"This exhibition is my story and the story of my community, including several of my own early videos and many by friends and early video colleagues. The work producing this project took place only a few blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan soon after 9/11. The Early 21st Century DVD ends with a triplet of videos that consider the attack on the Twin Towers and then a rousing finale that is a caution about a future of technology and its profound impact on our species, no matter what our country of origin or residence."
Skip Blumberg, October 10, 2007
Curator/Producer, U.S. EXPRESS
U.S. EXPRESS is a comprehensive exhibition of art videos from the 1970s to 2003 with 80 short videos made by 50 artists; including Nam June Paik, Beryl Korot, Mary Lucier, Juan Downey, Karolina Sobecka, Mitchell Rose, Ant Farm, Videofreex, Paper Rad and Skip Blumberg, the program's curator and producer.
The U.S. EXPRESS exhibition (including 4 DVDs, color programs and large-sized wall panels) is available through August 2008 for no charge to venues for free public presentations outside the United States through the U.S. State Department Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, with special thanks to Leanne Mella. Teachers and presenters within U.S. borders who browse the titles listed here can order them directly from the artists or from their distributors.
This anthology is a great place to learn about the use of video to tell artistic and documentary real life stories. Teachers may find that screenings of these video resources are helpful and inspiring for their students.
Curator Skip Blumberg is one of the original video artists and one of the first camcorder journalists. Beginning in the late 1960s, Blumberg participated in the earliest video production groups (including Videofreex, Ant Farm, Paper Tiger TV and TVTV) and in many collaborative projects including with the premier video artist Nam June Paik.
Notes from the Curator by Skip Blumberg
Beginning in the mid-1960s - before MTV or "The Matrix," before videocassettes or the Internet - artists picked up the newly introduced home video camera and discovered a powerful tool for creative expression. Attracted by the excitement of the new technology, they experimented ardently, searching for what this medium could do best: for the characteristics that might make it unique and distinguish it from earlier means of art making.
U.S. EXPRESS is an exciting exhibition of video by artists living and working in the United States. Beginning with works from the earliest days of the underground video art scene in New York City, it moves forward to encompass performances, reality videos, digital graphics and the eclectic multi-media works of the 21st Century.
Now, in a digital age, as video is merging into larger, more potent and comprehensive forms of art and communication, the works in U.S. EXPRESS reveal an encyclopedia of over three decades of techniques and styles. Many of the selected videos focus on contemporary culture: mainstream and fringe, events and rituals, work and play, fads and traditions, subcultures and individuals, cultural diversity and cultural identity Ñ the dimensions of life in a complex modern society. Together, these works communicate a point of view that is both personal and panoramic - rebellious, visionary, and humorous - all as recorded by American artists.
In 1965, there were only four national TV broadcasting networks in the United States and no home video. Video art's tradition-breaking explorations stood out in a barren media landscape. Now video as an art form must distinguish itself within a jungle of 256 television channels on satellite TV dishes, a marketing tsunami of DVDs, and an ever-expanding Internet.
Soon computer cameras and scanners, on-line archives and libraries, dial-up movies-on-demand and quick-time downloads will enable anyone to connect with any media product, at any time. And you will be able to save, download and re-edit them however you choose.
The very way in which people "watch TV" is already changing as children begin their viewing lives with remote controls in their hands and the ability to control characters' actions in computer and video games. Feature-length digital movies might well follow this same interactive path, with viewers controlling and "becoming" characters within the story.
In this century, the video recorder and television will merge with the computer, telephone and other home entertainment and business electronics devices to create a super digital multi-media appliance. Videotapes are already disappearing; DVDs are pushing the video cassette out of the home video shop. Popular use of the word "video" may even be short-lived. Recently, the V in DVD was changed from Video to Digital Versatile Disc.
We are, in short, at a transitional moment in the history of video and video art. With the arrival of the digital age, the way we view cinema has changed in a single generational leap. Looking ahead, video art may come to be defined essentially as a late-20th-Century phenomenon. The form will remain, but the computer and digital signal will rename the term.
The digital revolution also transforms the tools of production, the means of creating video. The miniaturization of high-quality digital video cameras constitutes a major advance over the earlier generations of larger and lower-resolution analog video. Easy access to on-line-quality editing and spectacular special effects has also affected the quality of the finished work.
These tools are becoming ever more powerful and ubiquitous. Computers are commonly equipped with software programs for graphics, video editing and animation. Many children in the U.S. are already learning how to make video art in their elementary-school computer classes.
As video merges into computer technology, as it becomes another feature built in to your personal computer, video art has become part of a larger and more complex whole. Now, everyone's television set is a gallery of alternative video. Everyone's computer is an artist's studio. Everyone can become a video artist and a video art aficionado.
A culture needs artists. Artists provide mirrors - ornamented, distorted, colored, embellished - for reflection, insight, awareness and self-knowledge. No matter how much the mirror of video changes, the artist will always be a major player in the electronic media matrix.
Artists take risks and break rules. Throughout the development of video technology, artists have been in the vanguard of experimentation. Inevitably (as in every medium) the styles, formats and techniques the artists pioneered have later been appropriated by mainstream media. Video artists do electronic audio/visual research for the commercial industry.
In the United States, and increasingly in other countries, citizens are inundated with an ocean of imagery from a mass media industry composed of a few large corporations battling for the widest audiences. Music videos, commercials, infomercials, sponsored videos, as well as the themes of commercial media in general, all reinforce the marketing of products and the values of consumption.
Art videos don't sell any products.
Video art, like all art, is a small but powerful human voice in the dense media crowd; it is a voice that has consistently articulated alternative perspectives. Through television, DVDs and the web, these videos are available now to millions around the world who seek a different point of view.
Looking forward and backward, U.S. EXPRESS presents a superb selection of successful creative experiments from the history of art video in the United States.
Art videos also often deal with subjects and perspectives that are too hot for popular media to handle. These videos dare their audience to expand its ways of seeing and thinking, to consider and redefine its notions of good taste and correct politics. Many are funny too!
True democracy allows a freedom of expression that questions even the most widely accepted mores and rules, challenges authority, and can be heard anywhere. U.S. EXPRESS celebrates that freedom of expression and presents it with gusto and exhilaration.