Lecture held by Vera Body on June 3rd 1986 at ‘Städtisches Museum Abteiberg’, Mönchengladbach (Germany)

[...] Since the beginning of the 60s Name June Paik’s and Wolf Vostell’s electronic images have caused the birth of a new genre: VIDEO. Its decisive charcteristics in contrast to other art forms - such as painting, photography, film and theatre – were clarified into the following three functions not long after by Wulf Herzogenrath:

1. the immedeate control of the image
2. the manifold electronical possibilities
3. the reproduction of the image on the monitor.

As a vital element I would add the perception of Jean-François Lyotard. He states that with video we have images ‘which, contrary to the tradition of photography and cinema, and also contrary to a large part of painting, are only produced and not reproduced. To find something equivalent in painting, one would have to look in the direction of abstract painting which is not – simply said – a reproduced image. In this way what is known, seen and heard is nowadays being less known, seen and heard. Machines bring forth facts which by far surpass our sensous adaptability.’
In the 60s and 70s video was increasingly employed as an artist means by musicians, performance artists and other artists. The discovery of video as a mirror, as a possibility of self-portrayal, of the audience’s potential participation in the events (as in works by Joan Jonas, Peter Campus, Frank Gillette, Dan Graham and others) created the effortless realization of synchonization between reality and its presentation. Live enviroments made possible through ‘closed circuits’ (Nam June Paik: Video-Buddha, Bruce Nauman: Video-corridor, or Peter Campus: Interface and others) and the electronic experiments of Fluxus which hoped to break the pseudo-transperancy of the medium television (René Berger) shaped the early stage of video art. Douglas Davis described the artistic video of the 70s as anti-television. Media ideologies from Walter Benjamin (photography), Bert Brecht (radio), and Marshall McLuhan (TV-electronic age) provided the intellectual background of the new electronic art. The esoteric atmosphere of the galleries representing the minimal-concept art and video art in the 70s cultivated the individual mythology of their artists, but could not become a CULT programme for a broad public even after initial effort. The early medium-exploring age of video art (David Antin), which a short time later was to be quoted as a boring epoch, met with a crisis at the end of the 70s. Only a few collectors and some institutes were interested in the new art form. Outstanding characteristics, such as personal participation in events (mirror effect), the semiotic use of objects (Minimal ART) and the intimate approach to the medium survived the descent.
Facing the fact that installatios in every documenta, Biennale in Venice or the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam continued in the 80s, the individual product of a video cassette is becoming more and more significant. Considering the worldwide epidemic of video festivals (Tokio, Locarno, Montbéliard, Toronto, Kijkhuis-Den Haag, San Francisco, Montreal, Rio de Janeiro, Marl, Salsomaggiore etc.) which have not only increasingly been connected with awards, but also with the presence of representatives of public and private television, there is no doubt that broad change in form and content of video in the 80s can be concluded. Moreover, Video/Book projects (Infermental/LichtBlick) are aiming at breaking the traditionally limited circle of the video marktet.
As a circulating record of information (Oliver Hirschbiegel), the video cassette became a quickly available carrier for interdisciplinary works and the first international magazine on video cassettes INFERMENTAL originated in 1980 with the ambition to collect and reorganise all new directions of the electronic art. New genres and trends became perceptible in this info – magnetic ‘lebensraum’ (Gábor Bódy).
On the occasion of his exhibition ‘The Immaterials’ at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in the spring of 1985 Jean-François Lyotard requested that the encyclopedia of ours be electronic. I am not claiming that INFERMENTAL is already as far as this, but the objectives and methods we have been working with since 1980 are going in this direction. According to the concept of INFERMENTAL the annually changing panels of editors endeavour – from the presented material – to crystallize categories corresponding to the context through which the various genres like New Narrativity or Electronic Painting develop. [...]