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AVF '87 - Special Presentation: German Video Art

6 September 1987

The Australian Video Festival, 1987

Sunday 6th September, Video Lounge: 4pm-6pm

The Marl Video Art Prize: Developments and Trends
Presented by Dr. Uwe Ruth, Director of The Marl Video Art Prize.

Selected Programme

Marcel Odenbach – Die Distanz Zwischen Mir Und Meinen Verlusten. (1983) 9 min.
Norbert Meissner – Ai.C (1985) 4 mins. 15 sec.
Gabor Body – Either or in Chinatown (1985) 37 mins.
Klaus vom Bruch – DuracellBand (1980) 10 mins.
Herbert Wenscher – Everything is Just Fine (1982-1984) 37 mins.
Jean-Francois Guiton – Fussnote (1985) 5 mins.
Ingo Gunther – Rotorama (1985) 7 mins.
Ulrike Grossarth – Der Ofen (1985) 13 mins.
Gusztaf Hamos – Der Unbesiegbare (1983) 30 mins.

The Australian Video Festival gratefully acknowledges the assistance of The Goethe Institute, Sydney for this special presentation.


Uwe Ruth, Marl

Following the impulsive emergence of video art in Germany in the sixties and seventies (Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Gerry Schum, etc.) video art seemed to level off and lose momentum after the Mediendocumenta 6 (1977) in Kassel. Only a few of the initiated continue to believe in Paik's statement, made in 1965: "One day, artists will work with electronic devices in the same way as today they work with brush, violin or scrap.”

Against this background, a debate took place on 28th April 1981, in the Skulpturenmuseurn Glaskarten, Marl, at the beginning of a general exhibition on video art with the title "Video - a New Art", on the topic of "Commercial Television and Experimental Television". During this debate, issues and problems relating to broadcasting possibilities for freelance artists' video tapes in television programmes were discussed. With this debate and the exhibition, the organisers, i.e. the Skulpturenmuseum and the Adolf-Grimme-Institute, intended to introduce to the public, this new genre with all its possibilities, video performance, video installation and the video tape,

The initial brainstorming sessions on this topic were followed by a 1982 symposium on “Fine Arts in Television", with the themes "Documentation on fine arts in television" and "Video Art", and was followed by a pilot project "Video Art Prize", for which 24 video works had been submitted.

The responsible sponsors and promoters of the prize are the city of Marl and the secretariat for cultural co-operation, Gutersloh. It is awarded in close liaison with the Adolf-Grimme-Institute, Marl, which among others, awards the important German television prize, and the TV programme Aspekte of the Zweites Deutsches Fersehen. The prize, which is awarded every two years, is similar to the Adolf-Grimme Prize, an award and prize which is, however, combined with certain "benefits": in the following year, in which the video prize is not awarded, the recipient is given the opportunity for an individual exhibition in the Skulpturenmuseurn Glaskarten, for which a catalogue is published. Furthermore, and this is the indirect "material" benefit, the TV programme Aspekte introduces the winning tape "in accordance with the possibilities of the broadcast" and honours it appropriately.

Apart from the individual and special prizes, a selection of tapes submitted is made, and a maximum of 20 video tapes are exhibited. This exhibition is shown in Europe and the rest of the world, and in each instance provides an insight into German video art of two years.

Due to the versatility of the prize, the three objects can be achieved:

1. to stimulate the creative forces of German video artists to new, indicative work,

2. to give a representative cross-section of the most important works and developments of the last two years, works that are introduced in an exhibition accompanying the prize awards, and

3. to introduce to the public, video art as an indeed serious art, but involving television and related publicity. The video wave of horror, violence and sex is to be met by the artistic-creative use of the medium, with which a large section of the public is to be made familiar.

The increased urge of many video artists to create narrative works, suitable for television, became more obvious when compared to the 1st Marl Video Art Prize. This seems to be a development which would indicate that the previously strongly defended position of the video artist as the creator of "anti-television" is crumbling. These artists no longer work against official television but try to influence and expand television with experimentally associative, narrative structures. This tendency became obvious in the "Unbesiegbaren" (the "invincibles') by Gustav Hamos, recipient of the special award 1984, and is best demonstrated in the tape of last year's winner, Gabor Body, a tendency which has represented in many other, technically outstanding productions which rather frequently, could not convince from an artistic point of view.

Without doubt, this trend indicates an inevitable development. Video art and its possibilities will want to, and have to influence stagnant and outdated forms of presentation of television institutions. These have the technical and financial facilities for the production of highest quality video works. But there are inherent dangers: the individual, defending his artistic freedom, must adapt to television institutions which are based on team work and administration; care must be taken that technical facilities and possibilities do not drown and eradicate the artistic content, and that a broad narrative approach does not repress an associative and imaginative plot as being too superficial or too effective. The justifie desire to utilize the public medium to safeguard one's existence, must not lead to eliminating the urge for an individual, artistic quality. An awareness of the dangers is indeed a step in the right direction!


This is an edited version of Dr. Ruths' transcript.

Dr. Uwe Ruth. [Compiled from the AVF '87 catalogue by Stephen Jones]
Selected objects