Dear Contributor,

The 40 Years of German Video Art ( ) is a project initiated by The German Cultural Foundation in 2004 to digitize, restore and archive a "cultural heritage" that was seen to be slipping away, as video in older formats degenerated. After exhibitions in Bremen, Westfalen, Munich, Leipzig and Karlsruhe, this collection is now travelling internationally with the Goethe-Institut. A package in this form this suggests a certain stability in the category "German video art". At the same time its circulation opens up the material, and its context of production and thought; its "Germany", to review by diverse and sometimes unsolicited sources. It is our good fortune to be able to invite your contribution, and to promote such activity. Sehen hei§t Šndern, to see is to change.

In physics, parallax is a measure of distance, based on the change in what is seen of the "target", as one moves. Such parallax is used as a metaphor for "transposition", (or ways of viewing differently the same thing) in the philosophy of Karatani and Zizek, among others. In their uses of the term, the parallax view escapes mere "cultural relativism", or the notion of infinite individual opinions, by positing parallax not as just two points of view, but as a displacement or split "inscribed in the object itself", not arising from external opinion or doxa. [1] The parallax we want to activate at this event is not just in that we can collectively produce many readings of the given material, but in that we strongly acknowledge our mutual differences, across the energy and breadth of contemporary practice. We observe the non-coincidence of positions that are possible, with regard to video and art. This is then a map of how precisely we are separated from each other... a wonderful and productive map.

Which may be a starting point to discuss with the artists and art-lovers present at the Bombay event, the broad question: what are the specific transformations of context that we imagine such / our own art may produce? In other words, if "culture" is geo-political, what are the locations that we see video art activating, within it? The tension between art's production and circulation processes, languages, times, and institutions can be read spatially, as parallax. So how do artists "reach out", from where they are "coming from", if these are clearly not the same place? What does it mean to "gather" arguments, strategies, images, from diverse provenances, and "apply" them at a particular point? What happens, if we stand at this point, and look around? (for example in mid-2008, in one of of bombay's new warehouse galleries?)

These may seem like metaphorical questions, but already in contemporary Indian video we see so many new locations and forms, you might say concrete trajectories, roads of images. The "travelling" artist with a camera who enters zones of more or less conflict, attempting to dig deeper than the average documentary film. The mobile performer who uses video not only to document her ephemeral work, but also as "the work", which then travels, independently. The expansion of networked or "hypertextual" forms into video-assemblies, alluding to non-linearity and multiple entry points. The use of CCTV video or other captured materials as a revelation of "dark spaces". The proposition of the expanded film or video essay as being related to a (sometimes imaginary) archive, or history. The sale of video art on DVD. The family video collection as museum. All of these are ways in which video art produces complex "mappings" of community, memory, and location.

Let us consider another example: NGO's and activist groups operating in India (and elsewhere) have a strong sense of working with specific "communities", and issues. Artist-NGO partnerships are common, if not the default framework for many "public art" forms today. This also extends to events such as the World Social Forums, and to non-urban social movements. So how does this parallax: art-NGO-activism, or people-NGO-art, shape the concerns and abilities of video and other art practices? What have artists activated, in these contexts? What is the genealogy of this locally, and where are the similar moments around the world?

It may be useful here to compare notes with cinema and documentary film (media technically and storage-wise quite similar to video art, but with different institutions) which traditionally do not have great ambitions to "site-specificity", for example. It is useful also to recall what Miwon Kwon concludes from her work on site-specificity in art: that it is productive to view the multiple sites of art as "next to" each other, having possible mutual relations, rather than merely as "one show after another", separated by time. Such an opportunity is provided by the (this) archive.

Viewed from the perspective of distribution, Video Art stands at an interesting juncture between scarce objets d' art, and the widely-distributed economies of digital material in other forms. But to say that there is a simple midway-point on this scale that positions a work or artist is to collapse various parallel economies, and to simplify "value" itself. The distribution of material and the distribution of thought are themselves parallel economies, meeting at some places but not at others. The question of how exactly to traverse these two (beyond older disciplinary boundaries, and those of nation-states) is a "formal" one, and is one of the principal questions, and sources of excitement, in contemporary art and its aesthetics. All this, through various detours, we hope to discuss.


[1] There is another sense in which parallax operates, as "alienation": for example between artists, technology and the world. Karatani points to its effect in the early periods of photography, where people "could not help but feel a kind of abhorrence", of the photographic image. Photographic images did not correspond to anyone's self image, or to their sense of the real. This feeling of parallax only gradually subsided, as photography became more and more common.