As we prepare to start EVR (e-flux video rental), we have been talking a lot about circulation and archives. We are discussing the social poetics of circulation, and the possibility of circulation as a crucial aesthetic act, with an agency independent to that of being merely the invisible enabler within the production / consumption cycle.
At its origins, the distribution of video is contingent on the fact that video is an infinitely reproducible medium. This poses a threat to the traditional relationship of equivalence where the artwork = a unique object, and it is because of this threat that at the moment in which works on video become accepted as high art and enter both private and public collections, they automatically become inaccessible to the general audience, as they are lifted to the rarified space of specific gallery and museum exhibitions. As the actual works become unavailable, they become replaced by a still image, which is a poor and inaccurate representation for a time-based media.
We are compelled to work with video because of the obvious contradictions in its circulation mechanisms. EVR is meant to be a free video rental store that operates as an intersection between an archive, a screening room and a structure for the circulation of video and film artworks outside of the traditional exhibition spaces.
Drawing the policies that will regulate the EVR project, we are trying to make a distinction between open circulation and endless availability. The main purpose of the project is not to provide infinite access to the material, but rather to use the potential of the archive to activate and engage an audience. A way to turn accumulation into action.
EVR will function on the principle of borrowing, where every step of the transaction necessary to take out a tape represents a process of implication, a transfer of responsibility. Every time a video work leaves the space, the borrower becomes temporarily responsible for the conditions of its display, and the narrativisation of the space in which the display takes place. We all participate in a temporary collusion that intends to blur the distinction between artist, curator, and spectator.
a) As we prepare the last incarnations of EVR, I am constantly thinking about the structural nature of the project, and what we originally set out to do with it. While we were relying to an extent in an institutional model for the structure of the EVR, we never meant to create an institution for the archiving and circulating of film and video artworks, but rather to replace this institution with its own exploration : We wanted to propose a transfer of subjectivation and responsibility, so as to render the sphere of effect of an artwork dependent on the collective imagination, rather than on the architecture of any particular building.
b) Referring to circulation as a mode of completion and as a possibility for social agency , reminds me of a recent interview between Mary Kelly and Ian White where Mary Kelly says “I think whom you desire to speak to at an unconscious level is very significant, because if your work no longer has any collective imaginary, then there is the end of public art.”
c) All that is solid melts into air ! . We were relying on a XX century technological support (VHS tapes) which was in the process of dying when we started the EVR project in 2004, so by now this technology has finally become complete obsolete. In the 4 years interval punctuated by EVR, the specific materiality of production has become less significant, so the conditions for our temporary exercise in material re-distribution are being replaced by an endless virtual availability. This is not good, nor bad. It is too soon to tell the full effect of this, so we shouldn’t rush to judgment in response to either progressive illusions or nostalgic pessimism. The only thing that is sure, is that this is a new configuration of information, for which new conditions of activation have to be determined.