Michael Fried and beholding video art

In this paper, I consider Michael Fried’s recent contribution to the debate around the experience of video art, made in relation to the work of Douglas Gordon. Fried speculates that issues of antitheatricality may in fact be key to specifying the medium of video installation. While Fried’s position offers a useful way of framing the relation with the beholder in video art, in a way that pointedly moves beyond tautological notions of activating spectatorship, I question how theatricality is to be thus defined. Referencing the beholding of painting, I distinguish the implicit beholder from the literal spectator, and claim that the distinction has relevance for video art. However, I welcome what seems to be an explicit acknowledgment from Fried that the position of the spectator is a contributory factor in what he terms empathic projection. I argue that video art as a spatial practice offers a distinct mode of reception by positioning the spectator in relation to two-dimensional figurative space to which she is excluded
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