Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dan Graham | Video - Architecture - Television

Dan Graham
Video - Architecture - Television 
Halifax, Canada: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1979
89 pp., 22 x 28 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

Dan Graham’s affiliation with the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax dates back to 1969, when he produced two of his earliest film and video performance works (From Sunset to Sunrise and Two Correlated Positions) using the college’s video equipment. He made several trips as a visiting artist and his second solo exhibition was held at the school's Anna Leonowens Gallery in 1970.

"He was a fixture, almost, at NSCAD", noted Garry Neill Kennedy, who was appointed President of the college in 1967 and immediately began transforming the school into an international centre for artistic activity. He instituted an aggressive and well-funded visiting artist program, inviting such artists as Vito Acconci, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Beuys and Claes Oldenburg to speak and to interact with the students. Professional quality facilities, such as the lithography workshop and new multi-media equipment, made visiting the remote small town attractive to artists. Graham advised that an active publishing press could continue these mutually beneficial relationships.

"Dan Graham was a kind of intellectual ambassador, identifying with this weird place in Halifax. Many people didn't even know where Halifax was. It was more about identifying with a place that makes things happen," says Kasper Koenig, who was hired as editor of the press, at Graham's urging. Along with his brother, bookseller Walther Koenig, Kasper had previously published books with artists such as Stanley Brouwn, Gilbert & George, Franz Erhard Walther, Robert Filliou and Jan Dibbets. At a young age he had curated exhibitions at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm by Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. The accompanying catalogue for the latter show was an integral component of the exhibition and is now regarded as a classic artists’ publication (with prices ranging from several hundred dollars for later printings and several thousand for signed copies).

Koenig was made an associate professor and offered the role of editor/director of the press. He accepted, he says, because the school was "open and without fear". Between the years 1972 and 1976 the press published nine books with Koenig, under the banner name of "Source Materials for the Contemporary Arts". Five were by visual artists, two by dancers (Yvonne Rainer and Simone Forti), and one by composer Steve Reich (artist and composer La Monte Young was also invited to produce a title, but his proposed project was deemed too costly). The books by artists are all now considered classics: Raw Notes by Claes Oldenburg, Framing and Being Framed by Hans Haacke, two volumes by Donald Judd (one of his writings, another his drawings) and Michael Snow's Cover to Cover. The latter is often cited as the quintessential artist book.

Financial troubles in '76 led to the resignation of Koenig and a two year period of inactivity. In 1978 Benjamin Buchloh from Dusseldorf, then best known as the editor of the influential Interfunktionen magazine, was brought in as editor of the press and part-time faculty member in art history. In addition to finishing up two books initiated before his arrival, he published five titles with the press, including Graham's Video – Architecture – Television

Subtitled Writings on Video and Video Works 1970-1978, the book documents the artist's use of video equipment as a functional tool in sculptural installations, environmental concepts and performative activities. Each work is illustrated with either drawing, photograph, or both, as well as a brief description. The title features contributions by Michael Asher and Dara Birnbaum - both artists Graham had suggested be brought to NSCAD to speak - as well as Graham's own Essay on Video, Architecture and Television, in which he discusses video as a medium distinct from film. 

"Film," he writes, "is a reflection of a reality external to the spectator's body; the spectator's body is out of the frame." Conversely, he calls video a "present-time medium" and argues that "In a live-video-situation, the spectator may be included within the frame at one moment, or be out of the frame at another". The text also examines the difference between private and corporate video production, and argues in favour of the integration of the former into public cable TV stations' programming schedules. 

The book, an important document in Graham's examination of the video medium, has long been out of print and has been selling for upwards of $350. Last year the title was made available again by Lars M ller Publishers, as a paperback reprint, with a new introduction by Eric de Bruyn. It is available from them, here, for €40.00.

A recent conversation between Koenig and Kennedy can be viewed on Youtube, here. They speak about the origins of the press, moose, Snow's Cover to Cover, and the recent book on Kennedy and NSCAD published by the MIT Press, The Last Art College (which Koenig calls an arrogant title and quickly changes the subject).

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