Using the internet as a platform for moving image artwork is a contentious practice. Many galleries and artists shy away from it because they fear losing control of dissemination, because laptops are hardly ideal display devices and the Gloria Jeans' viewing context could potentially damage the art experience.
There are nevertheless a small number of websites that aggregate moving image works for various archival, distribution, network and exhibition purposes, demonstrating that the internet can provide a no-risk platform for moving image artists, a highly valuable resource for research and a unique and intimate experience for viewers.
Generally speaking archive and distribution focussed sites tend to feature celebrated artists but present only short excerpts from works or use tiny media players, whereas sites developed for online exhibition offer a more satisfying viewing experience in terms of presentation, but the standard of work can vary. Here is a selected list of sites dedicated to video art and moving image. Josephine Skinner
Australian Video Art Archive
Founded in 2006 with assistance from Monash University, the Australian Video Art Archive sadly represents a truncated list of artists despite an increasingly strong Australian video art culture evidenced by recent exhibitions such as the MCA's Video Logic, the forthcoming Video Swell at AGNSW and the fact that a video artist officially represented Australia in the Venice Biennale (Shaun Gladwell is notably absent from the archive). No doubt the list will grow in time, but one only has to refer to the Arts Council England funded Lux or the US Video Data Bank to see the potential cultural significance of such a site when supported by the art community and government funding.
Lux was established in 2002 and defines itself as a non-profit arts agency. Building on the resources of The London Filmmakers Co-operative, London Video Arts and The Lux Centre, its collection now represents over 4,000 films from international artists with a large selection available to view online in the Watch section. Lux also promotes moving image through distribution, exhibition, publishing, commissioning and offering support for curators, researchers and academics.
Video Data Bank
Video Data Bank is a US-based video art archive boasting a rather impressive collection. Founded in 1976 at the inception of the media arts movement, the collection includes seminal works by key artists such Nam June Paik and Joan Jonas. The main purpose of the website is the distribution and sale of a wonderful selection of DVD anthologies and compilations, but it is also a handy resource, offering informative short texts on artists and art movements with a large number of works to view—unfortunately these appear on frustratingly small Quicktime video players.
The brain-child of German curator Wilfried Agricola de Cologne, Videochannel is better designed than Video Data Bank for displaying video art, using a Flash Media Player with full screen viewing mode. It is just one component of Agricola de Cologne’s online network of projects, [NewMediaArtProjectNetwork]:||cologne, which is ambitious but can feel rather like a sprawling empire, conflated by rather confusing navigation. That aside, Agricola de Cologne does enlist guest curators for the Videochannel, offering thematically or geographically curated video exhibitions selected from open calls for work. The standard tends to vary but Videochannel nevertheless offers a wide-ranging and truly international selection of video art.
Culture TV, like VideoChannel, is programmed in part to coincide with offline arts festivals. For instance, it recently presented a curated selection of video art to correspond with the opening of Optica Festival 2009 (Bolivia). The site is predominantly focused on its video archive, updated weekly and navigated via theme rather than artist, and using a YouTube style media player that allows comments, video sharing and full screen viewing.
Tank.tv is at the more elite end of the spectrum. Spawned in 2003 by glossy London publication Tank Magazine, it boasts an exhibition program of moving image works that would make any ‘real world’ gallery green with envy, while the clean graphics and image-free layout is just very pleasing. It has an established credibility within the contemporary art world, securing high calibre exhibitors, curators and collaborators including the likes of Vito Acconci, Pipilotti Rist and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller. Offering a series of solo shows in 2009, the current program is no less exciting. John Bock, Mounir Fatmi and Lisa Oppenheim have already been featured, while Paul McCarthy and Thomas Hirschhorn are promised to follow shortly. The exhibition texts are kept brief, however most shows are accompanied by interviews with the artists or curators, shedding light on the theoretical side of things in an easily digestible manner. Membership is free, making this site a rather impressive, highly accessible resource for contemporary video art enthusiasts and academics.
Rhizome is less an elite online gallery than a grassroots community and network, and it offers this in bucket loads. Membership (US$25) is necessary in order to enjoy full benefits, but this affords you endless lively forums and discussions, reviews of commissions (members vote on who receives grants), portfolio maintenance and blog subscriptions among other member benefits. Founded in 1996, and affiliated with the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York since 2003, Rhizome represents a wider range of new media (from video to games-based art) and a more critically engaged approach than other sites. The Artbase section is an online archive of new media art (reviewed by curatorial staff) making over 2,000 art works available to view, however the online curated exhibitions are slightly disappointing, as they often seem to redirect you to individual artist’s websites or YouTube postings.