Moving pictures

25th June 2004 at 01:00
Video Art

Michael Rush

Thames and Hudson, pound;28

Writing on the Wall: Word and Image in Modern Art

Simon Morley

Thames and Hudson, pound;29.95

It's a key time for video art: Bill Viola's work, "The Passions", recently received a showing at the National Gallery, and a video artist, Willie Doherty, was short-listed for the Turner Prize last year. Video Art looks back and towards the future, too, suggesting that video is already being subsumed into digital art.

As Michael Rush points out, video can be seen as one "filmic" medium, as just one medium from many that an artist chooses, or as a fascinating medium in its own right and the locus of a whole practice. Video Art sets out to suggest some possibilities and to offer a broad international overview of this art form spanning the last four decades of the 20th century. It discusses a large number of artists and is packed with colour images made up of video stills, sequences and installation views.

The wealth of visual material will be the major attraction of this book, although the accompanying text is accessible, with a clear language style and font. Inevitably, however, with such a broad survey, some depth is lost, but the notes and bibliography make it possible to follow-up an interest in a particular artist or work.

The use of text with images has a much longer history and Writing on the Wall addresses some of the complexities involved in bringing these two forms of communication together. It is a more academic study, as reflected in the text and comprehensive bibliography. For the uninitiated, the language may be obscure and difficult, but the effort is be repaid by some stimulating and provocative ideas. Also international in scope, it concentrates mainly on the use of writing in different art movements from the Impressionists to the post-modern - eg words and newspapers collaged into Cubist paintings, graffiti art, Susan Hiller's automatic writing, even references to the way words are included in mediaeval painting. While much of the work is familiar, this selection makes one look again and reconsider.

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