[-empyre-] Video Behind: On the history

ETC etc at experimentaltvcenter.org
Fri Sep 11 05:32:48 AEST 2015

Referring to a conversation with Lynn Hershman Renate wrote,  “During
that chat I asked her why she archived so much and she reminded me
that as a woman artist she had to ensure that her work was archived
properly because ‘who else would do it.’”

And Renate’s follow-up question to herself: “how much do we preserve,
how much space do we have, who will record our history if we do not.”

Both of these made me consider where this impulse to preserve comes from.

In thinking back to the earliest days of video, I really don’t recall
a lot of conversations about history, legacy, archival records and the
like. It seems that we were all busy making work, making
organizations, making structures and processes and weren’t engaged in
thinking about the future of it all. Accepted was the fact of
impermanence of this new medium, in all its many guises. The tapes
were electromagnetic. They could – and often were – erased, often to
allow for a new recording. The tapes were frequently palimpsests,
imperfect erasures with the flicker of the ghosts of previous
recordings haunting the imagery. The tapes were fragile, easily
deformed – stretched, broken. We didn’t expect them to last, really.
The longevity has been a surprise.

Of course, that all changed as the medium evolved and became more
accepted by society, the academy and the arts infrastructures.
Practitioners had territory to carve out and protect, boundaries to
mark. Our field struggled with how to turn a reproducible medium into
one that rewards the precious object. Could some of us find a way to
cash in? Could others of us even make a small mark on history?

Others of us simply went on making work and figuring out strategies to
help others make it too. And thinking about ways of exhibiting,
distributing, and eventually saving the works for scholars and artists
following us.

There wasn’t much interest, really, in the tiny backwater of video
often referred to as image processing. Those of us engaged,
recognizing that little value was placed on this art, by default began
saving materials, tools, letters. I think, though, that this impulse
to collect, to order,  is probably more rooted within us as
individuals. You either do this, and can’t imagine not doing it, or
you don’t – you deaccession and move on.

Renate’s point about saving our own histories is well taken, since
with video in general there was very little interest in the art; if we
didn’t value it, who would? None of the cultural institutions seemed
engaged. So some of held on to our collections. Those of us Upstate
often had the luxury of more space than our colleagues in the city.
And some of us filled it.

And now many are involved with trying to find homes for these
collections – places which will put the materials in context, and
place it in the hands of researchers, students, and scholars.


On Thu, Sep 10, 2015 at 12:13 PM, Timothy Conway Murray
<tcm1 at cornell.edu> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hi, Sherry,
> Sarah Watson and I have just completed preparing the videos for exhibition
> in the ETC show that will open on September 24 at Hunter College.  As I
> was reviewing the screening list, I remembered my early days of viewing
> experimental tapes during screenings at ETC.  What was particularly
> compelling to me as a young theorist was the conceptual verve of even the
> most formal experiments with the video tools that were developed in the
> ETC lab by Nam June Paik, Shuya Abe, David Jones, and others.  The
> flexible analogue tools available to artists at ETC catalyzed the
> theorization of video as an art form, as well as contributed to
> philosophies of time, movement, light, and the electronic extensions of
> montage/collage.
> As we move through the month discussing video art writ-large, I hope we
> can celebrate the cerebral demands on the artists who suspended their
> artistic conventions in order to give themselves over to the emergent
> concepts of time and space happening via their building and interaction
> with this emergent gear.
> Welcome to the month of Video, behind and beyond!
> Tim
>  9/10/15 10:15 AM, "Renate Terese Ferro" <rferro at cornell.edu> wrote:
>>----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>Dear Sherry,
>>Many thanks for making this initial post about ETC.  For our international
>>subscribers who have never made the trek to Upstate New York I thought it
>>might be a good idea to talk about where the Experimental Television
>>Center was located and how it all began in 1972.  I was very lucky to have
>>a residency at the center in 2006. The aura of years past and especially
>>from the international artists who where there before me seemed to be
>>seeped in the archive of equipment as I worked.  To have your insightful
>>perspective Sherry and our other guests on that early history I think
>>might fascinate our subscribers.
>>Also subscribers for those of you who have a history in video both analog
>>and digital we hope you will join our conversation.
>>Really looking forward to the month.
>>Renate Ferro
>>Visiting Associate Professor of Art
>>Cornell University
>>Department of Art
>>Tjaden Hall, Office 306
>>Ithaca, NY  14853
>>Email: rferro at cornell.edu
>>URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>>          http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
>>Lab:   http://www.tinkerfactory.net
>>Managing Moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
>>On 9/8/15, 8:48 PM, "ETC" <etc at experimentaltvcenter.org> wrote:
>>First, thanks to empyre ­ and especially to Tim and Renate ­ for the
>>invitation to participate this month. I have been a long time, mostly
>>silent observer, and have learned so much over the years from all of you.
>>I have spent over 40 years working with the ETC, a (very) small ­ and
>>intentionally so ­ media arts ³organization² in Upstate New York. When we
>>decided to end the Residency, Research, Grants and Sponsorship programs at
>>ETC in 2011, I was often asked, ³So, are you closing? Will you retire?²
>>I was unprepared for the query and had no answers. I didn¹t feel retired.
>>looked at the 1Ž2² open reel videotapes which still fill our beer cooler
>>climate-controlled storage facility, and wondered about our respective
>>At the time we closed many of the ETC programs, I was very involved with
>>Kathy High and Mona Jimenez, along with many brilliant scholars and
>>artists, on completing the two volume book ³The Emergence of Video
>>Processing Tools: Television Becoming Unglued². Once the book was finally
>>published in 2014, I took a step back and reconsidered some of the topics
>>we had tried to address: from ideas as general as how do art, science and
>>technology intersect, and are the collaborations that evolve specific to
>>cultural and social environments; to topics as specific as those involving
>>talk of codecs, wrappers and containers.
>>We became involved in the topics of media history and preservation in the
>>   -  were among the founding organizations of the groups that became
>>Alliance and Independent Media Arts Preservation
>>   -  organized the conference Video History: Making Connections
>>   -  participated in the National Moving Image Database (NAMID) project
>>the American Film Institute as they created a template for cataloging
>>moving image media works, that addressed specific properties of electronic
>>media as opposed to film
>>   -  organized several symposia on preservation at Buffalo State College
>>and in NYC in 2002
>>   -  began (1996) and continue the History website.
>>Some of you were also at some of those meetings, I'm sure.
>>One result of the book was a mass of research materials, historical texts,
>>artists¹ statements, technical descriptions which have not been put on the
>>History site and even more questions:
>>   -  how do we preserve instruments; what about functionality
>>   -  where will the ephemera live: how do we preserve cultural context
>>   -  can you preserve the ethos, the spirit, the hungers of a particular
>>   -  what is lost if ephemera is disassociated from instrument
>>   -  how does history matter; looking back and looking forward with
>>contemporary makers
>>   -  how can we create environments that nurture collaborations of art,
>>technology and science; can we devise models for the sustenance of these
>>   -  what are reasonable criteria for determining which works are
>>preserved; by whom and how are these determined
>>ET is very grateful that the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art at
>>Cornell has accepted the ETC¹s collection of ephemera, to accompany our
>>videotape collection; it is a very compatible home for us. Over the summer
>>I had the privilege of working with two creative and intelligent Cornel
>>grad stuents, Alana Staiti and Lauren van Haaften-Schick, on constructing
>>an inventory for these materials. It proved to be an overwhelming,
>>exciting, hilarious, tedious, exhilarating and at time cringe-worthy
>>experience. It can be difficult to understand the history of something you
>>have been so much involved with.
>>The ephemera will form one of the major sections for the upcoming
>>exhibition organized by Hunter College Art Galleries and the Rose Goldsen
>>Archive of New Media Art at Cornell, "The Experimental Television Center:
>>History, Etc . . . " opening at the Galleries on September 24th, and
>>running through November 21st. The exibition was organized by Tim Murray
>>Cornell and Sarah Watson, Curator at Hunter. Also on view are videotapes
>>over 40 artists, hand-crafted now obsolete analog processing equipment,
>>performances by contemporary artists working with custom-designed
>>instruments, and tools built by artist/technologists for day¹s
>>We are always looking for conversations about video and its histories, and
>>I¹m sure I¹ve come to the right place.
>>empyre forum
>>empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Sherry Hocking
Assistant Director
Experimental Television Center Ltd.
109 Lower Fairfield Rd.
Newark Valley NY 13811

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