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Title: Community Activist Video and the origins of Video Ar
Authors: Jones, Stephen
Keywords: Community video
video art
two-way communication
Issue Date: 17-Oct-2017
Abstract: On the basis that it is communication between us that makes us human and that real communication is a feedback process, moves were made in the mid-twentieth century to create a two-way media from the prevailing top-down communication processes of capitalism with the development of various forms of community-based media. The history of video art, perhaps the earliest of the media arts, is deeply rooted in Community-based Video. This paper outlines the development of the community documentary as it was defined by John Grierson of the British Post Office Film Unit and later manifested in the Canadian National Film Board's Challenge for Change project, British activist video produced by John “Hoppy” Hopkins and Sue Hall's Fantasy Factory. In Australia community activist video from film-maker activists such as John Hughes in Melbourne and Tom Zubrycki in Sydney created a context for a community video experiment at the Aquarius Universities Arts Festival at Nimbin in 1973. This led to the creation of a network of Video Access Centres in Australia. In the U.S. it was to become part of the Cable Television system with many stations required to provide airtime for community documentary work. The primary example being the PBS network. In parallel with these Community video experiments and the access concept, however it manifested, there was a large amount of experimental video which laid the foundations for many film-makers and visual artists to develop Video Art as a form and to range far from the original activist video notion.
Description: Biography: Stephen Jones (born 1951, lives in Sydney, Australia) is an Australian video artist of long standing. He was originally a member of Bush Video (1974-5). Over 1975 to mid-1976 he worked as a research assistant in the Psychology Department of the University of Queensland. While there he ran a series of workshops on video production in which he taught Architecture students from UQ and QIT and improvisational musicians and dancers from UQ. In 1976 he returned to Sydney and worked at the Paddington Video Access Centre for several years (1976-78). He also worked with Nam June Paik during his exhibition at the AGNSW in Sydney before providing technical support for many major exhibitions including the Sydney Biennales and Perspectas from 1976 to 1985. He curated VideoTapes from Australia (with Bernice Murphy) which toured the United States and Canada as well as being shown at the AGNSW and other venues in Australia (1979-81). In 1982 he established the independent video production facility Heuristic Video, working with numerous video artists and independent video-makers. From 1983 to 1992 he was the video-maker for the electronic music band Severed Heads. Between 1989 and 1996 he worked as an engineer for several major video post-production and computer graphic production facilities. In 1996 he restarted his career as an artist and in 1998 received a New Media Arts Fellowship. He has had a major interest in the philosophical aspects of the nature of consciousness for almost longer than his involvement in video and produced The Brain Project web site [no longer online] between 1996 and 1998. In 1998 he produced a first pass of a history of the electronically generated image in Australia for dLux Media Arts with a symposium called Synthetics, which was presented at the PowerHouse Museum, Sydney, in July that year. He also built and showed The Reading Machine, a Brain Project installation at ArtSpace, Sydney, July, 1998. He has provided technical support for artists since 1976, developing sensor-controlled systems for interactive video/DVD installations and physical immersion installations, as well as developing theoretical perspectives on artificial intelligence and augmented environments. Since 2002 he has been researching the archaeology and history of the electronic visual arts in Australia. This work was his PhD project and the first stage of the history, to 1975, has been completed. He continues to be involved in technical support in the arts. In 2008 he was employed part time as an assistant curator at the Powerhouse Museum working on their Information and Communications Technologies collection. His curatorial interests include the understanding and development of networks of knowledge within organisations. In the last decade he has continued to develop the history of art and technology, computing and computer graphics, video art and new media in Australia and is presently involved in a project to restore and archive several important collections of Australian video art. This involves both gathering oral histories, documentation and ephemera of the works and the artists; and the digital preservation of much of the work that was made in the first two decades of video in Australia. His book Synthetics: Aspects of Art & Technology in Australia 1956-1975, was published by MIT Press in 2011. He is also currently researching and writing a history of video art in Australia from its beginnings in the Video Access Centres to the current period.
Appears in Collections:1. Re:Trace Conference - Keynotes, Papers & Posters

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