I love video art. Being moving images, the sensory experience we are as, or more, accustomed to as talking with other humans, video art seems to have remarkably fast access to our thoughts. Though many people feel uncomfortable commenting on a painting by an artist they don’t know, I’ve never seen anyone very reticent after watching an unkown video work.
Methods and subjects in video art vary widely, from Ryan Trecartin’s gonzo, AfterEffects-distorted, drag-doused, chaotic critique/lovefests of contemporary media culture to the haunting, detached treatment of nuclear power and society in Mika Taanila’s The Most Electrified Town in Finland. Some of the sharpest critiques of contemporary culture and the most incisive political questions exist only in video.
Perversely, though, video works are some of the most inaccessible in contemporary art. Not that they are difficult to comprehend—mostly, it’s just hard to find an actual copy of the damn things. Galleries wouldn’t dream of streaming video works online and they largely outsource draconion control of video files and their performance rights. Public access consists of lending physical media to established institutions for soometimes-significant fees.
This state of affairs is strange and disappointing for artworks that exist as digital video files, a medium the Internet has proven very capable of spreading widely, rapidly. And video art should be spread widely, rapidly!
There are artists who buck the trend, and one whose work I love is Francis Alÿs. He not only streams all his work, but releases it under a very liberal Creative Commons license. Spend a few minutes watching his REEL - UNREEL, in which a pair of kids playfully unfurl and reroll film through the streets of Kabul: I bet you, like me, didn’t know what the streets of Kabul looked like.
Maybe even share it, like good art ought to be.