[ISEA2011] Paper: Paul Wiersbinski – The Aesthetics of Private footage and Youtube within Avantgarde Video Art


“video art is a subdivision of home-made video“  _Vito Acconci

Looking at the early video works of fine artists in the 60s and 70s the connection to today’s aesthetics in Youtube is more than obvious. Often the tapes have been documentations of performances and it is stunning to see the connecting of reoccurring standards, such as a fixed camera (today’s webcam), lack or complete absence of editing or the focus on the performer and his or her body. Today the works of Maria Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman or the Vienna actionists have become cultural classics, shaping the identity of one of the youngest art forms. It is interesting to see that technical limitations and the lack of professional education led to the production of many of these early video works.

After introducing some of these tapes and comparing them to Youtube classics, I would like to focus on the question of aesthetic relevance, as it is often argued that only a few members of the elite have access to the fine art system and therefore it cannot have any real impact on a general public. In opposition to this preconception, art historian Boris Groys argues in his famous text “The body of Guantanamo”, that the pictures of tortured Iraqis by US troops would not have acclaimed such high media attention without a collective consciousness being “visually educated” by the works such as the Vienna actionists.

The successes of Youtube have not been unnoticed by the art community and even though it does not pose a direct threat for the aesthetics of video art, it is already noticeable that the trend towards technical perfection, represented by Matthew Barney or Bill Viola seems to be over. Today’s successful tapes (e.g. by Nathalie Djurberg or Ryan Trecartin) often play with bad quality and deliberate imperfection not out of a lack of recourses but because of aesthetic consideration.

  • Paul Wiersbinski studied video art with Mark Leckey and Douglas Gordon at the Städelschule in Frankfurt (Main), Germany. He has assisted artists such as Tim Staffe, Asta Gröting and the VJ-team monitor.automatique. His own work has been screened in intl. exhibitions (e.g. ZKM Karlsruhe / Mediations Biennale Poznan / Alma Enterprises London / Goethe Institute Belgrade), theaters (Mousonturm Frankfurt / European Center of the Arts, Hellerau / Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin), festivals (Filmwinter Stuttgart / European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück / EJECT Mexico City) and received several awards, such as the videoartprize of the filmboard Bremen and a project grand of the Federal Cultural Foundation of Germany. He has recently held lectures and presentations in Split, Croatia at “Video Vortex 4” (on “Online Narratives”), within the series “Electric Streams” at the Kunstmuseum Bonn and at the Villa Vigoni in Como, Italy (on „Violence as Entertainment in Video Art“) as well as at the Symposium “Artech”, University of Minho, Guimarães, Portugal (on “New Experiences with Digital Media”).

Full text (PDF)  p. 2590-2592