The Reflexive Medium
- Winner, 2009 The Lewis Mumford Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Technics, given by the Media Ecology Association (MEA).
- Winning entry, Professional Cover/Jacket Category, in the 2008 New England Book Show sponsored by Bookbuilders of Boston.
384 pp., 7 x 9 in, 136 b&w illus.
- Published: August 13, 2010
- Published: November 21, 2007
An argument that video is not merely an intermediate stage between analog and digital but a medium in its own right; traces the theoretical genealogy of video and examines the different concepts of video seen in works by Vito Acconci, Ulrike Rosenbach, Steina and Woody Vasulka, and others.
Video is an electronic medium, dependent on the transfer of electronic signals. Video signals are in constant movement, circulating between camera and monitor. This process of simultaneous production and reproduction makes video the most reflexive of media, distinct from both photography and film (in which the image or a sequence of images is central). Because it is processual and not bound to recording and the appearance of a “frame,” video shares properties with the computer. In this book, Yvonne Spielmann argues that video is not merely an intermediate stage between analog and digital but a medium in its own right. Video has metamorphosed from technology to medium, with a set of aesthetic languages that are specific to it, and current critical debates on new media still need to recognize this. Spielmann considers video as “transformation imagery,” acknowledging the centrality in video of the transitions between images—and the fact that these transitions are explicitly reflected in new processes. After situating video in a genealogical model that demonstrates both its continuities and discontinuities with other media, Spielmann considers three strands of video praxis—documentary, experimental art, and experimental image-making (which is concerned primarily with signal processing). She then discusses selected works by such artists as Vito Acconci, Ulrike Rosenbach, Joan Jonas, Nam June Paik, Peter Campus, Dara Birnbaum, Nan Hoover, Lynn Hershman, Gary Hill, Steina and Woody Vasulka, Bill Seaman, and others. These works serve to demonstrate the spectrum of possibilities in video as medium and point to connections with other forms of media. Finally, Spielmann discusses the potential of interactivity, complexity, and hybridization in the future of video as a medium.
Available for the first time in translation, Yvonne Spielmann's Video: The Reflexive Medium provides us with a keen parsing of the specificities of video as a medium. Tracing its emergent genealogy as a distinctly audiovisual medium, Spielmann provides a comprehensive catalog of video's aesthetic evolution from its early intermedial accords with television and performance to its more recent interactions with computers and networked digital media. As the media-specific distinctions between cinematic, televisual, and computer-based media have been eroded beyond recognition, Video: The Reflexive Medium provides a much-needed account of video's medial specificities and intermedial dependencies.
Anne Friedberg, Professor and Chair of Critical Studies, School of Cinematic Arts, USC, and author of The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft
Speilmann's Video: The Reflexive Medium is a highly significant, well researched and discursive addition to the canon. It is illuminating on both the technological and aesthetical issues, as well as giving primary insights into the artist makers themselves.
Steve Partridge, Dean of Research, and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee