Video Art: An Historical Sketch

By Christine Tamblyn


As Martha Rosler pointed out during a 1985 panel discussion sponsored by the College Art Association, video art, like the major religions of the world, has its own myth of origins, shaped by numerous retellings. Hence, it seems appropriate to begin this article about the history of video art with a ritualistic invocation of this myth. In 1965, the Sony Corporation began marketing its newly developed consumer grade portable video camera/recorder in the United States. The Korean-born artist Nam June Paik rushed out to buy a machine from the first shipment. On his way home from the store, his cab got caught in a traffic jam caused by a procession to greet Pope Paul VI, who was visiting New York. Paik made an instantaneous tape of this event, which he showed later that evening at the Cafe a Go-Go.


pdf pages 331 - 334






Publisher Studio Vista, Ltd. 1970

Introduction by R. Buckminster Fuller



(extracts from page 331.)


Ture Sjolander


" In the production of " MONUMENT " , the frequency and amplitude of the flying-

spot deflection was controlled by applying tones from the wave-forms generators.

Thus image distortions occured during the acutal process of transforming original

image material into video signals, since the scan that produces the signal was

electromagnetically altered.

In principle this process is similar to methods used by Nam June Paik and others,

except that the Swedish group applied the techniques at an early stage in the

video process, before signal or videotape information existed. "




Video Exhibition Advisors:

Brian Hoey and Wendy Brown.


Biddick Farm Art Centre

Washington/Newcastle-England - October - November 1979.


extracts from exhibition catalogue;




" In the mid 1960's Nam June Paik bought the first portable video kit

available in New York and recorded his taxi ride to an Art Gallery where the tape was replayed. This is often claimed to be the first video art tape.

Was it ? The event is significant as an early demonstration of the

equipment's capabilities but is the tape itself anything other than the documentation of a taxi ride?


Certainly one of the earliest examples of a video tape in whish the creators have consciously manipulated the electronic signals that form the picture is " TIME " by Ture Sjolander and Bror Wikstrom.

This was produced in 1965-66 and was followed in 1967 by MONUMENT , on which Sjolander collaborated with Lars Weck.

Rather than the artist 're-presenting' images, these works show a decisive stage in the video artist's ability to manipulate his medium in a manner akin to other, more traditional, art forms.

" Time " and " Monument " were broadcast on Swedish television and it is ironic that these pioneers works had, for technical reasons, to be transferred to film to facilitate their eventual broadcast."



Brian Hoey & Wendy Brown


September 1979 - London