Descriptions of Programs, Barbara London (1984, 1997)

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Descriptive Overview of Programs Barbara London 1997
The MOMA opened in 1929 dedicated to presenting contemporary art. The first video exhibition, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age was presented in 1968. Included was Lindsay Tape by Nam June Paik, an installation using tape loop.

The Projects exhibition series began in 1971 and included works by Keith Sonier, Peter Campus, Shigeko Kubota and Bill Viola. In 1974 the Museum established an on-going video exhibition program in a specifically-designed gallery. In 1977 the Museum began the Video Viewpoints lecture series. The talks by artists have been transcribed and are available in the Video Study Center. At approximately the same time, the Museum began an acquisition program, purchasing artists= tapes. The Video Study Center was opened in 1984, and available to scholars by appointment. It includes exhibition catalogs, periodicals and journals, artist films, rare ephemeral materials and documentation about the earliest video activities internationally. The Video Study Collection contains more than 800 titles. The Department of Film and Video Preservation Center is located off-site and houses the collection in ideal storage conditions.

Barbara London, Associate Curator, Video, Department of Film and Video, Museum of Modern Art.
Library of Congress Television and Video Preservation 1997: vol 5, October 1997. Pp.79-83

Video Art Independent Video and The Museum of Modern Art
Barbara London 1984

Video, a highly versatile electronic imaging process, has permeated all aspects of contemporary life. Most people are aware only of video's role as a powerful mass medium, produced and distributed commercially as television. Yet video also has vast potential as a poetic form of self-expression. For nearly 20 years, independent videomakers have explored the boundaries of the technology and as a result have been able to produce individual expressive statements in video that reflect concerns ranging from the personal to the political.

Even though the medium itself is so accessible, videomakers have been limited as to where they have been able to show their work. Excluded from most regular broadcast programs, the independent has pursued screening opportunities in galleries, on public and cable television, and at filmlvideo festivals, all of which provide only modest exposure and nominal remuneration. Today, as a result of increased interest in gaining access to larger audiences (and better funding), some artists are adapting the polished style of broadcast programming for artistic and political use.

While it is their financial resources that determine the equipment they use, in theory videomakers have unlimited technical options. Now that it is possible to join even low-end video systems with more sophisticated computers and image-processing equipment, the medium offers almost inexhaustible creative potential. Broadcast-quality equipment has been largely confined to corporate and commercial studios because of its high cost, whereas consumer video cameras and recording decks are readily available and relatively inexpensive. Although artists begin their experimentations with the latter, they invariably upgrade their equipment as they seek precision, particularly in editing.

It is at The Museum of Modern Art, which was established over 50 years ago as an educational institution, that independent video is seen as part of a cultural continuum beginning with late nineteenth and early twentieth-century precursors. Here, videotapes by such artists as Nam June Paik and Bill Viola are studied in the context of other artwork, including Stieglitz's Steerage, Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon, Griffith's Way Down East, and Corbusier's Villa Savoye--photography, painting, film and architecture, respectively. The Museum not only presents the best new video, representing various genres, to today's audiences, but also collects and preserves the work for future generations. In addition, through its new Circulating Video Library with over 50 titles, the Museum is committed to disseminating information about the field to universities, libraries, museums, and festivals.

It was in the late 1960s that the Museum first responded to independent video activity and began exhibiting artists' experimentations with early portable video cameras and image processors. As artists' video has developed in direct relation to technology's advances, the Museum's Video Program has expanded within the Department of Film to include independent as well as commercial productions. Through the ongoing video exhibition program and the "Video Viewpoints" lecture series, over 350 videotapes and 10 installations by independents from 20 countries have been shown. The museum has also presented a range of television productions, most recently the British Advertising Broadcast Awards and the New York World Television Festival. The Museum's video collection consists of over 150 videotapes by independents from the United States and abroad. It also includes approximately 300 broadcast works, such as awardwinning commercials, made-for television films, and programs with noted figures from the art world, such as Frank Lloyd Wright in an interview with Hugh Downs.

Through the recent building expansion project, the Museum has been able to continue its leadership role in education. Video exhibitions are already being featured in the expanded first-floor galleries. In November the Museum will open the new Video Study Center, which contains the extensive tape collection and the comprehensive printed archive. (Videotapes in the Study Center will be available on 1/2-inch cassette, exhibition copies on 3/4-inch cassette, and preservation copies mastered on 1-inch and disc.) In this research facility scholars will be able to examine how particular videotapes are constructed, study related scripts and storyboards, and read collected interviews with artists, as well as examine various individual, group, and festival catalogs. Both the earliest and most current periodicals will be available, as will ephemeral materials such as exhibition announcements, flyers and artists' biographies.

The Study Center will make it possible for more researchers and writers to give serious consideration to independent video productions, helping an already interested public understand the field more fully. Committed to this ongoing assembly of research materials for the video archives, the Museum continues to examine the past and be sensitive to new directions.

In the coming years the Museum will work with other video archives (Anthology Film Archives, New York; Long Beach Museum, Long Beach, California; V/Tapes, Toronto; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kijkhuis, the Hague) to establish video preservation policies and create an international cataloging system far video. By having a common computerized video classification system, researchers will be able to locate obscure titles in the far-flung collections.

As video continues to be a versatile and challenging form for artists, the collection of videotapes and video installations at the Museum will grow. The video exhibition and lecture programs are being expanded, and more viewers are coming to the Museum specifically to see independent video. This art-oriented audience is visually literate about video, having been exposed for many years to television, video recorders, video games and computers at home. To encourage the public's understanding of independent video, the Museum hopes to sell artists' video on ih-inch cassette in its shop, along with video and film publications.

Whether artists have used the simplest or most sophisticated video equipment, whether they have made fact appear to be fiction or fiction fact, the successful video work engages the viewer and makes an eloquent statement that could not be expressed in any other form. Today independent videomakers occupy a special pioneering position as the medium is about to merge with the commercial film industry. These artists need to be encouraged for their visionary innovations. This is the role of the Museum.

Group Name: 
Museum of Modern Art Video and Film Program
Group Dates: 
- present
Group Location: 
New York City, New York