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Tate Collection & © The Estate of Nam June Paik. Photo: Tate

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Video art

Some video art to enjoy at home while under coronavirus isolation

While museums and galleries are shut, take the time to dive into the rich online world of new media works

While museums, galleries and art fairs are turning to virtual exhibitions and online showrooms to sate a suddenly isolated public’s need for art and culture, those who are even more digitally inclined might want to sample some of the video art offerings available across the internet. Here, we’ve collected a few sources for some works you can view from your laptops and monitors—from the experimental to the awe-inspiring—and stay stimulated.

UbuWeb

Arguably the top publicly accessible archive for video art and digital media is UbuWeb, founded in 1996—when the internet was still in its infancy—by the conceptual poet and artist Kenneth Goldsmith. Originally built as a home for concrete poetry, Goldsmith began adding conceptual audio works as technology advanced, including soundbites by artists and composers such as John Cage, and eventually the site began hosting videos. Today, it is home to thousands of video works, ranging from the historic to the obscure.

“I modelled it on a museum, trying to get the best of everything under one roof,” Goldsmith says. “It’s an older model, but it still works. The site is exactly the same as it was in 1996, it hasn’t changed.” Goldsmith single-handedly runs Ubu, and refers to it as “a part of a life’s work that’s been going on for nearly three decades.” The platform is invaluable for educators as well as for “art students, academics, theoririst, musicians, poets and weirdos in general. There’s no specific audience, because Ubu is so broad.” Goldsmith added that he views the site “as being a community service—it’s a way of paying back, it’s a way of getting attention to work that normally falls outside of the mainstream economic models. I like to say that Ubu features works that are economically worthless but historically priceless.” In May of this year, Goldsmith’s memoir about the creation of UbuWeb, Duchamp is my Lawyer, will be published by Columbia University Press.

So whether you want some deep cuts like Julian Schnabel’s foray into country music or Joseph Beuys’s short lived pop band, or art historically significant works of video art such as Richard Serra’s early films, the groundbreaking works of Vito Acconci or Yoko Ono, the selected works of Bas Jan Ader, the super-8’s of David Wojnaworicz, a documentary on Agnes Martin, or the only film written by Samuel Beckett (and starring Buster Keaton), they are easily found here, and everything is free.

Electronic Arts Intermix

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is a non-profit artists organisation founded in 1971 which today serves as a major resource for video and media art. Visitors can usually make an appointment to stop by their viewing room in New York to screen any of their more than 3,500 videos, including works by Charles Atlas, John Baldessari, Ana Mendiata, Bruce Nauman and countless others. But with the viewing room currently closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation is opening up access to the online viewing room for $20 a month (the typical rate for students). Email info@eai.org for information about weekly or monthly streaming access.

Vimeo and Youtube

While video platforms such as Vimeo and YouTube may not be exclusively associated with visual artists, many leading video art creators in fact host their works on the platforms. The Hong Kong artist Wong Ping, for instance, got his start by posting videos on Vimeo, and still maintains an active account where you can watch his videos for free. Other video artists, including Ryan Trecartin and Sue De Beer, also maintain public-facing Vimeo collections. On YouTube, you can find artists like Cory Arcangel or Steve Roggenbuck whose channels serve as platforms for their work, while you can use both YouTube and Vimeo to access historic works by artists like Nam June Paik and Dan Graham (though with the sheer number of influencers and make-up tutorials, a search such as “artist” might not bear much fruit).

Video Data Bank

The Video Data Bank (VDB) was founded by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1976, at the dawn of the video and media art movements. Today, its collection boasts some 6,000 video works by over 600 artists, from the early pioneers like William Wegman to the modern savants like Bill Viola. VDB’s collection is rentable, but much of it comes at a high price-point, with fees for an individual purchase “typically ranging from $50 to $120”. Its streaming VDB TV channel features the work of one artist, drawn from the site's archive, for free every few months.

Art 21

Though it does not specialise in video art, the nonprofit Art 21 has offered publicly accessible glimpses into the lives and practices of artists since its founding in 1997. The organisation ran nine series of their Peabody Award winning show “Art in the Twenty-First Century,” all of which can be streamed here. Other various series by Art21 include “New York Close Up,” “Extended Play,” “Artist to Artist,” and more. The organisation also keeps an extremely active YouTube channel where new videos are continuously uploaded, and their weekly newsletter is now complete with a “Staff picks for things to watch, read, and hear” section, where their employees and artist collaborators discusses what media they are consuming at the moment (this week we got a recommendation for Jenny Odell’s nonfiction book, How to Do Nothing, as well as a suggestion on the lighter end of the spectrum: the television show American Ninja Warrior.)