Video art history and curatorial work

Hegedüs Kata
2023 September 15., Friday 10:07.

Prof. Vera Carmo, Universidade da Maia, Portugal – Renowned lecturer in fine and cinematographic arts, experienced in independent curatorial activities. During her exchange she introduced students to the relationship between video and art through a definition of the concept of Video Art and an exploration of early Video Art works. From the rise of video installations to curatorial issues, the course also provided insights into the world of the most revolutionary Video Art exhibitions.

What inspired you to delve into the world of video art, and can you share a personal anecdote or experience that truly ignited your passion for this medium? 

During my years studying Fine Arts, I was deeply enamored with image technologies. My particular affection was for photography, where the stillness of moments captured my imagination. But my trajectory took a significant turn in 1999 when I visited an eye-opening exhibition at Casa de Serralves by the video artist Pipilotti Rist. The dynamic visuals and the amalgamation of motion, sound, and narrative in video art presented a new dimension, offering an array of creative possibilities that photography couldn’t. This pivotal experience intensified my journey into the realm of video. Over time, as I transitioned into curatorial roles, my enthusiasm for this medium didn’t wane. Instead, it evolved, and I became fervently committed to not just understanding video art but also showcasing it, allowing others to experience its transformative power just as I had. 

As students aspiring to understand video art’s evolution, could you take us on a journey through some of the most unconventional and thought-provoking early video art works that have left a lasting impression on you? 

As a woman, I’ve always been particularly drawn to works with a feminist perspective. Martha Rosler’s performative video experiments stand out in my memory, especially her piece “Semiotics of the Kitchen.” In this work, Rosler playfully and critically parodies television cooking shows, donning an apron and engaging in mimed actions with kitchen utensils. The piece is a compelling juxtaposition of the domestic realm and the constructed expectations placed upon women.

Another artist whose approach deeply resonates with me is Dara Birnbaum. Her innovative use of appropriated images from television series has always intrigued me. One of her seminal works that comes to mind is “Wonder Woman,” where she deconstructs and reconfigures imagery from the popular TV show, presenting it in a context that challenges and critiques the media’s portrayal of female empowerment.

Building on my previous answer, I would also like to highlight Pipilotti Rist, whose work has left a profound impact on my understanding of video art. A piece that particularly resonated with me is her two-channel installation, “I am a Victim of this Song,” which is based on Chris Isaak’s song. Rist’s unique take on the romantic lyrics, rendering them absurd through her imagery, was both thought-provoking and transformative for me.

These video artworks not only exemplify the innovation and depth of the early days of video art but also spotlight the critical lens through which these artists viewed societal norms and expectations. They serve as powerful reminders of the potency of the medium to evoke change, elicit emotion, and challenge perspectives.

In a world saturated with visual content, how do you believe video art stands out as a unique and powerful form of artistic expression, and what possibilities do you see for its future impact on our culture and society? 

In an age where we are overwhelmed with an unending stream of visuals, the role of video art becomes even more critical. Precisely because we live in this visually saturated environment, it’s essential to question how these images are constructed, their inherent conventions, and the underlying messages they bring with them. 

Interestingly, video uniquely straddles both the world of mass culture and that of elite visual arts. This dual positioning gives video art a distinct advantage: it can communicate across various segments of society, arguably more so than traditional forms like painting and sculpture. For instance, a young individual, constantly immersed in a digital realm, might be more easily captivated by a moving image artwork than by a static painting. The dynamism and immediacy of video are innately enticing, making it a medium that speaks the language of the contemporary audience.

Considering this, I firmly believe that video art will remain one of the most potent forms of artistic expression. It has the potential not only to reflect society’s nuances but also to shape them, offering insights, challenging norms, and fostering a deeper understanding of the world around us. Its inherent ability to engage diverse audiences ensures that its impact will only grow, shaping culture and society in profound ways in the years to come. 

Why did you choose The University of Theatre and Film Arts of Budapest and what were your favourite experiences at our institution? 

I chose The University of Theatre and Film Arts of Budapest due to its evident synergy between theatre and cinema. Theatre, in my perspective, represents live production and is rooted deeply in performance and immediacy. Cinema, on the other hand, often leans towards narration and crafted fiction. Intriguingly, these two disciplines intersect vibrantly in the realm of video art. Video emerges as a companion to performance, a tool for surveillance, and a swift means for artists to capture the nuances of everyday life. Given these overlaps, I felt that the university was the ideal place for my area of study.

During my time at your esteemed institution, I felt genuinely welcomed. I was particularly taken aback by the critical spirit of the student group that attended the workshop. Their enthusiasm, critical thinking, and engagement deeply enriched my experience and added invaluable layers to my academic journey. 

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