ARTnews: Curator Barbara London Charts Video Art’s Rise as One of Today’s Dominant Mediums

ARTnews and Seeing Sound curator Barbara London sat down to discuss London’s recent publication of Video/Art: The First Fifty Years, her pioneering exhibition at MoMA Video Art: A History in 1983, and the evolution of her career amongst a fast-changing media landscape in New York City:

“A big change for everybody came in the ’80s when you had collectors like Peter Norton, who developed and sold the Norton antivirus software. I was very observant of someone like him, who was comfortable with technology. When there was a visit to his New York home at some point, maybe in the early ’90s, he had a laptop in his study with videos by artists playing. Up to that point, many museums were nervous. What is this? How do we take care of it? It was the biggest museums, like MoMA, SFMOMA, and Tate, that helped create a position in their conservation departments that would help take care of these materials. There was a shift so the tools were easier to use; the software gets better and better and smoother and smoother. Where are the ideas, or what makes a good work? You still have to slow down and ask those questions.”

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January 13, 2020


Barbara London

Barbara London is a New York-based curator and writer, who founded the Video-media Exhibition & Collection Programs at The Museum of Modern Art. Her book Video Art/The First Fifty Years (Phaidon) was released in January 2020. London was the first to integrate the Internet as part of curatorial practice, with Stir-fry (1994); Internyet (1998); and (1999.) and organized one-person shows with such media mavericks as Laurie Anderson, Peter Campus, Teiji Furuhashi, Gary Hill, Joan Jonas, Shigeko Kubota, Nam June Paik, Song Dong, Steina Vasulka, Bill Viola, and Zhang Peili. Her thematic exhibitions at MoMA included Soundings: A Contemporary Score (2013); Looking at Music (2009); Video Spaces (1995); Music Video: the Industry and Its Fringes (1985); and Video from Tokyo to Fukui and Kyoto (1979).

London teaches in the Sound Art Department, Columbia University, and previously taught in the Graduate Art Department, Yale, 2014-2019. Her honors include: Getty Research Institute scholar, 2016; the Courage Award, Eyebeam, 2016; Gertrude Contemporary Residency, Melbourne, 2012; Dora Maar House Residency, Menerbes, 2010; a CEC Artslink award in Poland, 2003; a Japanese government Bunkacho Fellowship, 1992-93; and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, 1988-89.

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