Curated by Jack Boulton
“In 1964, Nam June Paik bought the very first portable VCR to be sold in the United States. Ten years later, we can justly celebrate video as a medium with a history of its own. In the present decade it has become increasingly clear that video art extends beyond a new technology designed to please the human eye. It is rather used as a tool to explore the most pressing issues in contemporary art.
VIDEOART U.S.A. was born out of a grand-scale erudite and historical study of international contemporary video art, organized by the director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia Suzanne Delehanty and myself as an active collaborator. The show has already traveled to our respective institutions as well as to two other North American museums. When rethinking what the North American contribution to this exhibition should be in the Latin American leg of its itinerary, I have tried to remain true to our original intention of attesting to the variety of options explored by artists working in the field of video and of recognizing the existing relationship between these personal aesthetic representations and the enormous macro-system that is commercial television. Albeit historically oriented, VIDEOART U.S.A. aspires to remain open to the future. It is a gathering of 32 artists sharing a common technology as a point of departure. As an exhibition it has no intention to champion this new technology, seeking instead to examine the many and diverse ways artists have come to use it.
Originally, video was introduced to the fine arts as a sculptural element. Our exhibit includes two of such pieces. The first one, a Nam June Paik videotape incorporated into a sculptural environment, openly celebrates the capacity of the medium to unite disparate cultures and peoples into one would-be “worldwide village”. The second one is a work by Peter Campus, a post-minimal sculptor whose cerebral and calculated use of video explores the very nature of perception. The section of the exhibit devoted to videotapes includes sociologically inclined footage that documents and reveals aspects of our domestic life that are scorned at or dealt with superficially on commercial TV; also more technologically oriented videos focused on the research and manipulation of the medium’s electronic complexities and other “post-minimal” footage that studies or transmits the artists’ most relevant aesthetic concerns. In our inclusion of Ernie Kovacs’ work, we aim to remember the existing relationship between television broadcasting and video as art, as well as the Telethon as video coHaru, Kovacs wrote, directed and acted in the shows he produced, not unlike many artists and their video work today. Lastly, and in an effort to remember the visual impact of TV commercials, we have included one commercial by renowned artist Andy Warhol.
The temptation in a video art show is always to add one more tape, as to lengthen the show does not necessarily imply changing its spatial dimensions. We have strictly observed the norm of showing no more videos than one single, unremitting observer could handle through the course of a long day. We have also done our best to choose work that is less dependent on verbal content, which proves an obvious intelligibility obstacle for the non-English speaking viewer. With the Advent video projector, we also expect a great number of art goers to enjoy an ample cross-section of the work shown. On their end, the more dedicated observers will have a chance to see more work in greater detail thanks to the small monitors set up throughout the expository space.”
Introduction to VIDEOART U.S.A. catalogue, 1975