Do Experiemental Video Art convey their message to the audience clearly? Or is it not important?

Video as a medium of communication has been in existence for more than hundred years now.  In this time the role, technology and application of the medium has evolved considerably. Experimentation is done for numerous purposes.  The obvious motivation is to stretch, test or expand the techniques of creating video art.  But the manner in which content is formatted, presented and perceived can also be experimented with.  Today, directors are empowered by the new digital technology that is available, which makes experimentation easier to carry out.  But this comes with the proviso that the audience is still able to understand and appreciate the novelty being offered them.  This essay will explore this subject in detail.

Video art is applicable to a diverse set of broadcast mediums. Chief among them are television, cinema and the Internet.  In the case of television, “the televisual public sphere disseminates and normalizes a model of split identification in which the self confronts its non-identical representations.” (Joselit, 2000) This understanding of the nature and effect of the medium enables the filmmaker to modify his style and content accordingly.  Even within television, it is commercial television which supports a disproportionately high number of productions compared to public service broadcasting.  Such being the case, the splitting in viewer identification “remains veiled in order to facilitate the viewer’s assimilation of the consumerist, ‘family-oriented’ values which are axiomatic under late capitalism.” (Joselit, 2000) This is not to say that most television productions under the commercial genre succumb to this compulsion.  The works of Peter Campus are one among many exceptions. In Campus’ work,

“the contradiction between a spectator and his or her mechanical and cultural mediation is provocatively heightened. On one register, such a juxtaposition of television and video art is a relatively conventional avant-gardist critical move in which Campus’s work is shown to identify and represent social contradictions which would otherwise remain invisible. But on another register, it is less conventional in its methodology.” (Joselit, 2000)

There is debate surrounding the importance of audience understanding the message of the video art.  The genre, style and intent of the filmmaker is the major factor here.  Some films are deliberately made in an abstract fashion, whose beauty lies in its ambiguity.  This is the modernist direction in film and cinema where narrative forms have undergone experimentation. A discussion of French cinema is relevant here, as it offers a rich repository of filmmaking for over a hundred years.  French directors, screenwriters and cinematographers have influenced or initiated various ‘waves’ of cinematic style over this period.   French New Wave cinema is especially influential in this regard, which gave rise to truly modernist interpretations of cinematic art.  Auteurs like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, etc have pushed the boundaries of narrative form and content.  In the case of Godard, the break from conventional cinema or cinema du qualite is so complete that his works have eschewed narrative story-telling altogether.  Instead, in the highly experimental ‘attempts at cinema’ (as Godard refers to his works) the emphasis is on constructing essays.  This is a sharp deviation from the traditional preoccupation with storytelling.  Godard can be credited with pioneering the ‘video essay’ format, an experimental genre that is marked by its artistic, theoretical, and political perspectives. It is a format that is not easily accessible to the lay audience.  The video essay marks

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