You should read this essay at Artwrit along with the other stellar essays for the Summer 2011 Quarterly. Even if you can’t manage to click over there with the touch of just one finger, I’ve included a preview of the essay in this post. If you want to watch me talk for hours without interruption, bringing up video and new media will do the trick. Even though video’s become historicized, too many misunderstandings exist about its early history in the 1960s and 1970s – and museums are partially to blame. Museums aren’t always forward-thinking with acquiring videoworks for their permanent collections; some don’t even collect video and new media, even if video’s shown in traveling exhibitions.
In a recent show at MoMA, video art received less-than-preferential treatment, exhibited in a wedge-like corridor between an elevator and a wall. This thin walkway disguised as an exhibition acted as a curatorial dumping ground for video, a common fate for this difficult-to-exhibit form. Although video’s become a well-historicized media art, it’s more often than not kept out of the museum’s encyclopedic galleries of painting, photography and sculpture. Some museums even maintain an official “no video” policy; they won’t acquire video art for its permanent collection. As much as MoMA’s mini-exhibition appears curious, if not downright sloppy, there’s one aspect to its installation that informs a more complete picture of video art then and new media now: the big, black and bulky monitors.
It’s a small detail to pick out amidst other problematic curatorial decisions, of course, but emphasizing the extended physical situation of video away from the on-screen image has become more and more common in recent exhibitions.