Michael Fried and Beholding Video Art

Estetika 49 (1):5-25 (2012)

Abstract
In this article, I consider Michael Fried’s recent contribution to the debate about 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 on awork’s to-be-seenness offers a useful way of framing the relation with the beholder in video art, I question his notion of ‘overcoming’ theatricality – preferring to see the theatrical/antitheatrical dichotomy as a dynamic at play within individual works. 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, but relate this to the notion of a figural presence. I argue that video art, as a spatial practice, offers a distinct mode of reception by problematizing the position of the spectator in relation to two-dimensional figurative space to which she is excluded.
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