Looking for Video Artists (November 3, 2009)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
During the Fall of 2009, I wrote a series of blog posts about video art on YouTube. I had been asked to write an essay about this question by Ming-Yuen Ma and Erika Suderberg, the editors of Resolution 3: Video Praxis in Global Spaces, a large collection of contemporary essays on video art. With their permission, I conceived of the essay in advance, to be composed of these blogs and to be reprinted (on paper) with paltry frame grabs of YouTube videos, as a way to point to my growing discomfort about writing and publishing about YouTube offline.
"Joan Jonas's tapes draw on the essential connection between performance art and the video monitor, as time-based media especially suited to materializing the artist's psyche. Exploring the dislocation of physical space and mythical female archetypes, Jonas's work occupies an important position in the development of both early formalist and early feminist video."[cit]

Since the video camera's commercial availability in the late 1960s, video art has been a developing use of the medium. "The history of video itself is a long and ever-evolving tale, and with online media becoming dominant and new methods like walk-on-video being produced, it will no doubt continue to grow."[cit]

Fair use is "the right, in some circumstances, to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying for it. Fair use enables the creation of new culture, and keeps current copyright holders from being private censors."[cit] It is often associated with the principles of copy left ("a general method for making a program [or other work] free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well"[cit]) and open source ("development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process."[cit])
Perhaps the easiest way to find (established) video art on YouTube is to search the site using the name of an already-famous video artist. What you will find, then, is one of three possibilities:

1) Their work is not on YouTube.

2) An interview with the artist is on YouTube.

3) Their work has been (badly) copied and anonymously and probably illegally posted, in fragments and probably not with the artist's permission.

These three truisms have some associated corollaries. Most established video artists do not put their art on YouTube because it undermines what are already highly tentative (and quickly collapsing) underpinnings of the (dying) form: it is (was) at least partially financed by sales; it is (was) confirmed through institutional sanction(s); it needs to be viewed in and through controlled contexts and formats (in a white room, with a specified duration on a black box, without ads and surrounding text, and without interruption).

While the interview of the artist does contribute some sort of (positive) sanctioning function, its appearance on YouTube (as is true of everything there) follows much the same distorted logic of sanction already in place in the real world and the YouTube that records it: the more famous you are, the better chance you've actually been interviewed, that your interview can be found, and some people would think that they might want to watch it.