Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The romanticism of craft

Recently I was discussing video art with a painter, and they commented on how painters get to really immerse themselves in the process of painting, adding that it seemed a shame that something similar didn't exist in the field of video art (although it was more of a question than a statement).

At the heart of this question is the romantic image of the painter in their studio experimenting with colours, textures and compositions. Is the painter immersing themselves more in the craft of their object of art, obsessing, nurturing, and coaxing it to it's final conclusion?

Video art does have it's processes. It does have it's techniques. The art work should/could develop along the way. So on the surface video art seems just as immersive in its process as any other art form. And yet in some ways the statement above still seems to ring true.

Is it to do with the amount of time we spend being conceptual or reflective? Painting does require concepts, but much time is spent standing back from the work, reflecting, and thinking about where next to take it. It has certainly been true thus far that the initial concept of my own video art has been paramount. Most reflection is spent judging how best to achieve this initial concept, and my initial instinct is that video art does not lend itself so readily to this reflective process of development.

Firstly, in painting you are concentrating on a single object (or single scene at least). This allows the artist to meditate more thoroughly on the subject. But this is not true of the Sistine Chapel, or similar large scale works. Secondly, in painting it is a more direct process to adjust what has been made. A brush stroke can be altered, a colour blended there and then. It does not require the re-shooting and re-editing of an entire scene. Having said this, painters have been known to scrap paintings, and start again from scratch.

This all seems to be going round in circles, but essentially I am coming to the conclusion (temporarily perhaps), that there is no reason why making video can't be just as reflective and immersive in its process as painting. Perhaps there is a lot of re-organisation involved. Re-setting and re-shooting scenes, re-editing. But the processes of framing, recording, reviewing, editing and compiling video are all potentially increadibly reflective activities. Particularly in this era of digital technology, it seems that the substance of video art, the video itself, is more and more manipulable, and at less and less expense. Maybe it comes down getting rid of the illusion of time-based art. It may be time-based but much like painting or sculpture, it is still a kind of object.

Perhaps the real question lies right back at the beginning, with the romantic notion of the artist in their studio, crafting and obsessing away. This romantic image may even lend value to the art object itself. Perhaps public awareness of the craft involved raises it's value and it's artistic status. If so would public awareness of the craft involved in video art do exactly the same?

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