12 | 2006
16 December 06–25 March 2007
MindFrames. Media Study at Buffalo 1973–1990
ZKM | Media Museum, Atria 8+9
Opening Fri, 15 December 7 p.m.
in the ZKM_Foyer
[=> exhibition website]
»Academy« and »Art« are highly actual themes. The
founding of academies and universities is a hot topic. Twentieth-century
art history is, namely, not only a history of individuals, but also collectives,
groups, circles, and (institutional and informal) schools. Academies and
universities have made history in that they gather outstanding artists and
develop a teaching program. Sites of teaching and production such as the
Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts) in Vienna, Bauhaus in Weimar, Dessau and later Berlin, WChUTEMAS in Moscow, Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and the Hochschule
für Gestaltung (Academy of Design) in Ulm have influenced and shaped
the development of art just as greatly as individual creative personalities
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Department of Media Study at the State University
of New York at Buffalo became one of these places of, teaching and mediating,
in the area of Media Art, developing into what was perhaps to the most influential
school for media in the twentieth century. Teaching there under the leadership
of the founder Gerald O’Grady were the (meanwhile canonized) structuralist,
avant-garde filmmakers Hollis Frampton, Tony Conrad, and Paul Sharits, documentary
filmmaker James Blue, video artists Steina and Woody Vasulka, and Peter Weibel.
At an early stage, they prepared and realized extensive work blocks showing
the way for the entire spectrum of Media Art—from photographic image to slide
installation, from music performance to film and video performance, from film
to film installation, from videotape to video environment, from computer graphics
to interactive installation. In doing so, they recognized media’s social
role, especially that of television and its participatory possibilities, and
used this for artistic and sometimes also political projects. All members of
the Buffalo faculty were not only practitioners, but also theorists. In theoretically
based lectures, essays, and publications, they accompanied the artistic developments
and issues in their media.
The exhibition will offer the first comprehensive insight into this groundbreaking
art of the 1970s and 1980s, which was so decisive for Media Art’s further
development and whose style remains influential today. Ideas and concepts from
this former era are available through the architecture developed especially for
the exhibition: a studio laboratory. It allows novel ways to perceive, analyze,
and empathize with the time-based art of the moving picture (the artwork, as
well as the auratic object and the study model).
The significance of the Department of Media Study
at Buffalo for the media
age is comparable with other historical institutions’ influence on art history.
Its founding came at a time in which there was no academy or institute dedicated
explicitly to an art of all media, and, at the same time, also included theoretical
and cultural analysis as part of its curriculum. Those involved were pioneers,
the first who taught and did research against the backdrop of a constantly changing
concept of the image—between photo, film, video, and digital image—and
therefore joined in carrying out the changeover from the space-based arts
to the time-based arts (such as music) and the transformations of art practice
The artists represented in the exhibition and their individual positions
exemplarily open up the entire horizon of aesthetic problems and solutions
that arose with the entry of the technical image into art. The faculty holds
a unique position in Media Art history in that, within their individual artistic
approaches, it is possible to find shared positions, such as a focus on perception,
machine aesthetics, mathematical sensibility, language games, and an openness
to all other medias. The artists no longer define themselves through »a medium«, but
instead, in the course of their artistic development search for links and
references to other media and experiment with presentational forms.
The title »MindFrames« indicates that this was a time and a place
for re-positioning and expanding the frame of reference for Media Art and
pushing ahead the transformation from film art to discourse of the (visual)
code. The exhibition teaches us to understand the art of media, and through
that, media themselves.
Curated by Steina and Woody Vasulka, Peter Weibel with Thomas
The results of the exhibition will be presented in an extensive scholarly
publication that will be published by The MIT Press in 2007 in English. Numerous
illustrations, source texts by the artists, previously unpublished interviews,
essays, and other historical documents outline a comprehensive panorama of
the pioneers of Media Art at the Department of Media Study, the State University
of New York, Buffalo. Editors: Woody Vasulka and Peter Weibel.
Guided tours: Sat 2 p.m., Sun 4 p.m.