Destructural Video

Posted by John McAndrew | Mon Sep 21st 2009 8:24 a.m.

Hello everyone, this is my first post to Rhizome so please be gentle!

My name is John McAndrew and I'm a Fine Art student at the University of Cumbria. I'm currently writing my dissertation on the history of video and moving image art, but with a focus on artists that exploit flaws and glitches in the video medium and use them to their benefit. I've self-dubbed this particular strain of video art 'destructural video'. I've been researching this subject for a few months now and am slowly bringing together all my findings into my first draft (the final copy isn't due until December/January). I figured some of you might find what I'm writing about interesting.

You can find more information regarding my subject at my blog (here) and also on this Facebook group (here). Both are a bit empty when it comes to discussion from people other than myself, so if anyone wants to contribute in some way by posting some comments or recommendations then it'd be really appreciated! I'd especially love to hear from any artists who wants to share some of their work with me, or discuss 'destructural video' too. Once I finish the dissertation I'll be sure to post a link here for you all to read.

I'm looking forward to hearing from some of you! Hell, even if it's just to criticize the term 'destructural video'...
  • Mary Hull Webster | Mon Sep 21st 2009 3:14 p.m.
    Hi John,

    I like both the term destructural and the idea of destructuring video. I have a video that relied on low-res taping of a moving sculpture I made. I continued to break up the image, over and over, using Final Cut Pro, reshooting my computer screen with a video camera, etc. The final piece is called A Chorus of Cells, and you can see it online at http://lookingforlucia.com/contn1.html, which is a stand-alone video, but also part of a larger web fiction in progress.

    I have another piece that was made in NTSC, then shown on a monitor set for secam, which broke things up nicely....

    No time right now to read your ideas--about to leave town for two weeks--but it sounds interesting to me....destructuring is the heart of transforming something from one state to another--the breakdown is the pivot point.

    Best wishes, Mary
  • John McAndrew | Thu Sep 24th 2009 8:41 a.m.
    Hi Mary,

    Thank you for your reply! I apologise for not replying immediately but unfortunately I'm not always able to access the internet every day. I thought your video A Chorus of Cells was quite interesting; even though the refilming process is not a new thing, the use of multiple images really made it standout for me as well as its unsteadiness. Admittedly it wasn't quite what I was looking for, but I appreciated you sharing it. However. the piece you mentioned of a NTSC video being shown on a monitor set for SECAM - now that's the sort of thing I'm interested in! Like you said regarding destructuring (which was intentionally chosen as it's a made up word, or rather a corruption of other words like "destruct", "structural" and "deconstruct"), the breakdown is the pivot point. It's that fine line, that tension, between something not working how you planned it or expected it to, and it falling apart completely beyond repair. Technological conflicts, unorthodox ways of using the video as a medium, breaking established rules set by broadcasting standards etc - these are things what I find fascinating. Like when you watch a DVD or listen to a CD, and the media format is corrupt in a way or affected, and things start skipping or playing up, which immediately pulls you out of the comfort zone. Then you realize you're not listening to music or not transported to an imaginary life away from your own, but rather you're listening to or watching an emulation or a synthesis of these representations. And whilst many people would be driven insane by these glitches, I find a beauty in them. This is a small factor of what destructural video constitutes for me!

    By the way, the idea of breaking down the illusionary properties when you watch a video is one of the reasons I chose "destructural" as my term; as I've mentioned elsewhere on my other links, "destructural" links in with and relates to "structural" as in structural filmmaking, which promoted an anti-illusionary way of creating (and therefore viewing) films. Whilst it's admittedly a somewhat dated sort of modernist art movement, and very formalist in its philosophy, I do feel there's been a resurgence of artists interested in similar film-as-film (or now rather, video-as-video) principles. Where I feel destructural video expands upon structural film, is that artists have taken these formalist ideas but used them with new media forms such as video or computer-assisted visuals, and with these new technologies the potential to realise more extreme forms of anti-illusionary revelations come into play. You're no longer editing films frame by frame ala Sharits, but editing the very data or DNA of something ala Arcangel. And with these come new ways of watching things seemingly fall apart in front of your very own eyes.

    If it would be okay with the moderators of Rhizome, can I use this thread to post links to videos or artists that I feel represent destructural video? That way it would save me from making new separate posts every time I want to share something that I feel is relevant to my subject, and hopefully keeps everything tidy and all under this one thread? If this goes against the etiquette of this discussion board, then please let me know. Failing that, I recommend that people have a browse on the Facebook group I mentioned and look at some of the artists I mention in the ever-growing discussion threads there (some of the contributors to Rhizome might even be mentioned?). And again, please join and contribute if you feel so inclined!
  • Mary Hull Webster | Thu Oct 15th 2009 noon
    John, all this is very interesting...I went to your blog, tried to look at the list of artists, but the ones I wanted to see restrict info for casual visitors, so I couldn't see what they were doing without committing myself to their sites. One of the great things about the Net is that a person can be solo, NOT connected by choice to lots of people, NOT moving in a crowd, but can post work and ideas, which I love seeing from all over.

    It seems to be that one of the philosophical ideas embedded in destructuring has to do with getting past the group mentality, ANY group mentality, to see what an individual does. Of course your purpose in writing a dissertation is to consider a group of artists who seem to be working along similar lines--and to make some comments that may draw a circle around them, much as a curator does.

    I've bookmarked your blog and will check back. By the way, the original footage in my piece, A Chorus of Cells, was of one moving sculpture with lights inside it. It was in the intentional degradation of the footage over a long process that the image was broken into multiple images.

    It seems to me that you are cycling back into the formal pursuits of Modernism, as I am...eventually, all of the "positioning" of artists within collective causes gets dry and my interest becomes forced because there is no formal hook that engages my eyes. I guess you know about Nicolas Bourriaud's "altermodern" show at the Tate. My students near San Francisco are very interested in his ideas.

    With best wishes, Mary
  • marc garrett | Thu Oct 15th 2009 12:25 p.m.
    Hi there,

    I am also interested in Nicolas Bourriaud, he is not a great man, more of a top-down patriarchal thief, imposing his ego-centered modernist (non)values, on others to submit to, in hope of a profile in history...

    Those who follow him are not only sheep, they are lost sheep ;-)

    you may be interested in this article here:

    Altermodernism: The Age of the Stupid - by Ellie Harrison.

    http://www.furtherfield.org/displayreview.php?review_id=360

    "Postmodernism is dead" declares Nicolas Bourriaud in the opening line of his manifesto for our new global cultural era - the 'altermodern'. As a preface to the latest Tate Triennial exhibition of the same name, the French curator and theorist sets about defining what he sees as the parameters of our contemporary society and offering paradigms for artistic approaches to navigating and negotiating them.

    This essay aims to identify what the birth of this new era tells us about our culture's relationship to time. It will explore how we choose to define the periods in which we live and how our relationships with the past, present and future seem to constantly evolve. As a central focus, it brings together two examples of cultural events from 2009 which have both, in semi-revolutionary ways, attempted to define our current age. The Altermodern exhibition and its accompanying Manifesto (Bourriaud 2009b) launched at the Tate Britain on 4th February provides the first, and the second is provided by The Age of Stupid - a feature film and accompanying environmental campaign launched in UK cinemas on 20th March.

    Set in the year 2055, The Age of Stupid focuses on a man living alone in a world which has all but been destroyed by climate change. In an attempt to understand exactly how such a tragedy could have befallen his species and the society and culture which they created over the course of several millennia, he begins to review a series of 'archive' documentary clips from 2008. His aim is to discover how his ancestors - the one generation of people who had the power to prevent the impending disaster - could have demonstrated such disregard or contempt for the future.

    By focusing on two central texts - Bourriaud's Altermodern Manifesto and a faux encyclopedia entry from the future which retrospectively defines 'the Age of Stupid' released as promotional material for the film (Appendix One) - the essay aims to explore the disturbing continuities between these two perceptions of our current times and the drastic consequences these could have, if left unchecked, for the future of humanity and indeed the future of art.
    • Kate Southworth | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 4:21 p.m.
      Hi Marc,
      I couldn't disagree with you more. I've been writing about the similarities and differences between net art and 'relational art' for the last few months and have read and re-read several texts by Nicolas Bourriaud. And it seems to me that (in Relational Aesthetics, for example) he articulates very well indeed the socio-economic context within which artists were making work during the 1990s. He understands, I think, the significance of the shift to artists devising the parameters of the situation within which inter-subjective encounters emerge.

      I think his articulation of these shifts is highly relevant to anyone working in the emerging areas of distributed network art, and especially to anyone, like me, obsessed with the role of protocol in distributed work.

      I haven't got the quote exactly, but ten years ago, Nicolas Bourriaud was asking 'what is the 'glue'' that holds relational work together. What a killer question!

      Ten years later, I'd suggest, possibly, that protocol is the 'glue' that that holds temporally and spatially discrete elements together and is the organising frame of relational, network and other non-centralised contemporary art practices.

      all my very best
      Kate
      • Mary Hull Webster | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 7 p.m.
        Kate et al,

        Some years ago I had a fleeting realization that eros as heat or energy, which may be the source of connective glue within quantum physics, the net, or sex, is a palpable principle that attracts me very much. This view probably falls back to Freud's pleasure principle. In a sense what attracts me to the net, the phrase "relational art," to the Tate Modern exhibition online, and to beauty in art, is pleasure.

        Along with this attraction, I want to be as conscious as possible, and certainly lean politically to the left and progressive causes for the wellbeing of all persons on the earth. I am still entranced by Barack Obama because I perceive his philosophical position to be one of erotic integration of warring opposites. Most of my art is influenced by this position, which I find as well in Buddhism, Taoism, and the opposites in Jungian psychology. This looks like a re-emergence of a meta idea that I need, or a Neo-Platonic position, or maybe an "altermodern," or a sort of neo-romantic shift. The terms don't matter and nobody is being pressed to join up. These are my interests, maybe not yours.

        So, if you, Kate, think protocol is the glue that allows you and me to talk to each other, that's fine with me, but it's the eros between us that calls me to the platform. I'd be interested in reading some of your work. You can contact me at mhwdotcom@comcast.net if you would like to share some links or references.

        With best wishes, Mary

        • Kate Southworth | Wed Nov 4th 2009 3:15 a.m.
          Hi Mary and others,
          I should clarify that I don't think that protocol is the glue that allows you and me to talk to each other - but that maybe it is the glue that holds together art that is made from discrete elements. Extending Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker's writings, I see protocol as that which organises and controls discrete elements within any distributed system. Protocol as a medium enables the portability of relational artworks and artworks without a central point of focus. So protocol is useful, but nonetheless is a system of control. I am particularly interested in how artists 'come to' systems of control - in particular Agnes Martin's grids and Sol LeWitt's alogorithms. I would suggest that both Martin and LeWitt work within a logic of co-existence: that is, they don't destroy the grid, or algorithm, but they do fragilise it.

          I'll send you a couple of papers that I presented at this year's ISEA in Belfast which start to map some of these ideas.

          all my very best
          kate
  • nicolas bourriaud | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 11:12 a.m.
    Dear Marc Garett,

    I will have a look at the "age of stupid", which sounds like being in my field of interests... Concerning the "sheeps" that would "follow" me : I think I only have readers. Hopefully.
    The sheeps have to be counted, according to me, among the ones who believe blindly the massive caricatures of my point of view in the english mainstream press AND their reflect, aka some self proclaimed guardians of the marxist temple. So, please, read the texts (and not the press releases, by the way).
    And, frankly, if you knew me, you would be ashamed of seeing me as "patriarchal"... (big laugh)

    All the best,

    NB
  • marc garrett | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 11:39 a.m.
    Hi Nicolas,

    Thank you for your response. If you wish me to see observe your contexts, then it is only fair that you discover what I am part of...

    wishing you well, perhaps we will meet one day :-)

    p.s. You do sound cute ;-)

    Our Neighbourhood - Virtual/Physical/Contextual...

    Furtherfield - online media arts community.
    http://www.furtherfield.org

    HTTP Gallery - physical media arts Gallery (London).
    http://www.http.uk.net

    Furthernoise - online media arts music community.
    http://www.furthernoise.org

    Netbehaviour - email list community for discussion.
    http://www.netbehaviour.org

    Furtherfield Blog - shared space for personal reflections on media art practice.
    http://blog.furtherfield.org

    VisitorsStudio - real-time, multi-user, online arena for creative 'many to many' dialogue, networked performance and collaborative polemic.
    http://www.visitorsstudio.org/x.html
  • John McArdle | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 12:53 p.m.
    Yes! by all means! poke the stick in the wasp nest. Stir up controversy, create dialogue which incourages debate or pretentious and contentious comments. Snubbing my nose @ the establishment elite. Six figure or above salaried executives who try to run this consumer based petro-chemical nightmare. Which we all now know is not sustainable at current natural resource use. So your great great grandchildren will witness the demise of a once pristene planet. So what indulge your hedonistic desires. Go ahead persue that matierialistic goal. A NEW CAR (mercedes benz)- Convertible. A House in The Hamptons on Long Island. Purchase that winery in Napa valley california. See if i care? I'll be dead and gone and they will still be pouring new concrete foundations for nuclear power plants refinerys chemical plants. Just for once in your life "Throw the dog a bone!" ARF ARF! musicians busking on the streets. Poets philosophers sages "enlightened ones" Seeking a refuge. CONTACT ME "babylon john john mcardle" Upstate NY artists summer refuge and self sufficient farm has begun.(BINGHAMTON ITHACA area) Regardless of your greedy petty endeavors. Success is built on a mountain of failures. Adversity builds character. It is better than to have tried and failed and died in poverty and recluseness than to succomb to mediocrity and the status quo. Viva La Revolution!
  • Mary Hull Webster | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 6:13 p.m.
    How about a quiet revolution that allows for all kinds of diversity? There are too many of us art people on the planet with radically different positions to draw us all into the same picture. My vote goes for multiple pictures that coexist with respect.

    I have lots of respect for the Furtherfield people and their work. AND I love being in California, USA, and looking at Bourriaud's exhibition at the Tate in London. I love the beauty and color of it and the hopeful responses that appear on the faces of students in my seminar as they look for how to place themselves as artists. I also love the strong deep hearts of the folks at Furtherfield who have forged a unique way of being artists. Why fight?

    Some people seem to need their fists. More to the point, some need a hierarchy in which to place themselves and scream if somebody in the hierarchy THEY HAVE CHOSEN TO RELATE TO is in an apparently more favored position--generally through unceasingly enormous effort. The revolutionary position NOW, not thirty-forty years ago or earlier, is to flatten the hierarchies into thousands of positions, all of which need to be respected. If you care who has a Mercedes AND you are also deeply aligned with Marx, then what's needed is a further differentiation of consciousness. If one realizes that he or she just likes to react against something with threatening fists, it's important to understand one's own violence. If she or he wishes consciously to pour more violence into the landscape to feel better, then this is a choice. But not mine to take on more toxicity.
  • Nick Briz | Tue Nov 3rd 2009 8:41 p.m.
    Hey John,

    I'm currently working towards my MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and my focus is very similar. We differ in that maybe I'm a bit more concerned with the digital glitch specifically, as I'm very interested in the way that it relates to digital culture. However, after looking at your blog I noticed there's definitely a lot of overlap in our interests. Some things:

    Here's an article I wrote on Glitch Art recently:
    http://fnewsmagazine.com/wp/2009/10/titleglitch-amp-arttitle/

    I also put this together:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glitch_Art

    Here's a link to some of my work:
    http://www.nickbriz.com/videos/ANewEcology.mov
    http://vimeo.com/4529527
    http://rhizome.org/object.php?o=48468&m=1057411

    I've also been very interested in curating this kind of work. I curated a program called Glitch Night in Orlando FL last year and I'm curating a program called Glitch: Investigations into the New Ecology of our Digital Age here's a flyer for that: http://nickbriz.com/New_ecology_poster.pdf
    I can email you program notes/associated writings if you'd like.

    Also here are others that have written on/worked with Glitch Art which you might find interesting:
    Evan Meaney (evanmeaney.com)
    http://evanmeaney.com/glitching/theory/evan_meaney_onglitching.pdf

    Rosa Menkman (rosa-menkman.blogspot.com)
    http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/1332959/Rosa%20Menkman%20-%20Artifacts%20and%20Critical%20Media%20Aesthetics.pdf

    Iman Moradi (http://www.organised.info/)
    http://designingimperfection.com/
    http://www.oculasm.org/glitch/download/Glitch_dissertation_print_with_pics.pdf

    Richard Almond (http://blog.rafolio.co.uk/)
    http://rafolio.co.uk/maadm/thesis/projectreportweb.pdf

    Hope this helps, There's a lot more where this came from, just let me know.
    -Nick-
    (nickbriz@gmail.com)
  • John McAndrew | Wed Nov 4th 2009 11:27 a.m.
    Wow! I don't visit Rhizome for a few weeks, expecting hardly any replies to appear, and then come back to this! Thanks everyone for your responses - even if some went off on unexpected but all together welcome tangents (I never would have expected Nicolas Bourriaud to post here of all places!). Obviously I need to use this site more. Like you said Mary, Bourriaud's quite influential with art students and I know a number of people on my course are especially inspired and influenced by his opinions. I find his book Postproduction more to my liking and interests.

    Nick, all those links are great! I'm familiar with a few names that you mention but others are less well known to me (I'm more familiar with video art, rather than new media art), so thanks! I tend to use the term "medium-specific fault or flaw" as my definition of what a glitch entails is perhaps a little too all-encompassing; especially when mentioned in relation to the history of video art, for me the glitch spans right from analog disruptions all the way to digital glitches. Nevertheless, our interests are firmly implanted in provoking an electronic medium into doing things it wasn't intended to do. It's interesting you mention Iman Moradi - his dissertation for example was one of the first papers I read re: glitch art and aesthetics, and somewhat frustratingly I found it covered a lot of subjects I originally set out to write about (although he did it 6 years before I did!). Incidentally, he also happens to live about 10 miles away from my home town, ha! We've since corresponded a few times to each other online and I'm actually hoping to meet him in person next week all being well.

    Again, thanks again to everyone for replying! It's given me a much needed push in getting this dissertation done...
    • Nick Briz | Wed Nov 4th 2009 2:54 p.m.
      Absolutely, in terms of glitch as a "medium-specific fault or flaw" there is an analog history that predates the digital one, and if we consider glitch as simply a disturbance/flaw in a system it has a history that can predate even electronic analog technology, Jon Satrom (A professor here at the Art Institute of Chicago and fellow glitch enthusiast) adopts a similar mindset. That there's a long history for the appreciation, or rather interest, in "errors" and/or "accidents" is for sure, I guess I've just been more taken by the digital kind (for varies reasons, including, as I mentioned before my interest in glitch's relation to digital culture).

      good luck with you're dissertation, I'm very interested in reading it when you're finished!
  • John McAndrew | Wed Jan 27th 2010 3:22 p.m.
    Hello again,

    Hope you don't mind me bringing this old thread back. In case anyone is interested, you can now read my dissertation which inspired this thread post. Just click here to read and/or download it.

    There's still much room for improvement (I'm not entirely happy with my conclusion for example, which was a bit of a rush job) but I'll leave that for a future paper once my ideas are developed further and I don't have such a restrictive word count. I've amended some things in this online version of the dissertation - some silly mistakes have been rectified (whilst others still remain no doubt), and an appendix containing personal email correspondence with various artists and writers has been removed as I wasn't sure whether they wanted private discussions being spread over the net. Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it and got a good mark from my tutors. Let me know your thoughts!

    I am still deeply inspired to continue promoting destructural video as a valid artistic movement - the dissertation was only the beginning. I feel the term and its ideas have already raised a fair amount of discussion and I believe it still has the potential to grow into something bigger. I have some big plans for the future, but I won't reveal anything just yet - all I can say is keep checking my Facebook group and blog for further developments...

    Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who replied here, followed my blog, joined my Facebook group or sent me emails - I really appreciated it!

    Best,
    John McAndrew
    (destructuralvideo.blogspot.com)
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