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Department of Ethnology
and Cultural Anthropology
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Conferences and other Events

2/18/2009
NON-CENTRAL DOMAINS: VIDEO ART IN SLOVENIA IN THE 1980

Curators: Igor Španjol, Alenka Gregorič

February 19 – March 13, 2009

You are kindly invited to attend the opening of an exhibition on Thursday, February 19 at 8 pm at Galerija Škuc.
 
Apart from a few art projects made especially for television, throughout the '80s the television medium primarily engaged in the presentation of video art within the framework of cultural presentations in general. The television broadcast of video seems to represent self-evident and effective solution to two principal problems of art video production. These problems are a lack of adequate exhibition and screening facilities for the presentation of video works on the one hand, and the promotion of such presentations among viewers on the other. Nevertheless, the affirmation of video art on television has been hindered by the prejudice that video is a matter of independent production and that video aesthetics is not compatible with television, which has become a reference point for aesthetic taste, social engagement and mass entertainment. If video is envisioned as a unique work of art requiring a museological context of presentation, the video tape is in a worse situation than the video installation, for instance, whose spectacular character is more likely to »strike« the audience. Video artists who allow their video works to be broadcast on television are exploiting this potentials of the mass medium. Although these potentials are not strange to video, video never completely fuses with the television environment. A situation thus develops in which video becomes a means of expression, or an art form, without the aura suggested by Walter Benjamin.

Besides the fact that the context of a video inevitably changes when broadcast on television, a video also becomes susceptible to a wide variety of expressive and formal changes as a consequence of the individual interventions of the viewer. Here I have in mind different models of television sets, and thus various screen dimensions, as well as optional settings of intensity, brightness, colour, sharpness, contrast, and volume. Variations in the incorporation of a television set into living premises are also important; these often border on sculptural or conceptual installations. The effects of these interventions surpass the level of transformation, which Benjamin defined as the mechanical process of reproduction. Electronic reproduction therefore unavoidably disrupts the original video image in its essence, while the status of the broadcast video as an object still remains within the limits of the humanistic dogma that prohibits a machine from becoming an object of faith, and video remains a tool of ideological interpellation. Rastko Močnik recognizes the role of the permeations of mechanistic humanism, which lies precisely in the fact that ideology, substantiated in electronic apparatuses, evidently transcends them. The progressiveness of electronic technology comes into view precisely at the moment when it becomes the technology of discourse itself, and its ideological potential exceeds the requirements of (the discourse of) the ruling ideology[1].

In the case of the television »documentary« made by a video artist in the role of creator of a programme about another video artist or group, the question arises as to whether such a programme should be regarded as a pure documentary video, or whether we can speak of artistic pretensions and, contextually, about the exploitation of the formal and expressive similarities of both media. Similar problems are encountered when differentiating between the »artistic« and »non-artistic« use of a device in cinema. The artistic use of a device could be set apart from its other uses with the claim that the device in artistic use produces pure ideology, while in other uses it also produces something else, says Močnik. He continues with a warning that precisely because it looks natural and self-evident, that »other« is actually ideology in its purest form. In television programmes about video we also come across different material potentials which support ideology. The substantial component in the form of a »video creation« iscomplemented by media-constructed symbolic discourse and, certainly, the television station as an institution. Thus, media technology itself »spontaneously« creates relationships miost suited to it – that is, it inherently produces its own ideology, while the artistic use of the device enacts the problems of its prevalent, historical use.

Generally speaking, artists engaged in video followed two strategies in their relationship with television. The first strategy, which rejected the influence of television schemes, is characterised by autonomous production. The disadvantages of this kind of activity were difficult production conditions, inaccessibility of equipment, an inadequate television crew, and a limited circle of viewers. The advantage was the freedom of personal expression. Those artists who opted for the second strategy worked within the framework of established, industrial television production; their ambition was to change, slowly and tactfully, the rigid production and programming practices. The price they had to pay was a partial, or temporary, restriction of their individual creativity. Their advantages were professional production conditions (facilities), and a more or less guaranteed wide audience.
We will reflect on television programmes whose messages contain, besides ordinary, narrative and informative elements (the so-called reproductive elements of reality), also »creative« elements. We will try to focus on those projects which involve television as an autonomous means of expression seeking the specifics of its own language within its inherent technical properties. In this context we should point to the difference between the televised reproduction of the existing creative contents of the art forms (film, painting, theatre), and the ability of television to stimulate autonomous expressive potentials.

The production and iclusion of media images in the »real« world of television has always depended on the perceptiveness of editors and programme managers. The historical credit for paving the way for video on national television goes to Toni Tršar, first chief editor of the cultural-artistic programme, and later editor of the feature and video programme. Some 30 art videos were made during his tenure from the second half of the eighties to the mid nineties. Television became the main producer of art videos, and so the institutional conditions were set for the continuation of video production in the future. Prior to Tršar's arrival, the television station already disposed with technical capacities that were not fully utilized or articulated in more profound explorations of the medium, or in visual concepts. Squeezed between the system of established patterns of articulation of television as a genre, and the rigidity of financial and time schedules, Tršar saw this medium with aesthetically short forms and workable production budgets as a good possibility for authentic creativity and an individualistic artistic approach: »Video art suddenly provided the opportunity to uphold individual creativity, a certain type of individual television, and to explore the medium in the form of electronic pictures«.[2] As for the influence of video on the role of television as »visualized« radio, and of a certain feedback of video art on current television production, he pointed out that editing and music had begun to play the main role in some cultural programmes, which had long been based on a specific standardised counterpoint of picture and offtext. The new form of work was also stimulating for the stereotyped television production process, and the support for video projects came from both television studios and art programme boards. The so-called »positive paradox« emerged at that time as a special phenomenon of Slovene video production: within the state institution one could see the emergence of socially and politically very critical works in terms of both form and content. The roots of this phenomenon can be found in the socially-critical documentary films of the sixties as the beginning of the »dark wave«, which strongly marked the Yugoslav environment in the seventies.


[1] Rastko Močnik, "0 položaju kinematografije v zgodovini idej", Ekran, št. 9/10, 1983, str. 61–65
[2] Marina Gržinić, »Osvajanje svobode, slovenska televizija v video unnetnosti. Intervju s Tonijem Tršarjem«. M'zin 28/29, April-May 1994, pp. 56–57.

Accompanying programme:
A guided tour with the curator Igor Španjol will take place on Tuesday, March 3 and Friday, March 13 at 6pm at Galerija Škuc. 
Dunja Blažević: Presentation of TV Galerija, Tuesday, 10 March at 7 pm at Galerija Škuc.
 
For further information contact Alenka Gregorič on galerija.skuc@guest.arnes.si or + 386 1 251 65 40

The event is part of the action entitled "Hosting Moderna Galerija".
 
Project is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.

 

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