Why is it so hard to find video art online?

The big picture.
March 21 2007 3:18 PM

YouTube for Artists

The best places to find video art online.

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Still from Joseph Beuys' perky pop-music protest video, Sonne Statt Reagan.
Sonne Statt Reagan

This is not to say that you can't find any video art on the Web—you just have to know where to look. There are a number of Web sites that aggregate video and experimental film, most of it either archival or by lesser-known artists. Among of the best of these is UbuWeb, a not-for-profit Web site that bills itself as "the YouTube of the avant-garde." There are more than 300 films and videos available for viewing, ranging from Marcel Duchamp's 1926 classic, Anemic Cinema, to Joseph Beuys' perky pop-music protest video, Sonne Statt Reagan (1982). Because so much of the work here is documentary or archival—and was conceived before large-scale gallery installations became the norm—most of what you'll find is well-suited for Web viewing.

Videoart.net is a New York-based Web site that currently hosts about 400 videos by artists and filmmakers, most of whom are "emerging" (polite artspeak for "young and relatively unknown"). You can also find scads of new talent on the London-based Saatchi Gallery's Web site, Your Gallery. Anyone is welcome to post here, and hundreds do, enticed by the high-profile imprimatur of advertising mogul and megacollector Charles Saatchi, who provides the bandwidth and prestigious Web address for free. These artists want to get noticed—by curators, by collectors, maybe even by Saatchi himself. The irony is that once they achieve the recognition they're hoping for—inclusion in a museum show or biennial, representation by a top-notch gallery, inquiries from collectors—chances are they'll pull their videos off the Web (or try to, anyway) and issue them in limited editions to be screened occasionally in whitewashed galleries or in the homes of private collectors.

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So, is video art destined to remain a museum- and gallery-based medium with only a minor and reluctant presence on the Web? Yes and no. While successful video artists have plenty of good reasons, financial and otherwise, for wanting to keep their work off the Web, there are others who are creating art that can only be viewed online—work that actively incorporates interactive elements specific to online digital technology: hot links, avatars, gaming, virtual realities. Rhizome.org, which hosts an archive of more than 2,000 "new media" projects, is the best place to discover work in these hybrid forms that represent the most promising new directions for art on the Web.

Mia Fineman is a writer and curator in New York.

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