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Projekt \'74: Text des Videokatalogs (Projekt '74), 1974Tempo Liquido (Flüssige Zeit) (Plessi, Fabrizio), 1989Les larmes d\'acier (Die Tränen aus Stahl) (Lafontaine, Marie-Jo), 1987

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But in the early 1970s this whole electronic business was a Black Box for a lot of museum people, if not to say a black hole that not only threatened ‹not to work› but was also capable of being frightening. E.A.T. even felt it necessary to produce quasi-governmental technical reports about the safety of the technical exhibits.[35] But it became obvious at that time that the museums also had to react to the simple fact that artists were reflecting the media society in media terms. The comprehensive «Project 74»[36] exhibition in Cologne, which represented all forms, was the first to show that documenting and contextualizing a time-based media works exhibition can also succeed in the video medium. The first videotape as catalog was produced, with the assistance of the production group from the Lijnbaancentrum in Rotterdam, using the very new semi-professional U-matic standard. Wulf Herzogenrath, then director of the Kölner Kunstverein, subsequently also became a media art mentor with exhibitions like «Nam June Paik» (1976), «Film as Film» (1977), «Video Art in Germany 1963­1982» (1982), and finally «Video Sculpture in retrospect and today 1963­1989» (1989).


The history of the documenta in Kassel can be read in many ways as a seismograph and as an anticipation of central currents in art. Thus both «documenta 6,» the so-called media documenta in 1977, and also «documenta 8,» 1987, are milestones for understanding the handling of the electronic format. While in 1977 conceptual, performative and mass-media public access were at the center of concerns with video, in 1987 an art form established itself that culminated two years later in the major «Video Sculpture» exhibition. This mega-exhibition revealed both a financial and a technological handicap faced by video art: it was dependent on industrial sponsors, as no major exhibition could be financed without them. But public attention could hardly be attracted any earlier, as the ground was not prepared until the Western European television landscape was diversified, commercialized and popularized in the wake of MTV in the 1980s. Monumental installations by Fabrizio Plessi, «Tempo Liquido» (1993), or Marie-Jo Lafontaine, «Les larmes d'acier» (1987), used powerful arts of visual seduction deploying the arsenal of postmodern visual staging and also aiming to bring visual art back into museums.

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