Intro:

In 1967, Sony Corporation’s Portapak, an affordable and portable recording video camera featuring instant playback, became commercially available to the public. It launched a revolution in image-making among artists. A new medium, called “Video Art,” emerged in a time of unusually intense cultural turmoil, an era characterized by mass anti-war protests, shocking political assassinations, and liberation movements among black Americans, Native Americans, women, and gays. Television sets had become nearly ubiquitous in households, and the first telecommunication satellites were bringing live imagery from around the world into people’s homes.  At its inception, Video Art explored the body of the artist, complexity of the mind, inequalities fostered by gender, and political prejudice, in a time when it became clear that television spoke more to the public than did still images hung on white walls.  The ready accessibility of the new cameras and the ease of spreading knowledge through television made video the perfect medium for an art form that addressed the concerns of a shifting society.

Video Art cannot be classified among the traditional plastic arts, but connects more appropriately to the temporal arts of music, theater, performance, and dance. Influenced by these time-based forms of expression, Video Art embraces all the significant art movements of recent times – conceptual, abstract, minimal, performance, pop art, digital art, and photography – and yet it departs from the art historical categories into a new technological domain. Today, many video artists are interested in how technology can manipulate the way time is experienced via the moving image, breaking the barriers between expressions of past, present, and future events.

As a contemporary art institution, the Henry Art Gallery is committed to collecting video work, which continues to be a relevant art form since its inception in the mid 1960s. The Henry’s collection holds video works by such prominent artists as Nathan Blake, Candice Breitz, Dora Garcia, Ann Hamilton, Gary Hill, Martin Kersels, Bruce Nauman, Nic Nicosia, Will Rogan, Bill Viola, and Gillian Wearing.

Misa Jeffereis

(Martin Kersels: Hey Man!)

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Martin Kersels (U.S., b. 1960)

Hey Man! [film still]. 1995

Videocassette player, videotape, monitor, and speakers

Henry Art Gallery, gift from the Collection of Steven Johnson and Walter Sudol, 2007.73.1 A–2

Martin Kersels’ Hey Man consists of a tiny LCD monitor hung on a wall between two speakers that project into the viewer’s personal space and blast music directly into his or her ears. One must insert one’s self into the piece in order to see the screen, which displays the rotund artist dancing and shedding his clothes to exotic pop music. The impossibility of deciphering the miniscule video image truly makes his striptease a tease. This video represents the Los Angeles-based artist’s interest in exploring the irony in his work in charming and challenging ways.

(Will Rogan: Collapse)

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Will Rogan (U.S., b. 1975)

Collapse [film still]. 2007

Single‑channel DVD; Length: 21:26 minutes

Henry Art Gallery, Purchased with funds from Edie Adams and Bill Gaylord, 2008.178

Courtesy of the artist

Filmed in Tokyo, Collapse follows two youths riding a scooter through narrow urban streets. The figure on the back of the scooter carries a mirror that reflects the city behind them, resulting in the camera’s capturing the “just past” as well as what lies ahead. As the artist writes, “the video allegorizes the city of Tokyo, a place that is both ancient and modern, that is speeding into the future while always maintaining an image of its past.”

(Nic Nicosia: Middletown)

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Nic Nicosia (U.S., b. 1951)

Middletown [film still]. 1997

DVD from VHS video with sound; Length: 15 minutes

Henry Art Gallery, purchased with funds from Clint Willour, 99.5 A–C

Middletown takes the viewer on a winding driving tour of the Dallas suburb Middletown, the artist’s hometown. The video’s leisurely pace enables viewers to reflect on all that is superficial and mundane in our everyday surroundings. The video is nearly devoid of humans, and the circus-like musical soundtrack leaves viewers with an eerie feeling of isolation. Middletown fits into the artist’s larger body of voyeuristic work by focusing on a skeptical meditation on the American dream of middle-class suburbia.

(Ann Hamilton: (dissections ... they said it was an experiment . video))

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Ann Hamilton (U.S., b. 1956)

(dissections ... they said it was an experiment . video) [film still]. 1988, published 1993

30 minute video disk, LCD screen and video disk player, color toned image

3 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. image and screen size

Henry Art Gallery, gift of William and Ruth True, 97.201 A–E

Ann Hamilton’s (dissections…they said it was an experiment • video) is one of a series of four videos that show isolated parts of the body trying to carry out the tasks of swallowing, hearing, speaking, or eating. In all four pieces the intrusion of a natural substance alters the body’s ability to function in a normal capacity – in this case water inundates the mouth. The profusion water in this piece intensifies Hamilton’s exploration of the body’s thresholds in the four-part series.

(Dora Garcia: La Lección Respiratoria (The Breathing Lesson))

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Dora Garcia (Belgium, b. Spain, 1965)

La Lección Respiratoria (The Breathing Lesson) [film still]. 2001

Video with stereo sound; Length: 16 minutes

Henry Art Gallery, Henry Contemporaries Acquisition Fund purchase, 2002.3 A–D

In her video La Leccion Respiratoria, Dora Garcia investigates the power relationships between coach and student in a scenario where the skill being taught is simply the act of breathing.  A woman sternly instructs a girl in proper breathing techniques, ones the instructor has presumably mastered at one time, but can no longer perform perfectly herself.  She can only instruct a younger, more physically capable girl, who in turn puts complete faith in the older woman, granting her coach control over one of her body’s vital functions.

(Gary Hill: Tall Ships)

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Gary Hill (U.S., b. 1951)

Tall Ships [film still]. 1992

Sixteen channel video installation (silent) or Twelve channel video installation (silent)

Dimensions variable: 90 x 10 x 10 ft. overall or 60 x 10 x 10 ft. overall

Henry Art Gallery, gift of The Lannan Foundation, 96.115

Gary Hill’s Tall Ships consists of eighteen projections evenly spaced along an absolutely dark, 90-foot-long corridor. The installation is an immersive experience that unfolds in real time and space. As the viewer negotiates the corridor, distant, motionless figures of varied personality, ethnicity, age, and gender begin to stir in response to the viewer’s presence.  Each approaches and silently acknowledges the viewer, and then withdraws. These interactions evoke the wide range of emotional responses that accompany our encounters with strangers. As the artist states, “I just went for the simplest of activity I possibly could because it was really about this idiomatic meeting… Meeting a stranger that is you.”

(Bill Viola: Anthem)

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Bill Viola (U.S., b. 1951)

Anthem [film still]. 1983

Betacam SP videotape with sound; Length: 11:30 minutes

Henry Art Gallery, purchase, 97.207 A–D
Henry Art Gallery, gift of William and Ruth True, 97.201 A-E

Bill Viola’s Anthem is structured around a scream emitted by an eleven-year-old girl as she stands beneath the engine shed at Union Station in Los Angeles.  Her shriek, only a few seconds in duration, reverberates off the shed’s brick walls.  Viola has slowed, stretched, modulated, and otherwise altered the sound of the girl’s voice to create the soundtrack for a disturbing post-industrial city symphony that is, in Viola’s words, “. . . centered on the theme of primitive fear of the dark, materialism and the harmful separation of body and mind”.

(Gary Hill: Wall Piece)

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Gary Hill (U.S., b. 1951)

Wall Piece [film still]. 2000

Single‑channel video installation with sound and strobe light; Length: 7:34 minutes

Henry Art Gallery, gift of William and Ruth True, 2007.67.1 A–3C

Copyright Gary Hill (2000)

In Wall Piece, Gary Hill, Illuminated by a brilliant strobe light, hurls himself repeatedly against a wall. With each collision he utters a single word from a written text. Hill’s words gradually form coherent sentences and become a meditation on the persistence of doubt in human existence. Words and actions - language and body -violently unite in a flash of light, emphasizing their intrinsic connectedness and the inseparability of mind and body.