Michael Chernoff

Video Artist | Researcher | Educator


Video art was the artistic usage of video technology by conceptual and performing artists from the 1970’s through the 1990’s. The term itself has seemingly become outdated as of now. The medium naming that artists used became co-opted by new genre naming. Labels like, Electronic art, digital art, media art, new media art, computer art, and virtual art obsoleted video art the same as digital devices erased the original analog state for video. Artists, curators, and critics can exhale a sigh of relief that the art world can shake off this dead art and ancient phrasing of art from the 20th century. Although the term is now historicized, Video Art as a descriptor is not something I am willing to let go of. My continud usage of Video Art is due to elusiveness for defining what video exactly is.

Early video artworks fleshed out video as a unique medium for the first time outside of television, military, and institutional power. Video became accessible to artists with new tape devices to make it decks and cameras portable. Today, video is even more portable as an embedded feature of smart technologies. Smart devices like tablets and smartphones, have made the mass media of video an even more massive  communicator of events, places, and personas by increasing the scale of video with de-centralized networks. In the past, video has been a product for home entertainment as physical media to be purchased and now exists as digital media through data streaming. As video has become more high-definition, television became a menu based digital operation. Motion picture industries want filmmakers and audiences alike to accept video as the logical next step for filmic material by achieving great picture quality. The low cost of video production equipment democratized expensive  processes for creatives who made “indie films.” Video also gave rise to digital cinema with CGI movies that are quickly distributed for general audiences. Video games on the other hand acknowledge the title of “video” depending on if players are looking at a TV, or a PC monitor. On the internet, video conotes a clip that is loaded or live broadcasted as it frequently was on television. In computer vision programming, the electronic signal of video provides real-time image whose pixels provide associable tags for detecting objects and causes systematic reactions for machines. The vision of machines is also derived from and provides smart tools for video surveillance utilized by businesses, offices, schools, hospitals, homes, and prisons.

Depending on the social and commercial usage of video, it’s technical characteristics receive different treatments. Therefore, we really only know what video through its output. The output of video is always a screen, seen in the form of monitors, projection, and headsets. The interfacing with a video screen is what formats determinations what people think video really is. Due to the multiple kinds of screens, I contend that video is always a signal, and more specifically a live signal. That the point of video is for the screen to host the appearance of anything that can be mediatized or digitized  electronically. The appearance of being on a screen is what makes the presence of individuals, environments, media, and machines seen. Video screens make the perspective of cameras and dimensions of cyberspace observable for the both human and computer vision. It is for these reasons that Video Art is not a dead term to me. It is a term that draws attention to the dynamics of the video screen and the character of the signal transmitted. Video art still negotiates our assumptions and brings awareness to its medium. Video Art inspires us to consider what video is and what it can be...?