Please Stop with the Boring Video Art

published in Like No.9, Melbourne, 2000

You are an artist. A contemporary one. You work 'beyond' painting. You're into all sorts of things, all sorts of media. Hey – you're even a DJ. Next month you've got a interactive sound installation happening. Yeah. But right now you've got to finish a video art project you've been working on for some time now.

But before you start, I'd like to put in special request before you hit the record button on your videocam.

You might think you live in an aura of utter fascination, but really, you don't. Your lounge room is thoroughly drab. Your back yard is a yawning expanse of crap. And your kitchen – so warm and close to your early morning esprit – is oppressively normal. Granted you're a real artist – not one of those graphic designers, interior designers or architects who are afflicted with doll's house syndrome – so I can dig you pushing the banal, the domestic, the ugly, the grunge, the fucked-up. I'm also hip to your neurotically messed-up insecurities which you therapeutically exorcise in public in the form of art.

But please stop with the boring video art.

I'm not talking about ironically/deliberately/smart-arsely 'boring'. I'm talking about genuine boring. Like a monitor sitting on a plinth in gallery playing one shot of traffic from 'the city'. For 30 minutes. Or blurred-focus close-ups of shit left lying around on your coffee table. For 30 minutes. Or intensely unpoetic shots of some uneventful crud happening outdoors, shot in long focus so I can't even see what the hell is happening. For 30 minutes. Or shots of deserts, rivers, clouds, trees, sunsets. For 30 minutes. Or wobbly hand-held takes of your lard-arse cat. For 30 fucking minutes.

As to how you handle the sound and music in your video – give up. Now.

Video doesn't capture reality, let alone your vision. That record button is not a psychic link to your mind-blowing perception of the world. It just records what's in front of the lens - end of story. You simply have not thought about what it is you put in front of the camera before you shoot. Worse - you can't sort the shit from the shinola when you move into your exciting digital edit suite.

Independent (sorry - 'indie') cinema is currently a roving horde of wannabes who make the worst post-Clerks crud imaginable, but which in each director's eyes is something sublimely above all the other crud. Video art is similarly a transfixed mass of Bill "Mr. Humanity" Viola wannabes who somehow think that video is a new tool, a suitable medium, a dimension befitting their unique 'mixed-media transdisciplinary art practice'. As if your collated video diaries and video journals and video impressions are worth sharing. You probably only give other video artists 30 seconds of your time at an opening where you can't hear the audio, let alone see the image clearly. Yet maybe that's all you deserve. You ain't breaking any boundaries, norms or conventions of cinema, TV, the Gallery. And you ain't bringing anything new that a bunch of tired old fogie sculptors made us endure when they got turned on, man, to the 'new medium' of video art in the early 70s. Their polemics are as vacuous as your intuitive grasp of the medium.

What is it with the pathology of artists who think that everything they do is a gift for us? It's not my birthday, so please leave me alone. If you're going to hit the record button give me something I haven't seen before. The sewer system under Toorak Rd. A closing down sale for leftover Olympics paraphernalia in Boronia. A mastectomy. You having sex. The removal of asbestos in a city skyscraper. A tannery in Northcote. Your parents having sex. Interviews with bogan dealers in Russell St. A skater getting his balls crushed on a metal balustrade. A cat getting shaved. I'll even go for faked versions of any of this. Anything to get away from the visual entrails which sprout forth in uncontrolled excess from your empty imagination.

Video has great potential as a machine of the now by virtue of the simple socio-cultural apparatus it is: you, a camera, and shit that happens. No media, no content, no form, no art, no space, no time, no context. But I'm afraid to say it takes nous, savvy, skill, technique and an alive mind to push the medium beyond its numbing base.

Just because you've been subjected to an unending stream of tedious internationalist video art which has inflicted our shore over the last 5 years is no excuse to mimic it. Quit fantasizing that you'll be in Parkette or Wallpaper with hi-gloss photo documentation of unengaging crap from your non-eventful video installations.

Enough with boring video artists. Enough with boring video art curators. Enough with boring video art.

Text © Philip Brophy. Image © Samsung.