What does your video art mean?

i think it may have been brought up a couple of times here and there that this forum seems to appear to be more focused on technology than content at times. I’m definitely not opposed to discussing practical aspects of video art as I feel like lack of access to technology and lack of access to information are two of the largest obstacles in the video art world! I also don’t feel like there is any need to implement any strict dichotomies between practical and conceptual discussions as, at least for me, the two go hand in hand.

I personally have a lot to say with the AV material and the soft/hardware i design. Possibly more so with the VSERPIs than anything else tbh as I feel that games and toys are honestly some of the most effective ways to communicate and teach ppls, tho entertainment comes in at a close runner up. To a large extent tho, much of what I use artwork and systems design to communicate is really not well served by verbalizing. I can definitely see why folks would see this as a cop out tho so i’ll try to verbalize a bit about what Waaave Pool actually means to me and what I’d like folks to get out of it.

One goal with WP is to give people a chance to engage with Chaos in a highly controlled manner. Not like chaos in terms of michael moorcocks lords of chaos or whatevs but the scientific Nonlinear Dynamical definition of chaos. Most of our intuition, whether cultural, instinctual, or simple learned from interacting with our environments rewards thinking in terms of linear systems. If i do A then B will always happen. If I throw this rock with roughly the same force every time it will always land pretty close to the same place. If i eat these berries I’m going to get sick pretty soon. If i try to ride this crocodile it will bite me.

This sort of Bayesian approach to problem solving seems to be somewhat innate in a large number of animals with learning capabilities and also has provided a meta context for much science and shamanic processes (much of magic in history seems to me to be an example of trying to find cause and effect in systems where the underlying processes are beyond current techonologies ability to measure things).

But it turns out that linear systems are only feasible for studying incredibly restricted models of reality and that once you start digging into things a bit farther one finds nonlinear feedback systems literally everywhere. Unfortunately most of our mathematical tools we use to predict fall apart once we get into chaos. One thing that chaos theory and complex systems theory have not really provided is any kind of framework for gaining intuition on nonlinear systems other than “try to figure out a reasonably computationally efficient way to model shit and explore”.

and thats one way of looking at what the heck WP and Video waaaves are: reasonably computationally efficient ways to model chaotic systems in a visually attractive manner!

Of course this isn’t the only thing that WP is about, just one facet.

I’m much much less likely to ever verbalize what my AV art is about but heres a tiny bit: I want people to see, hear, and feel things that are simulateneously alien yet compelling.

but yeah, interested to see if anyone else wants to share their thoughts on why they make the stuff that they make!


Noting that I equate ‘meaning’ and ‘message’ in this context (and you might not agree with that - please let me know if you think they’re different concepts): I think video art can be used to convey a message, just like words can, but because it is more open to interpretation the message will almost always be more ambiguous. I rarely come away from a video art viewing feeling like I have much idea what the artist’s message was, or even necessarily with much conviction that there was one. Sometimes it’s clear to me, but usually not. Perhaps I’m just not good at it - I have quite a literal brain.

I would be interested in having some concrete examples put forward for discussion, to see what ‘messages’ different people take away (if any) from them, and then finding out what the artist intended.

As a separate issue to that, there’s also the question of what a video artist wanted viewers to feel as a result of viewing their works. I think it might be easier to convey feeling through video art than meaning/message?

When I look at video art those two points are the more difficult of the four aspects I consider:

  • Aesthetically speaking, what do I think of the artwork / do I like the look of it?
  • What do I think / what is the message I take away?
  • What do I feel / what is the emotion I experience?
  • What technique do I think the artist used / how would I go about doing something like that?

Sorry, rambling a bit now. It’s early here :slight_smile:


I think art has always been a way to see the world differently. I use that mindset when creating and it keeps me grounded even when I am making the most abstract stuff. This is also why I have a leaning towards analog video. It makes me feel more connected to the process to think about signals, frequencies, and lines rather than algorithms, processors or math. Not to say that those aren’t valid, I just am less experienced.

I do feel that context is very important in all art including technology, politics, and intention. There was a great exhibition in Germany in 06-07 that showed work from 7 artists who taught at and created the Center for Media Study at SUNY Buffalo. What was unique about it was they had scheduled screenings, a fixed gallery, and interactive archives of interviews, posters, news articles, teaching materials and supplemental work. This gave a kind of dual purpose of a gallery and an archive which gives context to those seeking it.

Edit: Here is some info on the exhibition. It was called Mindframes. Media Study at Buffalo


I both love and hate talking about the meanings of “art”. For me art is taking a piece of your soul and putting it forth into the world. The pieces are like dirty fun house mirrors that give the viewer a distorted reflection of themself. A shading of me over them. I have a hard time thinking of art as having a concrete meaning. To me it seems like pieces are an entity of their own. They shape themselves as theyre being formed.

As Michelangelo said

The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material

It seems to me that alot “meanings” are found after the fact. Some odd kind of justification that seems necessary for “high art” and I think is completely unnecessary other than to help understand your unique reflection seen by your eyes in the piece.

To tell someone the meaning other than to describe your own personal meaning to me is like trying to tell someone what is or isnt art.

Something that should never be done.


To add to what @bearanoid said, I feel like whatever the art we create means to us, I think what is most interesting is what it means to the viewers. As each will interpret it differently depending on their own life experiences. The conversations that arises from that is what I found most rewarding in showing projects in the past.

Personally I like to create worlds where I can sort of escape to. Worlds that feels familiar but also alien. So like places that would make me feel good but that would also make me want to discover more about it. :slight_smile:
So not sure what that means…

That is a personal opinion and it might not be shared by everyone but when viewing an artwork, the way it make me feel is more important to me as a viewer than what the artwork actually means to the artist. If I don’t connect with it on an emotional level, I probably won’t be interested in learning more about it. But I probably just a lazy viewer :upside_down_face:
It did happen to me that I didn’t really like an artwork up until I read what it was about or learned more about the process behind it.
But I generally think that art shouldn’t need to be explained to be appreciated. It kind of defeat the purpose. It should be accessible. It doesn’t need to be pleasing but it should make us feel! And maybe intrigue us in some way. That is my opinion :alien:


This is my third time trying to type out a response to this, because it is such a sticky question. How I view my art is primarily shaped by musical composition, since that’s been the majority of my creative output. Since I’ve been getting into more visual work over the last couple years, I’m trying to learn different approaches to creative process, and maybe that will eventually shift my viewpoint.

Fundamentally, I don’t feel that I have to go into my work with an an intended meaning. I feel like when I do try, I’m just beating a blunt object over the audiences’ head. Maybe I’m just not that clever, or subtle. I rarely ever write lyrics for my music I enjoy the process of creating sound, and I find my personal meaning in that. I don’t necessarily have to tell a story, or make a point, or ask a question. I simply find meaning in expressing myself. Any meaning an audience member happens to find (or doesn’t find) is just as valid.

I do think my work can lack “meaning” and still take the audience to a new place. My favorite musical pieces are where the composition converges on a feeling, a sensation of a place, or time, or season, or something more ineffable. I don’t tend to go into work with a sense of feeling in mind, but often it will coalesce in the process of creation. A lot of my shorter videos have been me filming or glitching something mundane in an interesting way, and then composing music based on something about that. I’m still learning how to translate how I create feeling in music to how I manipulate the visuals.

And of course, not everything has to be so high concept, but sometimes I just make shit that looks cool while I’m high. :smiley_cat::smiley_cat::smiley_cat:


Interesting question! And I also think it’s interesting how the answers track with varying “purposes” for art throughout its history. Whether work is expected to have meaning and how difficult it should be to divine that meaning has changed a lot from Church art (messages, easy to understand); decorative and allegorical works for aristocratic and bourgeois patrons (messages, easy to understand if you’re educated); early and late modernism (more formalist than messages in one branch, getting more message-y, not expected to be easily understood); and then into post-Minimalism, where “content” won so much that still to be into the formal aesthetic properties of works can be seen as exceedingly old-fashioned and liewise viewers can be expected to work very hard to find out the context and implied meaning.

And then of course there’s technological / new media works where the message or meaning is often to explore new tech (and frankly, often, was to soften the creepy militarism of a lot of it, the same way face filters make facial recognition “fun” and “friendly”.

Personally, I’m rather a formalist/expressionist, so it is important to me that people can enjoy the art purely on aesthetic terms and maybe we can have some sort of ethereal soul meeting through it. Like @VisibleSignals mentions, I would hope that for some people, understanding the context more might help them enjoy it more deeply, but I am not really into obscurantism.

That said, I do find something compelling about the ephemerality and liveness of my work in the face of the our always-watching, control and perfection focused digital culture. It’s my own small protest, but I don’t know how important it is that viewers understand that.

So, if my art means anything, I’d say, I have goals (the desire to communicate a feeling, usually) and principles that underlie the methods I use, but the experience is more the point than any specific thing.