February 23, 2008 - New Museum - Night School: Martha Rosler, Art & Social Life; The Case of Video Art
February 23, 2008

Night School: Martha Rosler, Art & Social Life; The Case of Video Art

Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen, 1975
Video still
Courtesy the artist

Night School Public Seminar 2:
Martha Rosler
Art & Social Life; The Case of Video Art

Free with Museum admission but tickets are required*
235 Bowery
New York, NY 10002


Seminar schedule:
Thursday, February 28, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, February 29, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 1, 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 2, 3 p.m.

Martha Rosler
Art & Social Life; The Case of Video Art

The early history of autonomous video art is a pivotal point in the internal culture wars of the art world. Starting in the late 1960s through the early 1970s, artists with quite diverse practices experimented with the new (but not yet widely available) portable video apparatuses.

Film had by mid-century superseded both architecture and music as the queen of the arts. But by the 1950s the broadcast television industry and its structures of celebrity were challenging the social status of high art. Television was a problem…and then the Portapak was invented. Video suggested varieties of freedom to artists restive about or dismissive of traditional studio practices. Video promised a sort of gesamtkunstwerk on the ruins of a high modernism that had demanded a strict separation between forms. Video offered not just the experience of time married to the illusion of space accompanied by sound; because of poor image quality, video also offered relative freedom even from the concerns of cinema, art film, and movies. It provided the opportunity to sketch or to perform, to record a gesture or a narrative, to sing in the shower or dance in the studio, abetted by simple in-camera edits. Artists could, without commitment, break free of the studio if they chose, and, in the political ferment and upheavals of the era, take a look around, report, raise a voice, show a face, register anger, offer an opinion, analyze social structures and events, tell a joke, join with friends, and yell back at the mind-melting products of broadcast television while nevertheless making use of television’s capacity for instantaneous, unrecorded transmission and endless flow, or they could take advantage of a recorded format that was easily reproducible and could be widely disseminated. The international potentials of this form were immediately obvious to artists and even museum administrators, to judge by the range of international “video opens” of the mid-1970s.

The wide-open field of early video may arguably be the typical condition of a medium at birth (compare the Internet, on its way from being a utopian arena of activity to a gated compound locked down by corporate toll takers, if they get their way). Despite the competition of sites like YouTube, video as an art form has become, by definition, an expensive captive of the gallery and museum, the black box inside the white box. But the transformative impulses that drove utopian hopes in the earliest days have not completely evaporated. It is absolutely vital to revisit early video works and their context (including the texts of the era), to provide a deep slice into the moment of origin and see what may be refurbished and adapted for the present-beyond the stylish appropriations of the 1970s “look.” In the face of the Society of the Spectacle, taking back/talking back to the media was a watchword of the era, offering the hope of social transformation through art, activism, and community interventions. This hope animates many today, in whatever form and medium it may be furthered.

Video screenings related to this seminar will occur during the week of the seminar and the following week. A complete schedule of screenings will be available at www.newmuseum.org/events starting Monday, February 25.

Night School is an artist’s project by Anton Vidokle in the form of a temporary school. A yearlong program of monthly seminars and workshops, Night School draws upon a group of local and international artists, writers, and theorists to conceptualize and conduct the program.

Martha Rosler was born in Brooklyn, New York, where she now lives, after spending the 1970s in California. She works in video, photo-text, installation, sculpture, and performance, and writes on aspects of culture. She is a renowned teacher and has lectured widely, nationally and internationally. Rosler’s work is centered on everyday life and the public sphere, often with an eye to women’s experience. Recurrent concerns are the media and war as well as architecture and the built environment, from housing and homelessness to systems of transport. Her work has been seen in the Venice Biennale of 2003; the Liverpool Biennial and the Taipei Biennial (both 2004); documenta 12 and SkultpturProjekte Münster (2007); as well as many major international survey shows, including several Whitney biennials. She has had numerous solo exhibitions. A retrospective of her work, Positions in the Life World (1998-2000), was shown in five European cities and at the New Museum and the International Center of Photography (both in New York), concurrently. Rosler has published fifteen books of photography, art, and writing, most recently Imágines públicas: La funcíon política de la imagen (Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2007). Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Essays 1975-2001 was published by MIT Press in 2004. Books of her photographs include Passionate Signals (Cantz, 2005), In the Place of the Public: Airport Series (Cantz, 1997), and Rites of Passage (NYFA, 1995). If You Lived Here (Free Press, 1991) addresses her Dia project on housing, homelessness, and urban life. Rosler has been awarded the Spectrum International Prize in Photography for 2005, the Oskar-Kokoschka Prize in 2006, and Anonymous Was a Woman award in 2007. She teaches at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and
Rutgers University.

Screening schedule:
Wednesday, February 27-Friday, February 29, 12:30-6 p.m.
Wednesday, March 5-Friday, March 7, 12:30-6 p.m.

Films to be screened include:
Vito Acconci Red Tapes Part 1
Max Almy Leaving the 20th Century
Max Almy Perfect Leader – Static Episodes
Nancy Angelo & Candace Compton Nun and Deviant
Ant Farm & T.R. Uthco Eternal Frame
Eleanor Antin The Nurse and the Hijackers
Sadie Benning It Wasn’t Love
Dara Birnbaum Technology/Transformation
Dara Birnbaum Kiss the Girls: Make Them Cry
Gregg Bordowitz Fast Trip, Long Drop
Joan Braderman Joan Does Dynasty
Nancy Buchanan Selected Works
Christine Choy & Renee Tajima Who Killed Vincent Chin?
Cecelia Condit Possibly in Michigan
David Cort & Curtis Radcliffe Mayday Realtime
Sara Diamond 10 Dollars or Nothing
Juan Downey The Laughing Alligator
Hermine Freed Art Herstory
Kip Fulbeck Banana Split
Paul Garrin Man With a Video Camera
Paul Garrin By Any Means Necessary
Vanalyne Green Trick or Drink
John Greyson Jungle Boy
Julie Gustafson The Politics of Intimacy
Joan Jonas Vertical Roll
Shigeko Kubota My Father
Stashu Kybartas Danny
Suzanne Lacy, Learn Where the Meat Comes From
Fred Lonidier Confessions of the Peace Corps
Yolanda M. Lopez When You Think of Mexico
Susan Mogul Take Off
Linda Montano Mitchell’s Death
Olhar Eletronico Varela in Xingu
Howardina Pindell Free, White and 21
Portable Channel Attica Interviews
Millie Reyes 2371 2nd Avenue: An East Harlem Story
Hector Sanchez Life in the G: Gowanus Gentrified
Richard Serra Boomerang
Richard Serra & Carlota Fay Schoolman Television Delivers People
Shelly Silver Things I Forgot to Tell Myself
Jason Simon Production Notes: Fast Food For Thought
Valerie Soe All Orientals Look the Same
Lisa Steele The Gloria Tapes
Janice Tanaka Who’s Going to Pay for These Donuts, Anyway?
White American Political Association Race and Reason

All events are free with Museum admission but tickets are required. Tickets can be reserved online or at the Museum one week before the seminar’s start; a limited number of tickets will be available one hour before each event’s start. Tickets are limited, distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis, and must be collected prior to the event’s start time. Unclaimed tickets will be released promptly at the event’s start time. Please check individual events below for tickets and more information.

For tickets see www.newmuseum.org/events

Night School is part of the Museum as Hub, which is made possible by the Third Millennium Foundation.

With additional generous support from the Metlife Foundation

Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Endowment support is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Skadden, Arps Education Programs Fund and the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for Education Programs at the New Museum.

Generous support also provided by the Charlotte and Bill Ford Artist Talks Fund.

New Museum

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