Do you remember the first time you watched television? Is it a remarkable story in your life? You may be able to answer these questions positively, so it is very unlikely. This is because the audiovisual as well as its narrative are things that we have been used to dealing with ever since.

Perhaps, if you are from an older generation, your first contact with video may be something that guarantees memory. But for the youngest, video is as normal as breathing. In this text, we will address a small part of a very broad subject that is video: a video art.

It is interesting to know that the human being always gets to know an art with technology, a video art is a living proof of that. In this text, we will understand concepts, applications and mainly, get to know artists who drink from the video source in their works, or video artists.

A brief look at video art

Nothing better than understanding the history of a subject to make a complete immersion in its details and to understand better what it is about. So, let's start the definition by explaining a little about the historical context of video art.

First of all, it is necessary to understand that in the late 1960s, the reduction in costs and the dissemination of video meant that there was an incentive for non-commercial use of the medium. This means that filming is no longer just an expensive and complex process, but an activity that could be done in a home, for example. Of course, in the beginning, it wasn't just anyone who could buy, but the fact is that video is no longer a monopoly of large companies.

Artists could not be left out of this popularization of the tool, could they? Adherence was even more prevalent in the works of artists who already dealt with photographic and filmic images. Anyway, this means that, before, everything that was lost in time, now starts to be registered. Be it in any modality like dance, music, painting, theater, sculpture and literature.

Previously associated with other media and languages, video as well as television, entered the art universe with everything. Pop-art, minimalism and conceptual art took shape and grew to the point where they took over the scene between the 60s and 70s, with greater force in the United States. In addition to performances and happenings being recorded, the installations gained large monitors / projectors that turned the video itself into an elementary language in the production of modern and contemporary art.

So, to summarize a concept, understand that video art is a segment of expression of art that makes use of video technology in works of visual arts. It is also important to remember that video art and cinema are not related and, later, you will understand what is the difference between video art and cinema.

What is the origin of video art?

As we said earlier, video art emerged in the 1960s with the diffusion and reduction of video costs. And at that time, it is impossible to talk about the origin of video art without mentioning Wolf Vostell, a crucial figure in video art whose pioneering work is given by the work Sun in your head in 1963 and also with the installation 6 TV Dé-Coll / age also from 1963. But it was in 1968 that video art with its videos emerged in exhibitions around the world. At first, it came as another way of experimenting with new media for different artists to apply in their works of art.

Starting in the 70s, the first multichannel video art project appeared, that is, it used many monitors or screens. This work was Ira Schneider and Frank Gilette's Wipe Circle, and it was the first video work to combine live images from gallery visitors, images captured from TV commercials and footage from pre-recorded video tapes. In it, the material alternates from one monitor to another, creating an elaborate choreography. Because of this, it was the inauguration of the direct participation of the public with the work, considering that whoever visited the exhibition was also part of the work.

The 90s is already considered the golden age of video art, because it was there that it became popular even for a younger audience, with the inauguration of MTV Americana. Who hasn't traveled watching the commercials?

Video art and cinema: understand the differences

Perhaps at the beginning of this text you must have thought that we would take a walk just to say that video art and cinema are the same thing. But the fact is that they are not the same. Let's understand what differs them.

Let's think about an experimental video. This type of video aims to try to create a script that has in its structure a cinematic language of plot. Video art, on the other hand, chooses to show sensations that completely symbolize an idea, a synthetic overview of what you want to go through, which dispenses with the importance of time, image quality or plot and characters.

Another point that will differentiate cinema from video art is that video art does not specifically share the perspective of exhibition in dark rooms, comfortable chairs and all those elements that transform cinema into a very unique experience.

Meet 5 great video art artists

Having said the main things about video art, it is time to list here 5 great artists who were important names for video art. Know a little about Nam June Paik, Pipilotti Rist, Yang Fudong, Keith Sonnier and Joan Jonnes.

Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik was a South Korean artist considered the forerunner of video art where, since 1960, he worked with the media to produce art. He mainly used television and video, but he also used facilities and satellites. In his works, Nam June Paik explores the link between material media and artistic disciplines. He was one of the first to realize that video and television had great potential for creating new artistic paths.

Paik managed to mix the expressive capacity of performance with the new technologies of the moving image. Furthermore, in his works, he uses television a lot, not only as a medium but also as an object of a sculptural character, in order to subvert the conventional use of the apparatus through the creation of new arts.

In addition to TV and video, as we said earlier, Paik also used other technological influences in his works such as satellites.

Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist is the big name of Switzerland when it comes to video art. Beginning his career in the 80s, Rist created videos to compose concert scenarios, but his work stopped being background to star in the universe of video art.

As a rule, his work is described as surreal, intimate and abstract art. In it, Rist has a concern for the female body and because of that, his art is classified as feminist art. In addition to addressing gender, sexuality and human body issues.

One of his great works is “I am not the girl who is missing a lot” from 1986. In it, Rist dances facing a camera in a black dress and with bare breasts, with monochrome and confused images. Rist repeatedly sings "I am not the girl who is missing a lot" as a parody of the first line of the Beatles song "Happiness is a warm gun". As the video reaches sunset, the volume decreases until silence is reached.

Yang Fudong

Born in Beijing in 1971, Fudong is considered one of the most notorious contemporary artists in China. His work explores historical, social and political themes. In addition to Yang being a big fan of the abstract and fragmented plot, where he tended to create long sequences with the massive use of black and white.

In the late 1990s, his work was exposed in China through the most important avant-garde exhibitions and, as a result, replicated in several other countries. This includes solo performances at major institutions such as Parasol Unit, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Society of Asia in New York among many other places.

Keith Sonnier

Keith Sonnier was a post-minimalist artist who used various media and techniques such as performance, video, sculpture, painting and so on. Here for this text, we will emphasize without work in the field of video art.

Sonnier was very important in building concepts with a certain breadth. When his career began, Sonnier disassociated the simply mathematical proportions from minimalism to create works that were no longer divided by mathematics, but by the sensations and perceptions they brought.

Joan Jonas

Born on July 13, 1936, Joan Jonas is a visual artist also considered one of the pioneers in video art and performance. In addition, Jonas is one of the most important female artists who appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With that, Jonas had experiments that served as the basis for many video performance arts.

He has done his work in various places and institutions such as the Minneapolis Walker Art Center, The Kitchen in New York, San Francisco Art Museum, Bern Art Museum, Los Angeles Rosamund Felsen Gallery, among many others.


Did you learn more about video art? Did you understand that cinema and video art are not the same thing? We hope so. I hope you know more and more about this wonderful subject in the art world and that brought us a new look at art.