Video as Urban Condition
a project exploring how video shapes urban experience
Video as Urban Condition was launched in 2004 as an archive display and symposium ‘Reflecting on the mutability of video’ and lasted roughly until 2008 (when I convened the conference Video needs art history like a TV set needs a plinth or 2009 (when I wrote the essay ‘Who is Big Brother? or The Politics of Looking’. During this time, several things happened which drastically altered the terrain on which the study had begun and whose social and subjective implications are yet to be mapped. In the decade of the 2000s, the cathode ray tube, the instrument at the heart of electronic television since its inception in the 1920s, became extinct. The tube that had given rise to the box that made video present in three dimensions, which, in turn, had asserted its place in the post-war interior and had supported the sculptural claims of video art, made its final appearance on the street as bulky detritus. YouTube, which quickly came to dominate the distribution of video on the internet, rose from a room-above-a-pizza-shop start-up in 2005 to a 1.6-billion-dollar acquisition by Google the following year. The video sharing service epitomised the social-media bonanza and corporate interest in user-generated content. The iPhone, released in 2007, epitomises the transformation of the telephone into a video (and computing) device. The iPhone was not the first mobile phone to incorporate video recording and distribution capabilities — by 2004 most new phones had cameras in them — nor the first to promote these capabilities in the effort to establish the personal, pocketable device as a site of video consumption. In 2005, the already burgeoning video-surveillance infrastructures got an ideological boost following the terrorist bombings in London, when video surveillance recordings had helped, after the fact, to trace the last movements of the suicide attackers. As in the earlier case in England of the abduction murder of two-year-old James Bulger (1993) by two ten-year-old boys, the video recordings were widely publicised. The more sinister the threat, the more comforting the knowledge one is being watched, and the more willing citizens are to identify themselves in public (by various means) and submit to frequent and ubiquitous, if unobtrusive, checks. As a result of these metamorphoses, [among other things] the narcissism which was once the preserve of an artistic avant-garde became a condition imposed on nearly everyone and, unsurprisingly, was widely embraced. Narcissism became an environmental effect — via the proliferation of closed circuits — and at the same time — via the spread of personal video devices — the medium of self-advertisement, of the authentication of experience and, conversely, of the authentication of the self as the object of the selfie. (Anthony Auerbach, 2016)
Further reflections by Anthony Auerbach:
A Box in the Theatre of the World: Television, Interior and Urban Experience (2007)
Who is Big Brother? or The Politics of Looking (2009)
Daučíková, Daučíkov, A., Anna, aka Anča, A4, artist, author (2016)
This website is an archive of the project.
For [past] events, click news
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Video as urban condition is about the ways in
which video has become part of the urban fabric: the omnipresent
screen and the watchful eye that inhabits private and
public space. Video is the ubiquitous equipment of the home, the
street and the work place: the tube, the box, the telly, CCTV, info-screen,
electronic billboard, in-store advertising, mobile, terrestrial,
cable, satellite, pay-per-view, downloadable, for sale, to rent.
Video as urban condition is about how our knowledge,
perception and fantasy of urban environments are mediated by video.
Video is the mass medium of innumerable fragments, multi-channel,
remote control, camcorder, games console, webcam, public service
broadcasting, peer-to-peer, MTV, 24-hour news, reality TV, soap
opera, family entertainment, pornography, home video.
The project examines a medium whose most distinctive characteristics
are multiplicity and diversity, a form which is not contained by
the norms of art institutions or the exclusive domains of professionals.
Video is a medium of mass production — that is, mass participation
— as well as of mass consumption. The accessibility of video
technology has encouraged not only the private interests of home
video and independent artistic activity, but has also prompted community
and educational initiatives putting the medium in the hands of underprivileged
or excluded groups in society. Video technology has moreover become
established among the tools of communication and witness at the
disposal of activists and campaigners who maintain a position beyond
the mainstream. At the same time, the power of video as a means
of controlling desire and space continues to grow.
The project recognises the diversity of activity in the field and
challenges us to reflect on how the relations of representation
in society are mediated by video.
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The Video-pool is a collection of collections put together by individuals,
each suggesting an interpretation of video as urban condition based
on particular areas of interest, experience and expertise. The Video-pool
collections represent a variety of approaches and methods, forming
a constellation of points of reference.
more about the Video-pool
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The project was launched in 2004 with and interdisciplinary symposium
which took place at the Austrian Cultural Forum, London (with: Juha
Huuskonen (Katastro.fi), Manu Luksch (AmbientTV.net),
Anna McCarthy (New York University), Paul
O’Connor (Undercurrents News Network), Ole
Scheeren (Office of Metropolitan Architecture), chaired
by Anthony Auerbach). The aim of the symposium
was to open the field of enquiry by examining the implications and
applications of video against the background of the myriad forms
in which it appears in urban spaces. Both aspects of the topic —
video and the city — are understood as interdisciplinary and
public. The invited speakers draw on experiences — from architecture
to activism — touching on a wide range of practices, interests
and locations within the field. What they have in common is what
we all share in modern urban life. They do not regard video as an
art-specialism, media-sector or single-purpose tool.
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Exhibition and Intervention
The Video-pool archive forms the principal curatorial resouce for
a series of exhibitions now in preparation. Informed by discussions
such as the Video as ... symposium and the researches of Anthony
Auerbach and other contributors, the exhibition proposals explore
innovative models of curating and displaying video-content within
art institutions as well as the challenge of 'public space'.
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Video as Urban Condition was funded in 2004 by the Austrian Cultural
Forum London and the Arts Council of England with additional
assistance from the Embasssy of Finland, London, and the Royal
Netherlands Embassy, London. In 2005, the visit to Bratislava
was was hosted by Burundi media art organisation, supported
by the British Council. In 2005–06, the project was supported
by a research and development grant from the Arts Council of
England, with additional assistance from the Austrian Cultural
Forum London. The visit to Yerevan in 2006 was supported by
the British Council. The exhibition at the Lentos Museum, Linz,
2007 has been carried out within the framework of ‘translate’ Beyond
Culture: The Politics of Translation and with the support of
the Culture 2000 programme of the European Union.
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