16. Medi@terra: Introduction to the Danish Video Art Selection
           Athens, Greece, November 4, 2000 + monitor 47/2000, November 2000, Haslev, Denmark

I have been asked to introduce the selection made by THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK and I will do this by showing very short 30 sec. video clips of the works in the selection.

The DATA BANK is a virtual net- & email based non-profit agency for promoting and distributing Danish video art outside Denmark.

It was created in 1983-84 - at that time as part of the video workshop called video workshop/HASLEV

This workshop is the oldest video workshop in Denmark. It dates back to 1968 when I organized the workshop at Haslev College of Education.

In 1996 the workshop and the DATA BANK were separated and I left the Workshop in favor of the DATA BANK.

As the name indicates the concern of THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK is video art - so the selection shown/screened here is a selection of Danish video art.

Before introducing the selection I would like to point out the problem that the decision about the content had to be made quite long ago and I think my selection would have been different if we could have selected it closer to the festival and knowing more about the theme of this festival: "NEO [TECHNO] LOGISMs".

We have called the selection 12x Danish\video=TECHNO

=art:START &NEW and the main idea behind this is to show that the relationship of technology to language & meaning in video art goes way back almost to the start of video art in Denmark and up till now.

There is a tendency to call the time now for the age of technology and in her introduction in the Medi@terra Catalogue Maria Theodorou, adviser to the Greek Ministry of Culture, says about "neo[techno]logism" that "the term can describe the experience produced by the meeting of art and technology".

Essentially this meeting is not confined to the time/age just now but has been the artist’s meeting from the very beginning of art. The traditional painter (from the time of the cave paintings and on) has always used technology - the technology of putting paint on a canvas with a paintbrush (often after being through the technology of making the paint).

OK, ok - I know that today you tend to think and define (also at this symposium) technology as computer/information/internet/digital technology - sometimes referred to as "new technology" because video is already classified as "old technology".

But even before this new technology - before the age of digital techniques - the video artists have used many technical ways to get their ideas through to the view, the public, and the works in the Danish selection communicates neo[techno]logisms mainly or especially through their use of [neo]techniques - it is: new video techniques - from way back in 1988 and up until today…

… and through this and through structural freedom they leave the way open to imagination and to creation of new interpretations which somehow - hopefully - provokes dialogues.

As an example you may take "Far Out in the Wide Open Sea" as a new reading of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale "The Little Mermaid" (30 sec. CLIP from Torben Soeborg: "Far Out in the Wide Open Sea…") ...

- or "Ophelia" as a rather different rendering of Shakespeare’s / the Danish legend’s "Hamlet" but with Ophelia as the main character/key figure (30 sec CLIP from: Niels Lomholt: "Ophelia") …

- or you may take the two quite different expositions of nature in "Playing with Water" (30 sec. CLIP from Helle Lorenzen: ""Paying with Water") and "The Electronic Painting of Nature" (30 sec. CLIP from Pernelle Maegaard: "Electronic Painting of Nature").

And you will find examples on have the artists both try to construct and / or deconstruct the video picture. Both "Frame of Mind" and "Strange Artifacts" you could see as examples on how the artists try to construct new, different video pictures (30 sec. CLIP from T. Sebastian Büllow: "Strange Artifacts …"), and in "An Assisted Reproduction" the two artists - in spite of the title - almost totally deconstruct the normal video pictures, dissolve and destroy them to get a message through (30 sec. CLIP from Krogsgaard & Brahe: "An Assisted Reproduction") ...

… and in contrast to this you have a piece like "Behavior Matrix" by a very young artist (still in art school) where the only "technique" used lies in the editing (30 sec. CLIP from Sophus Ejler Jepsen: "Behavior Matrix") - a piece that just as also the perhaps rather long video "… And So What?" shows that you still also might convey and promote rethinking and reconsideration of social matrices with what you could call "traditional" video techniques in a time of the emerging digital culture (30 sec. CLIP from Svend Thomsen: "… An So What?").

Speaking about digital culture - a week ago in Brussels I got the question: "How about video art and DVD?" Well, you could consider the DVD as just another carrier of information - in this case the time-based art work. But I am certain that as it becomes economically possible for the artist he or she would want to explore the interactive alternatives of the DVD for direct involvement of the viewer, the public. Some of the first video artists already did this with analogue video in installations where the viewer/ the public became an active part of the video art work and provoking a dialogue with the artist (take for example Bruce Nauman’s "Live Taped Video Corridor" from 1969 and Frank Gillette’s "Wipe Cycle" from the same year), but of course the digital technology will enhance and multiply this and might even produce means of expression, communication and dialogue unique to digital culture. And I am certain the artists will be there to explore this (like for example artists like Paul Garrin and Simon Biggs already do with perfection).

As I said at the beginning you could and we might have chosen other examples of Danish artist’s work with video. In "Compression" the artist both compress the video pictures and works with short sequences. Being in Greece you should perhaps rather have chosen the ultra-short edited "Jenny in Greece" by the same artist (VIDEO by Carsten Schmidt-Olsen: "Jenny in Greece") ...

… and you could have chosen a just one minute piece like "The Pillow" (VIDEO by Kassandra Wellendorf: "The Pillow") which is included in the selection.

… and so you could go on - but anyway: Hopefully the 12 video art works chosen demonstrate how artists through their use of modern technologies help to "produce means of expression unique [or close to unique] to digital culture".

You may find the works very different/varied from each other - just as Danish video art in common - and as such the works could be said to be representative for the country.

As usual THE DANISH VIDEO ART DATA BANK has asked each artist to communicate their own proposition about their work in a short text to the videos which I thought you might be able to read in the festival catalogue but these texts have not been printed which I am a bit concerned about on the behalf of the artists.

I would like to close my introduction by once more referring to the Media@terra Catalogue - this time to quote Pierre Bongiovanni, director, CICV Pierre Schaeffer:

"The new technologies are for the most part evolving on the basis of the principle of bluff, of one-upmanship and the cult of modernity"

… hard words - and he then states that "Of all the available technologies there are only four which really interest me: brain, heart, body and language. Those who speak of the new technologies and forget their brain, their hart, their body and the beauty of language lead the lives of cripples", and he concludes:

"They will never create anything. All they will do is reproduce old ideas with new, as they say, means."

I think this is very important for the artists working with video and, looking back, I really hope all the artists in the selection has kept this in mind - but this is up to you to judge, when you view the selection when it is screened on Wednesday!

Torben Soeborg