The Aesthetics of Private Footage and Youtube within Avantgarde Video Art


Session Title:

  • Tactile, Participatory, Interactive Video

Presentation Title:

  • The Aesthetics of Private Footage and Youtube within Avantgarde Video Art




  • “video art is a subdivision of home-made video“  _Vito Acconci

    Looking at the early video works of fine artists in the 60s and 70s the connection to today’s aesthetics in Youtube is more than obvious. Often the tapes have been documentations of performances and it is stunning to see the connecting of reoccurring standards, such as a fixed camera (today’s webcam), lack or complete absence of editing or the focus on the performer and his or her body. Today the works of Maria Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman or the Vienna actionists have become cultural classics, shaping the identity of one of the youngest art forms. It is interesting to see that technical limitations and the lack of professional education led to the production of many of these early video works.

    After introducing some of these tapes and comparing them to Youtube classics, I would like to focus on the question of aesthetic relevance, as it is often argued that only a few members of the elite have access to the fine art system and therefore it cannot have any real impact on a general public. In opposition to this preconception, art historian Boris Groys argues in his famous text “The body of Guantanamo”, that the pictures of tortured Iraqis by US troops would not have acclaimed such high media attention without a collective consciousness being “visually educated” by the works such as the Vienna actionists.

    The successes of Youtube have not been unnoticed by the art community and even though it does not pose a direct threat for the aesthetics of video art, it is already noticeable that the trend towards technical perfection, represented by Matthew Barney or Bill Viola seems to be over. Today’s successful tapes (e.g. by Nathalie Djurberg or Ryan Trecartin) often play with bad quality and deliberate imperfection not out of a lack of recourses but because of aesthetic consideration.

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