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Art in Movement: Women Pioneers of Video Art
In the school curriculum
26.06.2020 | Julie Sabau

Ulrike Rosenbach, Die Einsame Spaziergängerin [The lonely stroller], 1979, performance, photograph, © ADAGP, Paris

Before becoming a full-fledged medium, video was intrinsically linked to television. It wasn’t until the early 1960s – notably with the invention of the Sony Portapak, the first portable video camera – that video became independent of television shows and sets. It thus became possible to film everywhere, and artists appropriated the technique in their practices.

The first uses of the electronic image as an artistic medium appeared within the Fluxus movement. In March 1963 Nam June Paik (1932-2006) realised a distorted image of a television by putting a magnet close to the cathode-ray tube. This work marked the birth of video art and from then on numerous women took on the medium and participated in its development. VALIE EXPORT (b. 1940) infiltrated the television world in her 1971 work Facing a Family by questioning the links between watching and being watched. Ulrike Rosenbach (b. 1943) was one of the first video artists to produce closed-circuit pieces, filming and projecting images at the same time. Performers Marina Abramović (b. 1946) and Leda Papaconstantinou (b. 1945) immortalised their actions in the late 1960s, changing the ephemeral nature of their work. From 1972 to 1980 the Women’s Video Festival took place at The Kitchen in New York highlighting video artists who were still under-represented such as the Japanese artist Shigeko Kubota (1937-2015), a member of the Fluxus group.

Video art opened up a new universe of experimentation; the image could now be shaped, manipulated and erased with or without archiving. Nan Hoover (1931-2008) was interested in the potentialities of transparency, producing pieces between painting and film. Dóra Maurer (b. 1937) has worked on repetition and variation, creating complex compositions of images and sounds.

At once a tool of creation and protest, video became a way to react to the dominate artistic movements of the 1960s. Joan Jonas (b. 1936) realised her works in an introspective, narrative and symbolic approach, breaking away from minimal art. In Up to and Including Her Limits (1973), Carolee Schneemann (b. 1938) created drawings following the movements of her body, suspended during a performance that was filmed and broadcast on monitors. The artist staged a gesture close to that of action painting but distanced herself from it by considering the drawings obtained as secondary, raising the question of the relationship between the creative process and the final work.

As with photography, the video camera in turn imposed itself as a privileged medium of visibility and denunciation of oppression. Martine Barrat (b. 1937) directed a series of videos on the lives of gang members in South Bronx. In the installation La Roquette, Prisons de Femmes, Nil Yalter (b. 1938), in collaboration with Judy Blum (b. 1943) and Nicole Croiset, denounced prison conditions. Howardena Pindell (b. 1943) addresses race and gender issues, while Anna Maria Maiolino (b. 1942) denounces the repression of women in Brazil. As for the filmmaking duo Maria Klonaris (1947-2014) and Katerina Thomadaki (b. 1947), they theorised what they called body cinema by making the female body and identity a place for visual and political exploration. At the service of various militant causes, video became a subversive instrument of patriarchy. As early as 1976 the French video collective Les Insoumuses proclaimed in the video Maso et Miso vont en bateau that, “No image from television can embody us; it is with video that we will tell ourselves”.

Female artists invested strongly in video art. Numerous writings still recall their place in art history and the convergences between the medium and political and feminist struggles. The joint publications Black Women Film and Video Artists (1998), edited by Jacqueline Bobo, and Women Artists, Feminism and the Moving Image: Contexts and Practices (2019), edited by Lucy Reynolds, are important milestones in research on women video artists.

Explore the artists
1938 | Egypt
Nil Yalter - AWARE

Nil Yalter

1939 — 2019 | United States
Carolee Schneemann - AWARE

Carolee Schneemann

1936 | United States
Joan Jonas - AWARE

Joan Jonas

1943 | United States
Howardena  Pindell - AWARE

Howardena Pindell

1948 | United States
Adrian Piper - AWARE

Adrian Piper

1946 | Serbia
Marina Abramović - AWARE

Marina Abramović

1948 — Cuba | 1985 — United States
Ana Mendieta - AWARE

Ana Mendieta

1943 | Germany
Ulrike Rosenbach - AWARE

Ulrike Rosenbach

1940 | Austria


1935 | Brazil
Sonia Andrade - AWARE

Sonia Andrade

Eleanor Antin - AWARE

Eleanor Antin

1937 | Algeria
Martine Barrat - AWARE

Martine Barrat

1933 | Brazil
Anna Bella Geiger - AWARE

Anna Bella Geiger

1931 — United States | 2008 — Germany
Nan Hoover - AWARE

Nan Hoover

1949 | Croatia
Sanja  Iveković - AWARE

Sanja Iveković

1947 — Egypt - Greece | 2014 — France
Klonaris/Thomadaki - AWARE


1937 — Japan | 2015 — United States
Shigeko Kubota - AWARE

Shigeko Kubota

1942 | Italy
Anna Maria Maiolino - AWARE

Anna Maria Maiolino

1937 | Hungary
Dóra Maurer - AWARE

Dóra Maurer

1933 | Japan
Yoko Ono - AWARE

Yoko Ono

1947 | France


1945 | Greece
Leda Papaconstantinou - AWARE

Leda Papaconstantinou

1927 — 2004 | Brazil
Lygia Pape - AWARE

Lygia Pape

1945 | Poland
Ewa Partum - AWARE

Ewa Partum

1943 | United States
Martha Rosler - AWARE

Martha Rosler

1928 — Belgium | 2019 — France
Agnès Varda - AWARE

Agnès Varda

1962 | Russia
Olga Chernysheva - AWARE

Olga Chernysheva

1936 | United States
Barbara Kasten - AWARE

Barbara Kasten

1948 — New Zealand | 2014 — England
Alexis Hunter - AWARE

Alexis Hunter

1927 | United States
Lillian Schwartz - AWARE

Lillian Schwartz

1909 — 1970 | United States
Marie Menken - AWARE

Marie Menken

1950 — Belgium | 2015 — France
Chantal Akerman - AWARE

Chantal Akerman

1939 — 2019 | United States
Barbara Hammer - AWARE

Barbara Hammer

1972 — Switzerland | 1963 — Germany
Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz - AWARE

Pauline Boudry / Renate Lorenz

1954 | Taiwan
Shu Lea Cheang - AWARE

Shu Lea Cheang

1970 | Turkey

CANAN (Şenol)

1934 | United-states
Yvonne Rainer - AWARE

Yvonne Rainer

1962 | Turkey
Şükran Moral - AWARE

Şükran Moral

1992 | Spain
Cabello/Carceller - AWARE


1940 — 2015 | Spain
Elena Asins - AWARE

Elena Asins

1960 | United States
Lorna Simpson - AWARE

Lorna Simpson

1965 | Australia
Julie Gough - AWARE

Julie Gough

1961 | Australia
Lynette Wallworth - AWARE

Lynette Wallworth

1956 | Spain
Cristina Iglesias - AWARE

Cristina Iglesias

1951 — 2021 | Japan
Tāri Itō - AWARE

Tāri Itō

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