Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Interactivity and Reproductivity in Early Video Art. An Art Historical Encounter With a New Medium
Maurice Haak
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Freie Universität Berlin
Thesis Supervisor
Werner Busch
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Uwe Fleckner
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Art History
Languages Familiar to Author
Dutch, German, French
URL where full thesis can be found
video art, philosophy, hermeneutics, interactivity, reproductivity, Heidegger, Gadamer, Benjamin
Abstract: 200-500 words
This thesis focuses on the emergence of video as a new medium in the arts during the 1960s and 70s. The assumption is made that art history hasn’t been able to analyze this medium properly, because the ontological status of video art doesn’t correspond to the notion of the work of art in canonical art history. The study concentrates on this blind spot of art history. It tries to account for these aspects of videos and video installations that have largely eluded art historical analysis: reproductivity and interactivity. A video is not a unique work of art but a series of actual or possible copies and therefore cannot be seen as a discrete object. Centrally, however, a work of video art shouldn’t be regarded as an object at all, because it’s the phenomenological relation between spectator and art work that’s vital to video art. Video art thus challenges the metaphysical subject-object dichotomy. Avoiding the usual single-tracked focus on the work of art as a unique and static object, the first part of the thesis develops a phenomenological-hermeneutic framework in order to account for the interactive and reproductive nature of video art. It builds on the assumption that a work of art exists only by virtue of its being experienced by a spectator. This experience should therefore be the basis of the analysis. For this theoretical perspective, the paper combines ideas from the philosophers Heidegger, Gadamer and Benjamin. The second part of the paper substantiates the philosophical hypothesis. It shows that the proposed account can be fruitfully applied to (early) works of video art. The study demonstrates that the deficits of other art historical approaches to video art can be attributed to their retention of the subject-object dichotomy. In that sense the thesis offers a critical reflection on the presumptions of art history.