Peggy Gale and Lisa Steele, eds., Video re/View

Outpost Art

The (Best) Source for Critical Writings on Canadian Artists’ Video, Toronto: Art Metropole, V Tape, 1996, 492 pp., ill. b. & w.

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Peggy Gale and Lisa Steele, two important figures in Canada’s English-speaking video milieu, bring together in their recent anthology, Video re/View, forty-nine articles, essays and documents on a broad range of topics from the first quarter century of writings on “artists’ video in Canada.”

Work after work after work…

For structure, the anthologists choose to string the writings in seven (non-linear, achronological) “clusters”; each centres loosely on one (or more) theme(s) or genre. Several gems appear: the critic George Elliott’s 1953 warning to artists on the pitfalls of using television as a medium for disseminating their works; a trenchant but brief 1980 analysis of the socio-cultural consequences of southern television programming for the Inuit by John Greyson and Lisa Steele; an excerpt from Robert Forget’s 1970 proposal for Montreal’s celebrated Videographe; and General Idea’s spirited 1978 interview on the means to determining an audience vocabulary.

Video re/View constitutes an intelligent polyphony of diverse theoretical positions, which in turn presupposes a fairly advanced grasp of the contemporary art world. With so much rare material listed in its extensive bibliography (arranged by author’s name), why reprint long passages by Innis and McLuhan that are easily found elsewhere or emphasize readily-accessible writings from the last ten years? Nevertheless, Video re/View is a truly welcome, competent addition to the quickly-accumulating store of books and anthologies on “artists’ video” in Canada and abroad. G. Z.