Female performance artists of the 1960s and ’70s—including
—were some of the first to adapt to video, using the medium to record and preserve their work. The relative portability of the aptly named Portapak (pioneered by Sony and used by many early video artists) made it easy to use for documentation and experimentation.
Austrian artist Valie Export grabbed headlines with works like Splitscreen-Solipsismus (1968)—an 8mm film depicting a boxer fighting against himself—that wittily played with the medium’s formal qualities. Arguably Export’s most groundbreaking piece was Facing a Family (1971), which aired on Austrian television and showed a nuclear family watching TV and eating dinner. Through this mirror image of the TV-watching public, she disturbed the relationship between content consumer and creator in a way that pushed boundaries left unexplored by even most avant-garde cinema.
But it was Joan Jonas’s Vertical Roll
(1972), in which she jarringly interrupted the video’s electronic signal while she performed in front of it, that really moved the dial, blending mediums and technologies. A fitting contemporary foil to Jonas’s Vertical Roll
can be found at the New Museum
, where artist Wynne Greenwood’s show “Kelly” focuses on her complete archive of performances as members of her “female band,” Tracy and the Plastics. Greenwood created the series by performing in front of a video projection, effectively allowing her to simultaneously perform as all three of the band’s members.