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The Temporalities of Video: Extendedness Revisited

Author(s): Christine Ross


Source: Art Journal, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Fall, 2006), pp. 82-99
Published by: College Art Association
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Bruce Nauman,
still from Violin Tuned
black-and
D.E.A.D.,
1969, single-channel
white
60 min. (artwork ? Bruce
videotape,
Nauman/SODRAC
(2006); photograph
by Electronic Arts
provided
Intermix)

In an article

written

in

for Artforum

1980, MoMA

more

"Video,

than

Barbara

any other

were

works

artists'...

in some

minutes?which

Christine

has

medium,

criticized

been

dictated
cases was

standard

by

too

much

London

temporality:

for being

videotape
'
During
long."

the length of
to 60

length?30
the

and

tedious

In the early '70s this was a valid criticism, because

self-indulgent.
many

same

period,

Nam June Paik, one of the key pioneers of electronic arts,


made his most famous claim: video is time. Although this

Ross

suggests that Paik supported

The Temporalities
Extendedness

curator

video

situated the uneasy reception of early video art in its protracted

of Video:

whose

artists,

the first generation of video

effectively

to the viewer,

duration

Revisited

work

he

a sense

conveyed
it for

reproved

of

extended

its poor

under

standing of time: "What Godard says about cinema


a

times

24

not

does

second')

in video.

hold

('truth
in

Because

video, there is no space (delimited frame) there is only time (lines without
thickness).To

one

in video

color

produce

to translate

has

in time.

color

in

Colors

video aremillionths

of seconds. Video is essentially time. And this explains why


theworks of the first video artists were so boring: coming mainly from visual

arts,

arts,

plastic

make

progress
with

experiment

the making
ration

of

extendedness,

were

not

seen

by

most

means

unique

tion

and

to

temporal

and

as

by

a few
just
that

practice

dominant

disrupt

As

linearity.

early

investigate

ty, and

repetition

experiments

determinism

the

(i.e.,

in time-based arts, but


of

the curator,

1976,

to

the

of

its explo

these

technological

to

start

material?through

conventionalities
as

will

examples

sought

nonproductive
however,

arguments,

shaped

theater,

and music

are

as a

time
banality,

Paik's

artists

video,
of

time. Video

length) or by their lack of experience

standard videotape
as

early

boredom,

delay,

to London's

Contrary

of

dance,

assessments

consideration

with

experience

cinema,

These

reception

time?the

of

from

coming

no

had

they

the medium."2

ambivalent

generally

art,

conceptual
if people

time,

writer,

accelera

notably
and

video

artist

Sharp, referring to Bruce Nauman's 1968-69 sixty-minute video


performances, which showed the artist in his studio engaged in the repetitive,

Willoughby

seemingly banal, and futile actions designated by their titles (ViolinTunedD.E.A.D.,


1969), argued that his work in fact "took advantage of the actual length of the
1.Barbara London, "Independent Video: The First
Fifteen Years," Artforum 19, no. I (September
1980): 41.
2. Nam June Paik, "L'Arche de Nam June," Art
Press 47 (April 1981 ): 7-9. My translation.
3.Willoughby
in
Sharp, "Videoperformance,"

to transmit

tape"

redundancy
also

render

editing

of

temporal

need

Korot, 215.

velocity,

extendedness

to counter

end,

according
to "come

spectator

video's

Supporting

artist Davidson Gigliotti

emerging

from

such

practices

to a structure
in at any

was

culture:

"Our

society

has

accelerates everything

become

centered

on

evolved

that the sense

a means

such

of

coun

warped

into a higher and higher

becoming

more

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bui

efficient,

OB
W

of

exploration

contended

of

time"

time of TV and radio.4 Similarly, Bill Viola spoke of the

accelerated

dreams

the

unnecessary.3

sense of time. As technology


our

or

beginning
allow

only

ultimately

tering the compressed

and

no

with
not

time, themedia

real, unedited

Video Art An Anthology, ed. IraSchneider and Beryl


Korot (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1976), 253.
4. Davidson Gigliotti, "Observations on the Scope
inSchneider and
of Multi-Channel Video Work,"

actions

that would

we

are

finding thatwe actually have less and less time. Lack of time is one of the greatest
problems

the video

haunting

our modern

and

field

problem of the day is how tomaintain


of

functions

time)

this has meant

production,

sensorial,

spectator's

and

attentional,

central

so

faculties,

video

to increase

actions

uneventful

cognitive

own

In Viola's

lives."5

accelerated

seemingly

favoring

.The

sensitivity and depth of thought (both

of our

in the context

institutions...

that

the
lib

"one might

erate oneself from the habit of viewing objects aswe see them."6 Expanded time
thus became for some an aesthetic strategy that could problematize the opticality
of the image. As Les Levine subsequently put it, inasmuch as the "main issue that
television
is very

in

important

ception,

is time,"

with

deals

the

considering

and

in television."7

is involved

are all
"timing

and memory

cognition,

the artist

why

to time

relates

that perception

"way

space
Per

devices."

In this article, Iwant to briefly examine the ways inwhich the electronic
making of time has been and still is one of the most substantial contributions
art's

contemporary
per

se. Video

of

investigation

been

has

the

from

the
a

start

to the
development

image,

on

practice

and

time

about

of

aesthetics

but,

as will

to

clearer below, this practice articulated itself along a split between


defenders of extentedness and eventfulness, duration and immediacy. Why this
debate still matters iswhat the present essay seeks to explore by briefly situating
become

in the context of research of the last forty years that claims that
is one of the key symptoms of modernity and that this

the discussion

the acceleration of history


pace

has meant

disconnection

the progressive
between

past,

and

present,

time

of

absorption

can

One

future.

as well

space

by

only

as a

growing
to refer

here

hope

succinctly to some of these studies on thewaning of time, but I do want to show


that video art is a significant player in that reflection.
In The Productionof Space (1974), the sociologist Henri Lefebvre argues that
the advent

"with
5. Bill Viola, "History, 10Years, and the
inVideo: A Retrospective (Long
Dreamtime,"
Beach: Long Beach Museum of Art, 1984), 22.
6. Bill Viola, "The European Scene and Other
in Schneider and Korot, 277.
Observations,"
7. Les Levine, "One Gun Video Art," inNew
Artists Video: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory
Battcock (New York: Dutton,
1978), 77.
8. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, trans.
Donald Nicholson-Smith
( 1974;Oxford, UK, and
Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1991), 95.
9. Sean Cubitt, The Gnema Effect (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 2004), and "Analytic of the
Dimensionless; Towards a Prolegomena for any
Future Materialism," paper presented at the
"What's Left of Theory?" conference of
Australian Cultural Studies Association, University
of Tasmania, Hobart, December 8-10, 2001,
available online at http://neme.org/main/
303/analytic-of-the-dimensionless.

more

precisely

an era

recorded

of

and

vanished
time

political

from

has

ceased

uses

of

social

on

exclusively

postwar

cinema

niques)

and digital media


...

space.8

In

contends,

leaving

any

to itself,

subordinated

instruments,

measuring

of without

trace. More

(through

into

spatial

slow motion,

and

freeze-frame,

articulate

the

des

by showing how
tech

Steadi-cam

"organises a tempo

(through the spreadsheet, which


form")

and

the new-media

recently,

theoretician Sean Cubitt has confirmed Lefebvre's conclusions

ral process

within

Lefebvre

space,

stating

space,"

to occur

an isolable and isolated category, fragmented for the sake of profit,

to be
disposed

tined

has

the apprehension

the economic

that values

time becomes

time

of modernity
that

spatialization

of

time.9

One

decade after Lefebvre's study, however, urban planner Paul Virilio published his
pivotal L'Espacecritique ( 1984), which maintains that the exhaustion of time should
not be understood 3 solely in economic terms (as a consequence of capitalism)
but

as the effect

implementation

of

the expansion

of

television,

of
it is not

technologies
so much

of
space

Since

communication.
that

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absorbs

time

the

as time

time

instantaneous

itself?the

of

electronic

reaches

another

abolishing

its detachment

after

stage:

its own

transmission?that

as interval,

existence

erodes

tem

the

of time to itself identified by Lefebvre here

porality of delay. The subordination

from

space,

duration,

and

is now

time

as

postulated

retardation.

the

ForVirilio,

predominance of speed and instantaneity over delay can only be highly problem
atic, for it tolls the knell of perspectival viewpoint and the sense of criticality that
this viewpoint

made

possible.,0

The historian Fran?ois Hartog and the anthropologist Marc Auge have equally
on

concurred

the waning
more

is understood

time

of

in terms

in contemporary

of presentism

societies,

than

spatialization.

Time inRuins (2003), Auge stipulates that ruins?and


?enable

to

the observer

not be completely
dimension

of

to

inability

sets out

however,
not

culture:

the

ruins.

produce

The

to

this

loss

book

on

here lies their productivity

of

time,

can

that

temporality

time. Auge s emphasis on the temporal

equated with historical

ruins,

contemporary

the passage

experience

although
"
In his

the disappearance

critique

lack of preservation
of

presentism

ruins

of

but

current

culture's

architecture

contemporary

in

ruins

of

(its

function of
ephemeral and substi tu table dimension) and the communicational
information technologies that seek to dissolve the obstacles ?f time and space
through a logic of instantaneity and transparency are two key instances inwhich
the production of ruins is fundamentally blocked. Indeed, if the prevailing
of historicity

regime

is presentism?the

of our

characteristic
turning

ness now means

a real disconnection

can

seen

as

times,

as

Hartog

an absolute

into

the present

of

value,

recently

argued,

whose

absolute

from the past (perceived as lost) and the


future (perceived as increasingly uncertain)?the
temporal productivity of ruins
While
the
appears substantially jeopardized.
preoccupation with the present
and must
and

present

on

notably,

be

as a need
progress,

as a

consistent

of modernity's

critique

to counter

modern

problematic
and

chronology,

dismissal

conventions
a

in such

permanence,

of

the

time

of

based,

it is in fact

regime,

of history which is claimed to be on the threshold of loss.


these studies, to say it bluntly, do succeed in demonstrating how
durational time has been increasingly manhandled and fragilized in (post)moder
nity, it is also clear that it is not time but specific forms of temporalities that
the possibility
While

are
to

lost,

being

transformed,

understand

fully

to this

inquiry,

such
as a

and

enforced,
a mutation.

that produces

practice

Further

negated.
art must

Video

both

be

is

research

seen

as

extendedness

temporal

required

m
?/i

contributing
and

insta?taneousness.

Indeed, itwas not only duration, which

10. Paul Virilio, L'Espoce critique (Paris: Christian


Bourgois. 1984), 37. My translation.
11. Fran?ois Hartog, R?gimes d'historicit?, pr?sen
tisme et exp?riences du temps (Paris: Seuil, 2003);
Marc Auge, Le temps en ruines (Paris: Galil?e,

precisely

2003), 45.

contrast

called
a

the beholder's
for

problem

early

the property
to

photography

inclusion
critics
of

but

in a situation
also

the video
and

that goes

its reverse:
camera?as

cinema?to

Fried in his critique of Minimalism


the

on

and

immediacy

soon

on, which
of

the

as it is switched

instantaneously

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produce

created

image,
on

an

more

and

image

in
that

S
o'
c<-t
D

is de

facto

on

visible

the

the monitor

screen,

as a

functioning

device

mirroring

for any object or subject located in front of the camera at themoment of shoot
,2
ing. This criticism, based on the perception of time (of video per se) as a
at the core

stands

predicament,

art as a narcissistic

of Rosalind

For Krauss,

practice.

Krauss's

dismissal

famous

narcissism?the

of video
the other

of

absorption

its cause specifically in the performer's failure to detach him


by the self?finds
or herself from the instant feedback provided by the simultaneous reception and
transmission of the video image. Focusing on Vito Acconci's Centers (1971), in
the artist films himself pointing his finger at the center of his own image

which
on
of

the video
the

monitor

the whole

for

minutes

twenty-two

sees

the art historian

tape,

a "sustained

and

tautology"

seconds

forty-three

traced

an axis

by

of

sight starting at Acconci's plane of vision and ending at its double diffused by the
monitor:

is as

the body

"Consequently,

centered

though

two machines

between

which are the opening and the closure of a parenthesis. The first is the camera;
the second is themonitor that re-projects the image of the performer with the
time

present

late as the

'3The

a mirror."

of

immediacy

"severed
the

1990s,

is a collapsed

result

a sense

from

its own

of

of history

past,"

of video?not

immediacy

the deployment

present,

per

its feedback

only

of

se.'4
and

a
as

Even
instantane

ity features but also its production of images made from the ceaseless flow of
electrons scanning the surface from left to right and top to bottom?would
the basis on which

the cultural critic Fredric Jameson deprecated video


and associated itwith yet another temporal incompetence: the failure to produce

become

"But memory,"

memory.

he writes,

to

"seems

no

play

(or, I am tempted to say, in postmodernism


or leaves its afterimages in themanner
haunts
the
mind
nothing

moments

of film
as was

Yet,
cism

was

far from

of

generally) :
of the great

..."1S
the case with

the debate

around

and was

unanimous

also

video

the video

image,

the medium's

by

guaranteed

this

extendedness,

to the fact

blind

artists and critics stressed the importance of experimenting


quality

com

in television,

role

mercial or otherwise

in the

that,

with

criti
1970s,

the indexical

simultaneous

produc

tion and projection of images, because it enabled a unique relation of copresence


(void of any delay) between the image and its referent. Such experiments were a
means

to be

to the here

attentive

and

now

or

to the otherwise

in
12.Michael Fried, "Art and Objecthood,"
Minimal Art A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory
Battcock (New York: Dutton,
1968), 124.
13. Rosalind E. Krauss, "Video: The Aesthetics of
inBattcock, New Artists Video, 45.
Narcissism,"
14. Ibid., 48.
15. Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism; or, The
Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC:
Duke University Press, 1991 ), 70-71.

between

confusion

dimension,

relationship

to-face

self

and

she was

the other,

not

stages processes of
to its relational

attentive

the fact that in tapes such as RecordingStudio fromAirtime (1973), for


the artist was

example,

cant

the

present.

fleeting

Although Krauss was right in identifying how Acconci's work

successively

that Acconci

speaks

evaluated,

depository

his

himself

as a
and

to make

partner
and

confessed,

of his work

between

relationship"

"a middle-ground,

interpellating

practice

seeks
via

area where

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about

It is also

condemned.
that

the viewer

for objects?an

the point

to establish

a monitor

a love
signifi
a "face

perceived

I, off-screen

on

as
one

can hand

side,

emphasis
curator

over

things

on

the now

Bruce

Kurtz's

to the viewer,
the viewing

of

the other

also

relationship
"the most

that

argument

on

off-screen

and

the medium

of

aspect

powerful

This

side."l6

the art critic

underlies

is its ability to transform even the events of ancient history into the flowing pre
or not what

sent, whether
live,

actually
and

a sense

taped,

the

of our

idiosyncrasies
Film,

image....

illusion

Newness,

on

programming

while

of movement,

intimacy,

commercial

sets,

its constantly

prevails
occur

constantly

frames

in

Even
tense

the present

still

complete
with

television,

involvement,

the medium.

which

'disturbances'

is

the monitor,

immediacy,
of

television,

in the

on

appears

are all characteristics

its twenty-four

with

or what

telecast,

being

tense

the present

of

prerecorded
in the

is

or filmed....

per

changing

in
is an

second,

configura

tion of dots of light, is an illusion of stillness." '7


s and

Krauss

Jameson's

are

of video

condemnations

condemnations

the

of

instantaneity (presentism and flow) otherwise defended by Kurtz and Acconci,


or any artist using the feedback capacities of themedia. But in video art this
between

dichotomy
real.

in works

Even

and

extendedness
with

that engage

is often

instantaneity

and

extendedness

real

more

than

apparent
us

time?let

think

here of the work of Nauman, Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Steina andWoody
Vasulka, Viola, Thierry Kuntzel, Madelon Hooykaas and Elsa Stansfield, Gary
Hill, Lisa Steele, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Mich?le Waquant, Douglas
Gordon, Stan Douglas, and Craigie Horsfield, to name just a few?the durational
is never

simply

of

negation

and

instantaneity

acceleration.

In Viola's

Passions

for example, the


series of video projections and LCD transmissions (2000-01),
extendedness of emotional waves enacted by different actors ismade possible by
the technical hybridization of cinematic acceleration and video deceleration. The
scenes

were

shot

on

35mm

film,

as

takes

single

and

at very

high

at rates

speed,

of up to three hundred frames per second, then transferred to digital video,


radically slowed down, edited, and played on flat screens. Video art, especially
in its recent developments, is thus not without complications in the opposition
between

space

Its temporal

and

temporalization
must

investigations

tions on the waning


contemporary

be

time

duration

spatialization,
as

seen

significant

contributions

reinforcement

To understand

of presentism.

renewed forms of video extendedness while


over

immediacy.
to reflec

of time, the fragilization of the sense of history, and the

to focus here on one of the latest international exhibitions


of video

and

its "dark

age"

of uneasy

these

overdy manifesting

acceptance

and

near

aspects,

Iwant

to have shown

OB

the victory

condemnation:

the

Fifty-first Venice Biennale.


"

In continuity

16.Vito Acconci,
10-Point Plan For Video,"
Schneider and Korot, 8-9.
17. Bruce Kurtz, "The Present Tense," in
Schneider and Korot, 234-35.

in

with

but

even more

so

than

the previous

two

"o'
IL

Biennales,

video was present everywhere in the 200 c Venetian display of technological


or
heterogeneity, from the simple video projection to themore hybrid video
film screen projection on DVD (digital video disk), notably in Rosa Martinez's

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Arsenale exhibition, Always a LittleFurther,where video comprised nearly half of


the exhibited works. But in all sections of the Biennale, circulating through the
rooms

and

meant

pavilions
by one-,

occupied

around

moving

or

six-screen

two-,

screens

large

-monitor

or

rooms

entering
itmeant

installations;

solely

walking

on floors or alongside walls illuminated by video representations, lying down


under a ceiling transformed by the kaleidoscopic display of electronic landscapes
(Pipilotti Rist, Homo sapienssapiens,200c), or looking inside cardboard boxes with
video images projected within (Blue Noses, Quest, 200c), often accompanied by
the soundtrack of the next video work further down. The Biennale showed how
at this
point,

much,
tecture

to water

surface

any

can

suffice

(Rebecca

for projection,

Fountain,

Bellmore,

screen

from

to train wagons

200c)

to archi

(Xu Zhen,

Shout, 2ooc), and how the present field of video art includes both established and
younger artists from everywhere. Initially disparaged (but also revered) for its
of border-temporalities,

exploration

the parent pauvre of

television,

for

pleonasm

video

art

significant

proliferation

to this

related

tion

or

their

accepted

by

can be made

which

the medium

risks

remarginalizing
Martha

confirmed

has meant

which

Rosler's

the acceptance

"can

live"

only

social

orientation,

in spacious

and

negativity,

as a

anticipation

of video

spaces, to the detriment of single-channel

community-activist

and
the art

to explain
of the history of

of video

projections,

large-screen

equipped exhibition

institutions

of video and the depreciation

the event

First,

practice.

the "museumization"

widely

three observations

proliferation,

that

art

by

art.

contemporary

In light of the 200c Biennale,


the quasi-tyr?nnical

is now

video

increasingly since the 1990s, to the point of

system. It has been proliferating


becoming

both

marginalized

cinema,

installa

and well

pieces known for

lighter

use

tech

of

nology.'8 Second, the generalized integration of DVDs also made palpable the
impact of the digital revolution on the burgeoning of video, the digital becom
of itsmalleability, immutability, and precise coding of data?the
ing?because
predominant mode of support for both video and film, suggesting, as already
noted by media theoretician Philippe Dubois, that video, in its "pure" electronic
form,

came

only

two
18.Martha Rosler, "Video: Shedding the Utopian
Moment," in Illuminating Video: An Essential Guide
to Video Art, ed. Doug Hall and Sally Jo Fifer (New
York and San Francisco: Aperture and the Bay
Area Video Coalition,
1990), 44 and 49.
19. Philippe Dubois, "La question vid?o face au
cin?ma: d?placements esth?tiques," inGn?ma et

to occupy

established

strongly
'9
tal. While
video

represents

and marginal

transitory,

fragile,

image-and-sound
information

technologies,

between

position
cinema

as a continuous

flux

and
of

the digi
data

analogue

to be displayed on an electronic screen, digital sensors transform luminous


data in a temporal succession of calculable binary digits (bits) that can adopt
the value
rial

of

continuity

derni?res technologies, ed. Frank Beau, Philippe


Dubois, and G?rard Blanc (Issy-les-Moulineaux,
France, and Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: INA and
De Boeck Universit?,
1998).
20. Andr? Rouill?, La Photographie (Paris:

origin.20The

Gallimard, 2005), 614-17.

transmission

1 or o. Hence,
or

contact

as Andr?
between

Rouill?
things

has
and

argued,

images

is a mate

there

although
at the moment

of

capture,

the recorded image ismade entirely from mathematical symbols to be adminis


trated by programming
3
systems that disconnect the image from itsmaterial
mathematical
to the other,

coding
while

means
the analogue

that data
signal

remains
weakens

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the

same

in time.

from

one

The

digital,

introduces

moreover,

which

malleability

surpasses

not

imagery:

analogue

only can the images now circulate, endlessly and rapidly, from one digital site
to another,

as these

inasmuch

modified

are

reframed,

(retouched,

related

links,

by digital

partially

suppressed,

can

they

also
or

fragmented,

be

easily
reassem

this brings us to
bled). The in-between, fleeting status of analogue video?and
more
the third observation?is
reinforced all the
by the extensive use of digital
technology as amere media support deprived of any critical questioning of
viewer

narration,

representation,

and, more

interrogation,

time,

significant,

as

though earlier video had never occurred and could not thus be the historical
on which

basis

to

established

cleavage

between

awareness.

When

one

becomes
structural,

the main

of

media

works.

institutional acceptance of digital video installation has

The sweeping
of historical

new

produce

optical,

media

reaches

and

electronic

arts,

stage

of omniscience,

this

art, used

of

narrative,

temporal,

recent

and

early
video

depreciation

mosdy
sound

it

when

as a support

which

from

are dismissed,

investigations

it disappears. It is not thatwe are facing yet another "end" (following the
alleged end of history or painting). Rather, video art becomes merely a digital
of our

extension

lives where

digital

should

they

more

the

how

hows

one

could

better

crisis

not

to abolish

context,

screen

other

be processed,

as towhy

cannot

media

into

and

as or

be

the Biennale's

appreciate

the

of

screen.

Screen (200c),

Matias

even

which
a shot

ends with

a camera

activates
of

a blank,

black

that films

DVD
the

was

screen,

that

works
of

silencing

to think about the whys

one-minute

Foldbakken's

video
a form

to articulate

it, but

the viewer aware of the critical necessity

thatmade

and

and

can

legitimate.
In this

put

so and
why

be

or word

sound,

image,

atwill, but leaving us perplexed

played out, or manipulated


how

any

video

inside

projection,
a cinema

of

in this

pivotal

and
Black

theater
as was

regard,

Mark Raidpere's video projection ShiftingFocus (200c), showing himself with his
mother, first adjusting the camera for focus, then slipping into a confessional
in which

mise-en-situation
secret.

intimate
process,

The

he
scene

actual

of

the viewer's

frustrating

instances

video

when

expectation

succeeds,

among others, in keeping


itself

as a

that

shaped

cut out
not

and more

generated

with

images,

(administrative,

other
or

media?be

architectural

scientific,

artistic,

by

painful,

the editing

during

only

its progressive

despite

the

reduction

its historical development

still has

to say about

something

representation. Entering its digital phase, video is destined


more

to be

scenario

but

that ShiftingFocuspartly reproduces. These

in touch with

in mutation

practice

was

confession

also by reality TV and InternetWebcams


are

seems

to share what

attempts

it film,

painting,

components?and
popular)

image,

sound,

interwoven
or

digitally

time

I
o'
C
3
61

and

computer
with

any

assisted

activity. As such, there is no point in trying to single out the specificity of video

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o?

to affirm

to be hybridized

photography,
to be

to a support

Mark

still from Shifting Focus,


Raidpere,
9 min. 30 sec. (art
2005, video projection,
work ? Mark Raidpere;
photograph
provid
ed by Centre
for Contemporary
Arts,

art except

Estonia)

Bolter

to notice

can

that video

not to

be made

inform it in specific ways through its own history.


In a pivotal book published in 2000, the new-media
and Richard

coined

any new medium

inwhich

as Marshall

and,

Grusin

the word

can

in the
digital,

disappear

specialists JayDavid
to refer

"remediation"

to the ways

is always both a refashioning of an earlier medium

McLuhan

had

observed,

already

novelty

understood

through

previous media novelties.21 This field of research is crucial in that it not only rec
the

ognizes

at

remediation

in any

play

new

evolving

medium

the historical

(i.e.,

debt of new media

toward earlier media) but also experiments with the aesthetic


at
possibilities
play in themeeting of temporal and nontemporal media. The use
of the digital is crucial here since it opens up video to other media in away that
can

potentially

renew

all media

involved.

is the case,

Such

of

notably,

Shahzia

Sikander's SpiNN (2003) wall painting and DVD installation, which show both
painting can gain aesthetically through activation by the layering,

how much
loss,

and

and

21. JayDavid Bolter and Richard Grusin,


Remediation: Understanding New Media
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).

ality,

of

reemergence

ed when

powerful
and

the

Temporalized
interpretation

electronic

it is interwoven with
development

of narrative

by video, Sikander's painting


recalling

of

the

tradition

how

video

art can

be

complicat

traditions known for their sustained

forms

that have

intercultural?areas
3

as the

and

images,

rich pictorial

of

occupied

is asmuch
of

of

representation
video

since

identity,
its

beginnings.

about the perception

Indo-Persian

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miniature

sexu

and

painting.

Shahzia

still from SpINN 1,2003,


Sikander,
with sound, 6 min. 38 sec,
digital animation
dimensions
variable
(artwork ? Shahzia
Sikander;
photograph
provided
by Sikkema
Jenkins & Co., New York City)

The tradition is enlivened by the undecided tension between aWash wall paint
ing and a digital animation projected onto that surface, the projection setting
into play an uninterrupted flow of images of imps, lovers, and birdlike flying
shapes (the black hairdos of the evanescent nude gopis), sampled both from
traditional

imaginary

and mass

that emerge

media,

gradually changing background of aMughal


veils

projection
scene

with

temporality

and

another

reveals,
to alter

adds
our

in the construction

and

as it also

retracts

perception
of meaning.

from

and

dissolve

against

throne room and a landscape. The

of

reads

the whole

The

200c

and
Biennale

and

one

transposes

suggest
showed

a sense

of

that new

in a critical understanding of media history,


does provide vibrant experimentations
that both inscribe themselves and renew
video art's investigation of time. As I hope to show through further examination
of some of the key works of the Biennale, when engaged in such investigations,

media

art, when

it is embedded

video art can still provide strong insights as to the evolution of the image. It is
when

it addresses

time,

interestingly,

that

it succeeds

in

doing

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so. To demonstrate

Candice

Breitz, stills from Mother,


2005,
13min.
15 sec,
installation,
variable
(artwork ? Candice
Breitz; photographs
Fahl,
by Alexander
Francesca
provided
by Galleria
Kaufmann)
six-channel
dimensions

Iwill

this,

on

focus

the loop?that
a sense

provides

two

aesthetic

temporal

and

strategies?decontextualization

best disclose how video art endowed with historical awareness


of

to the

futurity

image.

Decontextualization
The Biennale presented several works which show how the field of video art is
currently engaged in original investigations of what Iwould call, for lack of a
better

This

decontextualization.

word,

mimetic

aesthetic

procedure

understanding

the

three types of

In the

and mutability.

extendedness,

temporalities?instantaneity,

redefines

substantially

of the image. It does so by connecting

late

1970s,

Dara Birnbaum produced a series of single-channel tapes, including Technology/


WonderWoman (1978) and Kiss theGirls:Make ThemCry (1979), which
Transformation:
an aesthetic

devised
tions

of

of

strategy
The works

femininity.

to deconstruct

appropriation

short

appropriated

televisual
from

sequences

and quiz shows and replayed them by repeating selected fragments


discursive

constructions

Candice

of

twin

Breitz's

sented at the Biennale,


but move

priation

otherwise

gender

six-monitor

video

sit-coms,

to disclose

in the narrative

impalpable

installations

representa

soaps,

and

Mother

flow.

Father (200c),

pre

inscribe themselves fully in Birnbaum 's strategy of appro

toward

reorchestrations

linguistic

the pirated

of

material.

Appropriating from Hollywood films not sequences or fragments but mere


instants of statements or phonemes uttered by famous actors (including Meryl
Streep and Julia Roberts for Mother and Steve Martin and Dustin Hoffman for
Father),Breitz digitally cuts these instants from their initial contexts, sets them
against

a black,

them

in the new

neutral

in "dialogue" with

in that

critique

many

isolation

of DJ pirating

terms,
turn

the

into

them

nization,

new

and

talking

about.

reply

of meaning.

are

arranged

of
These

versions

to reactivate
to one

another

are

the
and

become

are made

the
too

from

in visual
instants

excerpted

in this

create,
Kurtz

as

read merely

the equivalent,

which

Instantaneity,

be

statements

the

but

Ameri

constructs?here,
can never

narratives
a way

sampling,
that

discursive

orchestration

as smooth

heads

plasma

relocates

finally

screens

the process of appropriation does have

fatherhood?it

comes

version

and

possibilities

and

and

repeats,

replays,

where

to disclose

'swork,

to function

syncopes

then

installation,

motherhood

a new

by which

the

each other. Although

about

fantasies

means

of

as in Birnbaum

the effect,
can

and

background,

context

and

reorga
in

designated

1976 as "the most powerful aspect" of video ("its ability to transform even the
events of ancient history into the flowing present") is explored here in its narra
tive potential,
The

concept

as a way
of

to reinvent

representation

narrative
as a

through

sampling

the practice

procedure

also

of

sampling.

discloses

the

3
role of the image in the increasing interdependence of fiction and reality in
(post)modern societies. What Gilles Deleuze has said about the time-image of

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time's

reversing

is

still be

explored

in a critical

and

tension,

art when

in video

Fiction

terms.22

nonoptical

for one

to substitute

but

another,
us

this brings

the main

of

by

effects

of

the real and the imaginary?

between

problematized

in nonmimetic,

investigated

another

to as

transposable

time

of

representation

that one

and

to abolish the distinction

so much

tion

the direct

to movement,

subordination

this reversal was


is not

it articulated

cinema?that

post-Neorealist

can

also

representa

and

to Antoine

one

to chase
HD

Prum's

can

reality

be made

video

3cmm single-screen projection MondoVeneziano:


High Noon in theSinkingCity (200c).
A narrative of theVenice Biennale itself, the work stages?in
the city of Venice?
four

the field

of

specialists

a critic,

(a curator,

and

painter,

a "convivial"

artist)

engaged in a debate about contemporary art. It proposes a fictional world that


looks real but whose artificiality progressively becomes manifest and whose high
level

raises

of fiction

the question

completely

on

statements

readymade

who

protagonists,

art and
read

often

the

of

appropriations

set

stage

feature

situated

films.

lines

it can never

reality

as

in a rehearsal,

though

is also

"Venice"

gradually

inhabitants or water),

in a southern

town

are

inserted

Prum's

are uttered

they

although

the

by

the assemblage

that it is only the credits at the end that reveal the

statements.

ality: empty and dry (without


large

But

culture.

their

is so logical in its interweaving

of

to a

relation

of fiction's

absorb. The debate is structured by the sampling and assemblage of

images

in its fiction

exposed

the city is a fake Venice?a

of Luxembourg,

used

in a continuous

the making

for
of

logic

the

confu

sion of fiction and reality, a logic that is inseparable from the digital revolution.
As Rouill? has observed, digital malleability implies that the image can easily be
and

is even

expected

to be modified?further

amateur

any

fictionalized?by

pro

the help of a variety of image-processing


techniques. While this leads
him to conclude that the truth function of the image is slowly dying, Mondo
ducer with

Veneziano

This

transformed.
the artists
section

on

shows

the contrary

to search

continue

on

an

that

even more

becomes

for

truth

effect

in a state

persists,

toward

manifest

the definition

live body,

apparently

this

of
of

albeit

the end

art, one

complete

actor

substantially

of

As

the work.

a dis

performs
This

indifference.

pro

jection does not end the blurring of fiction and reality, but does succeed in
challenging it by bringing into contact art and the body, the latter as the element
though which the fictional and entertainment value of art (the persistent laws of
transgression that support the consecration of the artist) are disclosed
into

and called

question.

at play in the sampling procedure, which


The process of decontextualization
I argue is significandy tied to investigations of temporality, also has the effect of
abrupdy separating the image from its referent or the represented action from its
3
cause. Nikos Navridis's
looped video projection Difficult Breathno.41 (2004) makes
22. Gilles Deleuze, Gn?ma 2?L'image-temps
(Paris: ?ditions de Minuit, 1985). 15,93-94,

that rupture explicit in its brief deployment


108.

who

drink

water

and

then

spit

it out

of a group of female performers

at the very moment

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when

the

camera

Dean, still from Vofto, 2002-03,


Stephen
video-DVD
loop, stereo sound, 9 min.
Dean; photograph
(artwork ? Stephen
by Galerie Xippas,
provided
Paris)

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removes
water

them
slowly

moving

argue

about

would

the frame.

from

the

remaining,

so much
the act of

favoring

quite

the event

not

digital,

to the event,

autonomy

The

in mid-air?cuts

poetic

to negate

sequence?sparkling

source

the

as

to

an

provide

on what

to focus

forgetting

as Rouill?

its source,

from

is other

invisible and impalpable: the evolution of breath in time, its power yet
inevitable ending, together with the choreographic dimension of droplets of spit

wise

in space.

is, as such,

Breath

an extended

instant.

one-screen

three

Dean's

Stephen

video projections, Pulse (2001), Vblta (2002), and Bloco (2004), also proceed with
decontextualization
by cutting not the cause but the referent from the image,
screen
the
with
images of dense crowds inmotion, which makes it
flooding
to
detach the representation from themateriality of the screen.While
impossible
are

these

crowd,
with

strong

remain

the crowds

carnival),

the electronic

so

signals,

of mass

images

documentary

events
and

abstract

that what

becomes

units

tend
is not

important

a soccer

rite,

(a religious
their

to merge
the explana

tion of the events but their existence as a pixelized chromatic unfolding that
conveys the unpredictable passages from euphoria and ecstasy to disappointment
and silence. Showing no interest in providing a sociological, anthropological,
or psychological understanding of crowds, Dean's work conveys aesthetically
the sensuality and unpredictability of crowds by focusing on their affective
the disruption

Hence,

mutability.

of

or

the cause-and-effect

rela

image-referent

tion becomes yet another temporal strategy: away to disclose the imperceptible
mutation of things (be they breaths or affects). Extendedness here doesn't come
the extension

from

as

of duration,

in early

but

video,

from

the very

of

practice

decontextualization.

The

Loop

how much the loop has become a key mechanism


in the task of addressing the viewer through time. Itwas certainly the privileged
structure for all DVD projections, usually merely as an exhibition device, but

The Biennale made manifest

as a

sometimes
the

part

genuine

artist Marina

performance

the

of

of

temporality
who

Abramovic,

In a recent

the work.

made

extensive

use

interview,
to

of video

record her performances with Ulay in the 1970s and 1980s, underlined how the
loop has introduced a temporal paradox in video, both shortening and extend
ing the length of the work:
mance

artists

uses

excessively

"These days the young generation of video or perfor


the video

media

in

loop

form.

It's interesting

see how from the 90s until now that these loops have become
From

to 3 minutes,

7 minutes

3
onds. Time has become
that

the artists

of

the

and

now

from

condensed more

1970s made

long

one

and

a half minutes

and more. What

duration

today by constructing video loops are producing

performances,

to

shorter and shorter.


to 30

sec

really is different

is

but

the artists

of

the illusion of the long process

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Willie

still from Non-Specific


Doherty,
7 min.
Threat, 2004, video projection,
46 sec. (artwork ?Willie
Doherty;
photo
and Bonin,
by Alexander
graph provided

NewYork)

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performance without going through the experience themselves."23The loop both


inscribes itself in and substantially changes early video's exploration of extended
ness

and

an action,

It extends

repetition.

but

only

one

repetition,

through

to be

perceived by the viewer but produced by the computer and not through the
actual
on

side

the

the viewer

of

It also means

that

This means

the artist.

of

performance

who

observes

the extendedness

time

of

is now

that phenomenology

a scene

its digital

through

initially

solely

repetition.

as an aesthetic

explored

strategy to disrupt its linearity (the beginning-and-end


logic) and to favor the
mentalization of the image (itsmove beyond the optical) is articulated now not
so much

to

Foster

(as Hal

representation

destroy

to Minimal

in relation

argues

ism) or to disclose myths

(following Roland Barthes's definition of the critical


mythologist,
creatively explored by Birnbaum, among others) but?and here
I follow Giorgio Agamben's own definition of repetition?to
reconstitute the
it had and make

past with the possibilities


renewed

repetition.

Willie

one-screen,

Doherty's

role?in

necessary

part?a

man

motionless

and

slowly

voice-over

articulates a looping that plays an active

this other

contained.
be no

the renewal

rotates

insistently

at least

seems,

All

look

of

I share

the white
and
the

repeats

is my

your

man?elements

your

to make

the viewer

evil.

I'm

victim.

.").The

power
self
will

There

threatening

both by the site and the skinhead, gangster


suggest

aware

gradually

as

important,
the

as the

But

malignancy.

of

of the body, the orientation


appear

and

"other"
of

are my

You

and, more

scene

the face

desires..

in

thoughts

to an

victim.

a male

stages

protagonist's

I am

Presenting

but filmed by a camera

a relation

I know

that

the body

expressions

the

about

I'm your
fears.

around

These

to express

salvation....

circles

sive movements
setded.

perception.

the projection

him,

are

statements

be no music.

will

newspapers.

at first,

death

("Your

There

around

awe of these statements is nourished

circles

the viewer's

of

standing in a dark, deserted warehouse

to the viewer.

relation
over

that

video

seven-minute-and-forty-six-second

projection Non-SpecificThreat (2004)

that

available again to

these possibilities

initially

the

reactions

and

repeats

loop

expres

imperceptible

of the words becomes


to be

camera

less and less

to the words

which

might not after all be referring to theman's thought but to the viewer's. Slowly
disclosed, therefore, is the viewer's attempt to define the face of evil in an age of
generalized terrorist threat, aswell as theways inwhich this attempt ismarked
by how media
ment
23. Marina Abramovic, quoted inKlaus
Biesenbach, "Interview with Marina Abramovic,"
inVideo Acts: Single Channel Works from the
Collections of Pamela and Richard Kramlich and the
New Art Trust, ed. Biesenbach et al (New York:
P.S. IContemporary Art Center, 2002-03),
14.

become
manifest

(and the politicians using media)

comes

disclosure

of our

loosening-up

initial

define evilness. Along with


reading

of

the man

the

to reinterpret that past and let it signify differently. The loop?which


one

of

the most

important

in the 3
Loop exhibition

modes

of presentation

in video,

at P.S. 1 in 2001-02?allows

for

cessing that can, ifwe follow the findings of recent cognitive


duration

and

experience

precisely

because

the observer

is solicited

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this
incite

has

a fact made

temporal

pro

research, lengthen
to attend

to the

time

of

related

information.24

of

a short

ment,

scene,

In other

may

lead

and

perception,

between

this has

been

the

words,

to an extension

loop,
of

to

time,

at least

time

processing

the potentially

endless

at the

show the importance of establishing


and

analogue

video

digital

claim?recent

my

resources

attentional

repetition

level

of

judge

experience.

These recent works


tion

more

to allocate

and

passage

art,

a connection
video

experimental

a historical

without

becomes

connec

which?and

either

remarginal

or simply absorbed by the digital, erasing in effect the


ized, misunderstood,
contribution
of video art to the aesthetic investigation of the image.
original
Although the analogue and the digital seem to be worlds apart, video persists
in its exploration of duration, but now focuses on the instant or the looping of
short sequences, reclaiming
introduce

mutability

the instantaneity of the video image to extend it and

in the video

situation.

Lefebvre,

torsmight well be right in their observation


have
neity

absorbed
and

permutation,

duration,

presentism.
in

spatialized
Experimental

producing

temporal

time,
video

Virilio,

that technologies

or contributed
sometimes

extendedness

and

other

to the
reign
succeeds,

even

within

this

from

investiga

of communication
of

instanta

in its

digital

realm.

Christine Ross is the James McGill Chair in the Department of Art History and Communication
Studies at
McGill University. A regular contributor to Parachute, she is the author of The Aesthetics of Disengagement
Contemporary Art and Depression (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) and Images de surface: l'art vid?o
reconsid?r? (Artextes, 1996). E-mail: christine.ross@mcgill.ca

24. See, notably, Richard A. Block, "Models


of Psychological Time," inCognitive Models of
Psychological Time, ed. Block (Hillsdale, NJ:
L Erlbaum Associates,
1990); Harvey Richard
Schiffman, Sensation and Perception: An Integrated
Approach (New York:Wiley & Sons, 2001);
and Time and Mind II: Information Processing
Perspectives, ed. Hede Helfrich (Cambridge, MA,
and G?ttingen, Germany: Hogrefe & Huber,
2003).

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