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A renowned show by Korean artist Nam June Paik in 1963 at a gallery in Wuppertal, Germany, is generally regarded as heralding the birth of video art. On TV screens he displayed distorted TV images; the exhibition was a first, because the artist turned his attention to the electronic signal that makes up a TV image. Within a few years, Sony launched portable video/audio recording equipment, which artists from various backgrounds started to use to record images. These were either shown direct, or from videotape.
The new technology opened up possibilities for artists who became interested in the new medium. Local conditions meant that artists working in Iceland did not have the opportunity for some time to learn about video. Most of those who worked with video during this period had learned about it abroad; and during the 1980s a few artists started to make video art in Iceland. The exhibition is to highlights the first steps by Icelandic artists in using video as an artistic medium. At around the same time video rentals started opening in Iceland, and music videos became an indispensable means of promoting new albums.
All the works were first shown in Iceland between 1980 and 1990; only a few have been exhibited since then. One is by Steina Vasulka, an international pioneer of video art who has spent her entire career in the USA. Steina’s career is atypical, because she had already been making video art for over a decade and showing her work internationally at the time when the first Icelandic video works began to be seen at shows in Iceland – including Steina’s works.
The aim of the exhibition is thus to focus on the 1980s, and the crucial place of that decade in the history of Icelandic video art. The exhibition also explores the circumstances of the artists, and asks questions about the preservation of works of video art, and how works of that period should be shown.
© Reykjavik Art Museum.