This presentation takes as its starting point the routine assertion that there is not and never will be “video theory”—a claim tethered to video’s lack of a single or essential form. Video, after all, is plastic in object and practice, ranging across “old” and “new” media, including sound and image reproduction, broadcasting, video art, documentary, gaming, and the internet. Put otherwise, video is understood as a surface media—it is ubiquitous, varied, easily manipulated, low-grade, repeatedly new—and thus distinct from the deeper material and theoretical textures of medium’s with specificity (e.g. film, the high arts, even TV.). Such assumptions are particularly widespread in North-Atlantic media/cultural studies where the transition from analogue video to the internet is too often already written. Techno-narratives of this kind cover over a broad spectrum of video cultures both inside the metropolitan centers, etc., and across emerging media landscapes.

In short, I am interested in video’s perceived resistance to theory; my basic proposal is that it is precisely this resistance with its manifold materialities and imaginations that marks the potential of video theory to intervene in contemporary media and cultural theory. Moving from theories of medium specificity to those of medium multiplicity joins up with impulses suggested by models of the vortex or of assembly. That is, a central problem with medium specificity is that it is not specific enough: it is closed to site- specific, ephemeral, marginal, intersectional, etc., formations. Video theory, as I develop it in this presentation, instead aspires to Barthes’ aspiration in Camera Lucida: “a new science for each object”—or, we might say, a new thinking for each assembly. How, for instance, do video’s multiplicities challenge understandings of contemporary screen cultures, audiovisual aesthetics, urbanism, and the project of globalizing media theory?

Video Vortex #9 - re:assemblies of video | 28.2.-1.3.2013
Centre for Digital Cultures (CDC) | Leuphana University Lüneburg (Germany)

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