录像艺术的消逝The Disappearance of video art

在这里我想引用尼尔波兹曼《童年的消逝》(1)一书中对童年的渊源及其消逝的原因的细致分析,因为这可能正好可以被引申到中国录像艺术的问题上来,但并非因为论及这些就真的导致了消逝或是存在,而是通过论及这些我们才能发现其根源和消逝的诱因,才能区别其存在和消逝的视觉呈现的关系。

1988年张培力的作品《30X30》被看作是录像艺术在中国的开始,这一作品延续了出现于60年代的西方录像艺术的历史,同时成为这一历史的例证。并且折射着同样的关于录像艺术的问题,如作为媒介的问题,作为纪录的问题,还有作为行动、雕塑等等方面的问题,还有涉及到电影和录像的问题,行为和录像的问题,以及种种问题之外,公众传媒的问题。

录像艺术的起源,好像永远和上述问题分不开,那么我们也就没有 一个单纯的录像艺术产生,而是一个关系、关联的录像艺术出现在西方和中国。理解录像艺术的产生,会让我们接近一个艺术史就媒介衍生的类型化现象。在这个无法被完全解释清楚的艺术类型,因为某种需要,我们必须确认一个存在的值,然后是才能谈及这个值所衍生的值,如录像装置、录像表演或是其他。在这里我们假定了一个值的存在,顺理就衍生出了就这个值所产生的其他的值。

如何认清这一媒介,从技术的角度和从关系、现场来判断,还有就是其存在的文化联系上,都成为解释这个既存的值的附庸,那么是否有录像艺术呢?录像艺术借着媒材上的关系,成为电视机的传播内容,或是作为被投射的影像信息,这一纪录方式和信息传递,都涉及了这一媒介的不稳定性和易变性,很多学者引入时间这一概念,将其接 续到电影的理念中。是否录像扮演了这一接续着电影媒介出现以来的,对所谓图像起到延伸的作用呢?如果是模拟的技术,这一点可能还容易理解一些,而如果是数字技术的时候,这显然已经涉及到另外的一个层面,数字图像的编码和解码,都已经不再是之前的图像所能够达成的在技术和文化双重层面的意义,而是产生了加入时间和空间深度的,自由组合的图像、影像逻辑。(这不是蒙太奇可以完成的)

所以1988年录像的起源,很快被混淆到录像艺术、实验电影、动画等等领域中,从模拟技术的角度,这一对图像的解释和回望,可以说是对过去的致敬和告别,那么之后出现的所谓录像艺术,已经和这个时代的技术、生活、文化完全的结合在一起,从这里也就不难理解那些动态影像,都可以被划定为录像艺术的范畴,而来 自不同领域的尝试正在构建一个完全不属于任何领域的影像的知识系统,可以以录像艺术、实验电影或是任何名义出现在空间中。

在2006年我撰写的《中国实验短片的类型分析》(2)中,已经从技术和文化倾向来分析不同短片的类型,而没有使用录像艺术这一名称的主要原因,就在于这个名称的不确定性,以及它可能带来的狭义的对非录像领域的侵扰和误读。都让我转而分析这一基于单屏幕出现的媒介艺术的类型,而不是去探讨录像艺术这一庞大的,有着时间线索的领域。

中国的录像艺术经历了从录像到动态影像的过程,在2011年的《中国影像艺术1988-2011》中,除了类型上混淆的阐述,其实应该发现的是录像和当代艺术之间的某种联系。这不再是媒介上的简单的转化和延伸,而是在观念上的置换。如果认真的看待录像 艺术这个领域,其实很多问题是可以被说清楚的,而如果观念被置换,那么我们就失去了看清这一领域的可能性。如同新媒体一词在中国出现的情况一致,现在都在强调跨媒体或是使用其他名词替代这一称谓,而不是从其根源考虑和回望什么是新媒体。这在我的文章《新媒体的几种构成》(2006年)(3)也有所阐述,这也是一个动态的概念和逻辑来看待当代文化的特性。深入的反思和回望,可能可以帮助我们解决来源问题,也就是找到一种可能解释为什么会出现新媒体和跨媒介现象,就必须要知道为什么有录像艺术和变迁,而不是将录像和变迁都纳入到一个新的名词和词义之下,我不是说这完全不可以,而是这样确实导致了太多的误认。

所以录像艺术的消逝,并非录像艺术已经死亡,替代它的媒材也还没有出现,它就 已经成为了经典。录像艺术的消逝并非媒材上的,而是在观念上,它被超前或是滞后的观念所替代,成为这些超前或是滞后观念的附庸,如新媒体艺术、跨媒体艺术、动态影像、电影装置、图片摄影等等。还有就是当不同领域的艺术试图加入录像艺术的同时,也几乎可以加入到动画、网络等等门类的艺术中,如邱黯雄的《新山海经》就是这一情况最好的写照,它可以被看作是录像装置、录像、动画和新媒体。

在我和杨福东的讨论中,我试图将他的作品《离信之雾》(2009年)看作是电影装置,最根本的原因还是媒介,他使用了35毫米胶片拍摄和最终由35毫米胶片机呈现这一作品,在影像的美学上,他也尽量避免录像美学,语言完全来自电影和剪辑,以及蒙太奇的使用。
当然谈到录像艺术的消逝,并非好事或是坏事,也不 用过度的阐释录像艺术的作用和其引申的寓意,这之前我曾撰写了结合上述两文的《新媒体中国》(2006年)(4)。如同我在阅读丹尼尔•毕尔鲍曼(DanielBirnbaum)的《年代学》Chronology(5)一书时,我发现他为录像艺术的引申寓意给出了特殊的视角和想像,但是这终归是一个评论家对作品的妄想。如果抛开录像,如果是图片,还是一样的结果吗?人们通常愿意在图像之前设定意义,或是在看到图像的时候与某种意义和意识残留拼合,这很难让我们发现录像艺术的出现,其重大意义并不仅仅是媒材上的变化,和对文化的引申作用,它的出现可以被看作是一次权利的革命,因为它赋予了作品拷贝、传播的某种自由,当然它自身就是一种独立于作品之外的美学形态和主体。它作为一种介质很难被遮蔽。

录像艺术该不该消逝?那么绘画消逝了吗?

李振华2011年10月13日 完成于苏黎世家中

注解:1 尼尔波兹曼《童年的消逝》The Disappearance of Childhood(Neil Postman,1931—2003)
2《中国实验短片的类型分析》http://bjartlab.com/read.php?51 http://bjartlab.com/read.php?53
3《新媒体的几种构成》http://bjartlab.com/read.php?51
4《新媒体中国》 http://bjartlab.com/read.php?52
5 Daniel Birnbaum的《年代学》Chronology http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Birnbaumhttp://www.sternberg-press.com/index.php?bookId=2&l=en&pageId=1101



The Disappearance of Video Art

by Li Zhenhua (13.10.2011)

Today I would like to borrow from Neil Postman's The Disappearance of Childhood , because his precise analysis of childhood's origins and the reasons for its disappearance might be extended to the issue of China's video art. However this does not mean that discussing this issue leads right to its real disappearance or existence. Rather it helps us to become aware of its cause and reasons for disappearance. Only in this way can we differentiate the relations between the visual representation of existence and disappearance.

Zhang Peili's 30X30 from 1988 is considered to be video art's beginning in China. This work continued the history of western video art which emerged in the 1960s, while at the same time became an example for this history itself. Furthermore, it also raised questions concerning video art, like its role as a medium, as a documentary tool, as a performance or a sculpture. In addition, it touched upon the issues of film and video, performance and video, as well as public media, amongst many other topics.

It seems that the origins of video art can never be separated from the above-mentioned issues, which means that we cannot talk about a simple emergence of video art. Hence, it is related and associated with the emergence of video art in the West, as well as in China. Understanding the origins of video art might help us come closer to the type of phenomenon where art history is derived from media.

For this art form—which is impossible to be fully explained—we have to determine an existing value due to some certain needs, and only afterwards can we discuss the value that is derived from that initial value, such as video installations, video performances or others. Here we have assumed the existence of a value, and derived another value generated from this one accordingly.

To get a clear understanding of this media, one has to evaluate the relations, scenes and look at it from a technical point of view. Moreover, if all the existing cultural relations were used to explain the appendices of this existing value, then, is there something like video art?

Benefiting from the media's relation, video art has become television's broadcasting content, or as projected visual information. This method of documentation and information transmission has touched upon the medium's instability and volatility; many scholars have introduced the notion of time to lead it into film concepts.

Has video fulfilled its function as an extension of “imagery” since the emergence of the filmic media's continuance? If it were analogue technology, this part might be easier to understand, but in the case of digital technology it takes into account another dimension. The encoding and decoding of the digital image has lost its former cultural and technological double level of meaning, which was already possible to achieve through images. An independently formed logic of image and film, which incorporates the complexities of time and space, was created (something that could not be achieved through montage).

Therefore from video's beginning in 1988, it was very soon mixed up with video art, experimental film, animation and other domains. From the angle of analogue technology, this interpretation and retrospective use of images, can be seen as a tribute and farewell to the past – hence the “video art” which appeared later was already completely integrated into the technology, life and culture of that epoch. So it also becomes understandable that those animated pictures can all be designated as “video art,” whereas there are currently attempts from different fields to construct a knowledge system of images that does not belong to any realm at all, that can step out into space as “video art,” “experimental film” or with any other name.

In my essay Survey of Chinese Experimental Short Films’ classification (2006) , I have already analysed the categories of short films from a technological and cultural perspective, however I did not use the word “video art.” This was mainly due to the uncertainty of this designation, as well as the possibility that—in a narrow sense—it may mean the intrusion and misunderstanding of a non-video field. All this made me turn to an analysis of this category of media art that is based on single screens, instead of a study of the timeline-based, vast field of video art.

China's video art has already gone through the process from video to animated pictures. In the 2011 exhibition Moving Image in China 1988–2011, besides the exposition of the classificatory confusion, the most noteworthy part was the relations between video and contemporary art.

This is no longer a simple transformation and extension of the media, but an ideological shift.

If one takes a serious look at the field of video art, many questions can actually be answered. However if an ideological shift has already taken place, we have lost the possibility to fully understand this field.

It is similar to the emergence of the term “new media” in China. Nowadays, all the emphasis lies on transmedia (or other terms to substitute for this designation), instead of considering and reflecting on new media from its origins. There are some thoughts about that in my essay The Components of New Media (2006) , this is also a dynamic concept and a characteristic of the contemplation of contemporary culture from a logical point of view.

Intensive observation and reflection might help us answer the question of origin, which means that to find a possible explanation for the emergence of new media and transmedia, it is inevitable that we know why there is video art and change, but not necessarily to incorporate video art and change into a new term and meaning. I am not saying that this is completely wrong, only that this path has already led to too many misconceptions.

Hence, the disappearance of video art does not yet mean its demise, the medium that has taken its place has not appeared either, but it has already turned into a classical form. Video art has not disappeared as a medium, but on an ideological level, it has been substituted by progressive or obsolete ideologies and it has become an appendix to these, like new media art, transmedia art, motion pictures, film installations, photography etc. Moreover, at the same time when art forms from different realms try to enter video art, they enter the categories of animation, internet art and many others as well. Qiu Anxiong's New Book of Mountain and Seas is the best example of this, as it can be seen as video installation, video, animation, as well as new media.

In my discussions with Yang Fudong, I have tried to see his work Dawn Mist, Separation Faith (2009) as a film installation. The basic reason for that is the medium; he used 35mm film to shoot and a 35mm camera to present this work. The film's aesthetic is also trying to avoid the video aesthetic, the language is completely derived from film, editing and montage.

Naturally, the discussion about video art's disappearance is not about if whether it is a good or a bad thing. It is also not necessary to over-analyse video art's function and its extended meaning. I have already combined these two in China's New Media  (2006). For instance, when I was reading Daniel Birnbaum's Chronology , I noticed that he assigned a special perspective and vision to video art's extended meaning. But, after all, this was a critic's wishful thinking for the artwork. If we would set video aside—if it would be photographs—would it still have the same result? People usually want to determine a meaning before they see an image, or to put together the remaining pieces with some kind of significance and awareness when they see the image. This makes it very hard for us to discover video art's emergence, its main significance is not only the change of medium and its function as a cultural extension; its emergence can also be seen as a necessary revolution, as it has created copies of the works and a certain freedom of dissemination. Certainly, video art itself is already an aesthetic form and subject, independent from the artwork. In its position as a form of value, it is very hard to ignore.

Should video art disappear or not? We might as well ask: has painting disappeared?

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Translator: Weina Zhao
Proofreader: Edward Sanderson


1, Postman, Neil (1982): The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Delacorte Press. (Neil Postman, 1931–2003)
2, 《中国实验短片的类型分析》: http://bjartlab.com/read.php?53
3, 《新媒体的几种构成》: http://bjartlab.com/read.php?51
4, 《新媒体中国》: http://bjartlab.com/read.php?52
5, Birnberg, Daniel (2005): Chronology. New York: Lukas & Steinberg.  (http://www.sternberg-press.com/index.php?bookId=2&l=en&pageId=1101)
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