Feed Back and Feed Forth

In fact video is not separable from other artistic techniques because of its technical properties that create a certain aesthetic in its art. This problem of “inherent properties” the video has, is coming along with a kind of technologically determined way of thinking, like already Marita Sturken said. This way of thinking has the tendency that only machines are causing the aesthetic development and do stays conntected with the aspect of the modernistic discourse which tries to distinguish a specific media from others because of its “unique properties.” The attempts of a discrimination against other reproductional media in the early time of its artistic use, were mostly based on the assumption, that the specifics of video-art are completely reckoning with the specifics of the video-medium. So the attempts to establish a certain aesthetics of video-art, which were directed on a serious appreciation of it, were rejected from the beginning.

With the beginning of the eighties and the german theoretical discussion it is standing out that based on the formal and technical separation between video, film and other related media there are no art-theoretical and –historical or aesthetical results which would have been produced. The positive aspect of this process is the deeper view in the mutual dependence of different media, forms of expression and no limits in artistic practices (multimedia) and experiences which can’t be connected with a specific historical period. The deconstruction of the theory of cognition (1) and aesthetical basis of the media in the modern works of art is looking back an a long tradition. Nevertheless in the beginning of the 21st century it is more present and relevant than it ever was. The junction of cognitive, technological and aesthetical questions presents itself in this expanding multimedia- surrounding of global cultures and economies of today in a new and different way although the object of inquiry often stayed the same. At present time, in which the “digital revolution”, like the supporters say, has assimilated all the known artistic techniques, it seems sensible to look for these assertions in a critical way to search for the orign of these present, no-longer-analog, “self-referential” works of art, and its accompanying or leading concepts. Feedback-systems which hae the specific quality to use a part of the output-signal as an input-signal, are still representing such concepts to make an exemple. (2)

Especially the exploration of the suppositions, possibilities and implications of the artistic use of video-feedback as the unique “inherent property” of the videotechnique since the late sixties (3) brought up important knowledge and impressive results which meanwhile seem to have totally disappeared from the point of view of the newer aesthetics and the art- and media theories. Not at least that is why the platform-discussion of the 10th international videofestival in Bochum is dedicated to a “jubileetheme”, which is nevertheless distinguished by its actuality: “Video in the media-art – Feed Back and Feed Forth” is meant as an attempt for a “localization” of the video-media in regard to its somehow chronistically sounding title and to its history, theory, its specifics, practice and its future. Arguments for the related concept of autopoiesis are for instance proposed by Humberto R. Maturana and F. Varela. In their model, living systems, in relation to their functional organisation have neither input nor output. The external influences are occasionally seen as ‘perturbances’ in the self-referential, autopoietic system without direct influence on its structure. See also: Riegas, Volker, ‘Das Nervensystem – offenes oder geschlossenes System?’ in Riegas, Volker and Vetter, Christian (eds.), Zur Biologie der Kognition. Ein Gespräch mit Humberto R. Maturana und Beiträge zur Diskussion seines Werkes, Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1990. 



(1)  Among them especially the representatives of radical constructivism such as Maturana (bio-epistemology) and von Glasersfeld (psychology), of systems theory (von Foerster), neuropsychology (D.H. Dubel and T. N. Wiesel), Gestalt psychology (Metzger) and psychochemistry (H. Schwegler).

(2) See James P. Crutchfield and his research on feedback (Physica, 1984, quoted also in cat. Ars Electronica 1992. Pioneers of electronic Art).

(3) US-American artists in particular researched the feedback-phenomenon since the late 1960s and early 1970s, as manifest both in video performances (J. Jonas, R. Hays, E. Siegel, S. Sweeney, W. Vasulka et al.), and space-related closed-circuit installations (F. Gillette, I. Schneider, Peter Campus, D. Graham, B. Nauman, Nam June Paik et al.)