miscellaneous objects; some elements were drawn, others acted, all imagined into Jonas' exceptional work.

    a black and white photograph of a box and an explosion of liquid
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Light Time Tales (CC BY-SA 2.0)
    a chalk drawing of a shark like figure
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Dante III (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
    a chalk drawing of a horses head
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Dante III (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Pipilotti Rist

    Pipilotti Rist (1962-) is from Switzerland. She changed her name from Elisabeth to Pipilotti because her nickname was Lotti. At the beginning of college, she majored in theoretical physics briefly before switching to art, illustration, and video at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. Afterward, Rist joined a performance group and made her prize-winning video. She began making short videos and experimented by altering color, speed, or sound with themes generally based on gender or sexuality. She added music to the simplistic videos generating pleasure and happiness. Rist was considered a feminist in her work; however, she believed the images of women stood for all humans. Rist used vibrant colors, unique musical scores, and sweeping vistas with the undertow of sexuality in her expanded, large-scale installations. In her first few videos, she experimented with nude images, becoming part of the allure of her work.

    Pixel Forest (9.3.4) was a massive installation with multiple screens and changing projections. The different images and short videos incorporate elements across her career. Rist frequently integrates herself in the videos, whether older, fragmented nude images or her distorted face pressed against the glass. She often blurred the lines between the interaction of bodies, how the camera was used, and the portrayal on the screens. The viewer walked through the videos in different rooms as the cameras projected onto translucent screens; the shadows of the viewer's body became part of the visuals.

    a room with blue lights strung from the ceiling
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Pixel Forest (Hanging LED light installation and media player) (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    Parasimpatico (9.3.5) was a compilation of older works mixed with newer short videos creating floating images with psychedelic colors and otherworldly sensations. Rist placed objects in unexpected containers, toilets, purses, or bottles and projected them onto suggestive surfaces. She wanted to explore all senses in enveloping experiences. Rist also incorporated humor in the video installation and the environment around the installation, including the staircases and auditorium. The Massachusetts Chandelier (9.3.6) was made of clean, used underpants hung on a frame of tiered metal. Some of the underpants had lace, others with pockets, and most were larger sizes, a mixture of varieties for men and women. Rist used a 2-channel video running color without her usual music.

    a room with a ceiling of hands and flowers
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Parasimpatico (C BY 2.0)
    a large chandelier made out of underwear with multi colors
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): Underwear Chandelier (CC BY-SA 2.0)
    Interactive Element: Pipilotti Rist

    The trailblazing visual artist Pipilotti Rist – named after Pippi Longstocking – has continuously explored and exploded the conventions of video technologies. Come along as she takes us through her sensual and immersive images and dreamscapes: “A show by me is like a journey through a body or a helter-skelter through vessels.”

    Diana Thater

    Diana Thater (1962-) was born and lived in California. She did earn a degree in Art History from New York University and an MFA from the Art Center College of Design. Thater investigates space and interaction with light and images in her video installations. She mainly explored the relationship between the natural world of nature and humans and how nature was manipulated or maintained its original characteristics. Thater was dedicated to the interactions and relationships of those in the animal world and humans. She helped push the envelope of spatial and conceptual perceptions in the new video media. One of Thater's central video installations, Science, Fiction (9.3.7 & 9.3.8), covered multiple elements and ideas from outer space to dung beetles. She constructed two parts, one with a section containing double nine-screen monitors on opposing walls. The monitors projected shows of the night skies from the Griffith Observatory as the room was lit to resemble the sky at dusk. In the other part, Thater erected a room-sized box emitting an odd yellow light at the base and projected dung beetles on the ceiling.

    a screen with what looks like a galaxy
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): Science, Fiction (section 1) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
    a dark purple room with a light focused on the floor
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): Science, Fiction (section 2) (C BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    In Untitled (9.3.9), Thater placed video monitors on the floor, adding two fluorescent light fixtures. She wanted to use fragmented images, with each video displaying parts of the butterflies as they fly. She painted with walls of the room orange to mimic the colors found in the butterflies. The interactions of color were an essential part of the installation. Rare (9.3.10) is another installation portraying images of endangered animals and how they are close to extinction. Thater placed sixteen monitors on the wall, each screen showing fragments of the environment and the animal's movements in its environment.

    5 tv screens and thier cords on the floor with 2 lights
    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): Untitled (CC BY 2.0)
    multiple tv screens with the scene of an elephant in the woods
    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): Rare (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    Jennifer Steinkamp

    Jennifer Steinkamp (1958-) was from Colorado. She received a BFA and MFA from the Art Center College of Design in California, where she focused on experimental animation. Today she is a professor at UCLA. Steinkamp started creating abstract projections before branching out and using imagery from nature. Steinkamp begins with a tree image to make a tree and digitally remakes the trunk, branches, leaves, and flowers so the tree no longer resembles its original look. Digitally rendering her trees or flowers allows Steinkamp to bring movement and seasonal changes to the images. Water is also a common theme she likes because there are so many ways to portray water and develop the feeling of movement. All the images were created with digital imagery or digitally painted and then inserted into modeling and software animation programs. Steinkamp's work is customized, changeable, and infinitely reproducible. Her immense images are projected to a scale fitting the room's walls and providing the viewer with an immersive experience blurring the ideas between reality and illusion.

    In Steinkamp's TV Room (9.3.11), three significant strips constantly move horizontally from left to right. The color starts to form bubbles as it progresses. The pixelated vertical water flows were projected to appear moving behind the horizontal strips. The image might be something viewed as static or a station pattern on an old television set. The lines seem tilted and in motion presenting a disorienting feeling to the viewer. Steinkamp used rainbow colors to enhance the sense of water running as light bounced on the droplets.

    red, blue, green and black stripes going up and down
    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): TV Room (1998, 2 Phillips 2700 400? Lumen projectors, 2 laserdisc players, quad stereo sound, 18.2 x 5.4 x 3.6 meters) (CC BY-NC 2.0)

    Jimmy Carter (9.3.12) is a large video installation across a double wall. Steinkamp projected thousands of different flowers moving back and forth, undulating continually. Some flowers seem to float by themselves, while others appear as long strings connected to stems. She also created a feeling the walls moved behind the flowers. The installation's scale was immense, transcending the viewer's concept of scale. However, one reviewer stated, "There is something extremely comforting and domestic about the piece; Steinkamp has taken the idea of pattern painting and pushed it to its logical extreme: living wallpaper."[1] Steinkamp named the work after Jimmy Carter because she respected him. She said, "He is an incredible, selfless, and generous leader. It is unbelievable to me that the United States political system was able to choose this amazing person to lead the country. At the same time, Carter was receiving the Nobel Peace Prize "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." [2]

    a set of led light in multiple colors shining on a wall
    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\): Jimmy Carter (2002, 3 Sharp projectors, 1 Epson 5350 projector, 3 Mac G3 computers, 35 x 5.4 x 4.2 m.) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

    Steinkamp named her series of flowering trees after Mike Kelley, an artist and mentor for Steinkamp. She created seventeen different projections to illustrate how a single tree looked as it changed in each of the four seasons. A tree might be partially bare or completely barren, as in winter. In this image, Mike Kelley (9.3.13), the tree is developing a crown of newly formed pink spring flowers. The branches of the trees sway or move, mimicking the wind or storms from the season. The trees were projected singularly or as multiples across a large wall, demonstrating the changes and allowing the viewer to be part of nature's glory.

    a tree with white bark and pink flowers
    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): Mike Kelley (2007, size variable, 2.4 to 3.6 m. across, 2.4 to 3.6 m. high) (CC BY 2.0)

    [1] Retrieved from

    [2] Retrieved from

    This page titled 9.3: Cinematographic Art (1960 - 1999) is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Deborah Gustlin & Zoe Gustlin (Open Educational Resource Initiative at Evergreen Valley College) .

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