Writing for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Video Art Invades the Mind

Nancy Holt and Richard Serra, Boomerang (1974), 10:26 min, color, sound
Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978-79), 5:50 min, color, sound

Video technology became a new and exciting medium for the mass consumer culture and artists in the 1970s. This was quickly embraced by the television conglomerates. Many artists saw the potential in video as a medium as well and began to explore those possibilities. The line between the moving image and reality was beginning to blur. In 1974, Richard Serra taped Nancy Holt speaking while listening to her own words being played back to her via the sound component of the video recording. This slight delay causes Holt to stumble over her words and distracts her from her own thoughts. She has difficulties forming sentences without focusing intently on each word. At the end of the video, Holt says, “double reflections… and… refractions. Time... in this isolation capsule... of television experience is... cut off from time... as we usually experience it.” This work was originally broadcast on public television and is known as Boomerang.

By the end of the 1970s, American life was flush with mass media and televisual culture. Dara Birnbaum choose to create a work using only images from the popular television show Wonder Woman. This piece, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman from (1978-79) appropriated clips and combined them together to draw attention to the casual sexual exploitation of the female gender in American culture and propagated through television. The repetition of explosions and a regular looking female citizen transforming into a superhero illustrates how this program is product for an increasingly refracted culture.