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11.4: Cinematographic Art (1970-1999)

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    Video art exploits audio and visual technology using multiple formats of recorders, computers, video tapes, television sets, projectors, and newer digital equipment. Video art began in the 1960s with the advent of the old analog video recorders and tapes. Nam June Paik was considered the pioneer of the concept when in 1965, he made a recording and played it in a local café. Previously, only 8 and 16mm film were available, and it 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 description of art, museums were horrified at the concept of sounds, movement, 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, art schools offering video as a viable specialization.

    Nam June Paik

    Nam June Paik (1932-2006) was born in Seoul, Korea; his father owned a large textile company. He was the youngest of five children and trained as a pianist as a child. During the Korean war, the family fled to Hong Kong and then Japan, where, in 1956, he received a BA from the University of Tokyo in aesthetics. Paik went to West Germany to further study music and became part of a new experimental art group. When he moved to the United States in the early 1960s, Paik started to experiment with synthesizers and how to manipulate musical sounds. He first used a Sony recorder until 1967 when Sony introduced a new portable video-tape-recorder giving Paik the platform he needed, creating a new direction in art. Paik's first exhibition was based on thirteen television sets. He continued to use TV sets for experiments, spanning the capabilities of technology and art. By 1974, he proposed the electronic information superhighway, connecting cities and people with satellites, coaxial cables, and fiber optics. Paik wanted to distribute videos freely, flowing through the information highway. His optimism and forward-thinking forecasted the future and is internationally considered the Father of Video Art. Paik also began to make installations from old televisions sets and video monitors to display different images on closed circuits across the installation. He used televisions sets to make robots adding wire, metal, and miscellaneous parts. Paik understood the future capabilities of imagery and used file and video as multi textual art forms.

    "Using television, as well as the modalities of single-channel videotape and sculptural/installation formats, he imbued the electronic moving image with new meanings…transforming the electronic moving image into an artist's medium, part of the history of the media art."[1]

    Paik used television sets to create the American flag; in this installation, Video Flag (7.4.1), seventy sets are primarily programmed to red, white, and blue images. He used magnets to manipulate the signals and synthesizers, video feedback, and various technologies to create different colors and shapes. Paik made several other installations of flags in a variety of sizes. In this flag, he projected on a continuous loop, 24 hours a day, different images of political images. Technology has a finite ability to continue working, and all of Paik's flag installations have been undergoing conservation efforts, using new technology and wiring to preserve the mechanisms.

    an American flag made out of tv screens
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Video Flag (1996, 70 CRTs, wiring, fans, metalwork, power strips) by UkenautCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    In 1964, when Paik first came to America, the interstate highway system, established under Eisenhower's presidency, was only nine years old. The highway ran from coast to coast, linking the states of the country. At the time, detailed maps guided the drivers from state to state. Restaurants and motels were constructed across the country, their neon nights burning brightly, different states presenting different cultures. The entire country also embraced the use of the television set, linking the news and days events with the homes of America. Paik recognized how to use video media to connect people and how it would transform everyone's life. He created Electronic Superhighway (7.4.2), a massive installation of 336 television sets, 50 DVD players, 3,750 feet of cable, and 575 feet of multicolored neon tubing. [2] On the different monitors, he plays images to represent each state surrounded by flashing tubes of neon light. Paik wanted to display his vision of how technology and communication would advance in the future. 

    a map of the US with tv's and neon lighting around each state
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Electronic Superhighway: Continental US (1995, 313 monitors, neon, steel structure, sound, 4.5 x 9.7 x 1.2 meters) by TimothyJCC BY 2.0

    Megatron Matrix (7.4.3) was an installation of 215 monitors. Paik played different clips in sections, some based on his images from his home country of South Korea and others different ideas of entertainment and culture of the United States. All of Paik's installations were prophetic of the world's future information age.

    Several tv screens with a large hand reaching out
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Megatron/Matrix (1995, eight-channel video installation, custom electronics, color, sound, 335.3 x 1005.8 x 121.9 cm) by Ryan SommaCC BY 2.0



    [1] Retrieved from

    [2] Retrieved from

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