The New Yorker: A Pioneering Video-Art Curator Chronicles the Medium in Video/Art

"Video/Art: The First Fifty Years" by Barbara London. Image courtesy of Phaidon Press.

“Few guides are more qualified to lead readers through the rapid rise of the once renegade art form, which is now so ubiquitous that screens and paintings share walls in museums,” writes New Yorker editor and contributor Andrea K. Scott about Barbara London’s new publication Video/Art: The First 50 Years. London’s legacy and commitment to video art make this text crucial for tracing the rise of video art and digital media in contemporary art. Spending over forty years as MoMA’s pioneering video and media curator, London is responsible for founding MoMA’s expansive video and sound art collection. Her commitment to New York’s experimental downtown scene made her a crucial pioneering force among the likenesses of artists such as Nam June Paik, Joan Jonas, Shigeko Kubota, Lynda Benglis, and Tony Oursler, many of whom her colleagues and friends.

In her review, Scott writes: “What makes her book such a fun read is that it’s not exactly the comprehensive survey its title implies. Instead, it’s as much memoir as exegesis, an idiosyncratic front-line report from a deeply informed, intrepid, and passionate pioneer who is still in the trenches. (London now teaches graduate students at Yale, and her exhibition on sound art is about to commence a five-year tour.) Even her curatorial path was unconventional: the native New Yorker was pursuing a graduate degree in Islamic art when she traded the classroom for downtown haunts, like Max’s Kansas City, which was the Cedar Tavern of the electronic avant-garde—or ‘scenester intermedia mavericks,’ in London’s words.” To read more, click here.

Barbara London is the curator of Seeing Sound, an immersive exhibition that explores the recent trajectory of sound as a dynamic branch of contemporary art practice. The exhibition is the culmination of years of research by London, a pioneer in the field of video and new media, who now teaches in the Sound Art Department, Columbia University. It was developed with support from Nokia Bell Labs E.A.T., giving access to the latest in sonic technology and providing venues with experimental advances for the presentation of sound works. For more information about Seeing Sound, click here.

February 14, 2020

New York, NY


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.

Part of Seeing Sound

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