- Scratch Video
Scratch video was a British
video artmovement that emerged in the early-mid 1980s. It was characterised by the use of found footage, fast-cutting and multi-layered rhythms. It is significant in that, as a form of outsider art, it challenged many of the establishment assumptions of broadcast TV - as well of those of gallery-bound video art.
Scratch video, not to be confused with
video scratching, arose in opposition to broadcast TV, as (anti-)artists attempted to deal critically and directly with the impact of mass communications. The context these videos emerged in is important, as it tended to critique of the institutions making broadcast videos and the commercialism found on “youth” TV, especially MTV. This it did in form, content and in its mode of distribution.
Much of the work was politically radical, often containing images of a sexual or violent nature, and using images appropriated from mainstream media, including corporate advertising; using strategies inspired by the
Situationistconcept of detournementand William Burroughs’ theories of Electronic Revolution.
The primary audience for scratch video in the early to mid 80s, was in nightclub performances by “industrial music” bands such as
The Anti-Group Company, Cabaret Voltaire, Nocturnal Emissions, Psychic TV, SPK, Test Dept, etc. Some of those involved described their work as a form of “cultural terrorism” or as a form of “anti-art”.
In the mid 1980s typical London venues would be screenings at artist-run spaces such as the Ambulance Station, in independent cinemas such as the Brixton
Ritzy Cinema, or the Fridgenightclub, which boasted an array of dozens of recycled colour TVs. There was also significant distribution on VHStape, following similar networks to cassette culture.
After Andy Lipman’s
City Limitsfeature contextualised the “art” values of this practice, material began to be featured in small screenings in official art galleries such as the ICAand Tate. TV stations like Channel 4began late night screenings of art videos, including “scratch video”. However, because much of the material was constructed using domestic VHS equipment, it was deemed both technically and legally unsuitable for broadcast (TV stations are particularly wary of copyright violations). Being highly politicised, some of the material also broke with the broadcaster’s criteria of “balance”
The Duvet Brothers
'Scratch Video' is a rather catch-all category of work which derive from popular dance and music fashions and the cutting of found trash images with it. Its long history begins with the
cubistcollages of Picasso and Braque, the 'ready-mades' of Duchamp, and passes through Joseph Cornell, Bruce Conner, Andy Warholand William S. Burroughs and Anthony Balch'cut-ups'. The movement was influenced by the American video artist Dara Birnbaum. [Mick Hartney, Grove Art Online, reproduced on the Museum of Modern Art website: [http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?theme_id=10215] ]
Speaking of the movements emergence and how it got its name,
Rik Lander(one half of The Duvet Brothers) has stated:
"I can’t remember when we found out what we were doing was scratch or that we were part of a movement. Certainly when we saw the work of
Kim Flitcroftand Sandra Goldbacher, George Barberand Gorilla Tapes it was uncanny that so many people had been experimenting in the same area without knowing that the others existed. In my mind a journalist called Pat Sweeneycame up with the name scratch, but scratch video may have already existed as a named form in the US. Andy Lipmanran a City Limitscover story on Scratch Videoin October 1984 where he tried to create the myth that scratch was made by disaffected youth taping the TVand reediting it on VCR’sat home. If anyone knew this was not the case it was Andy. He was one of the few people who had actually met all the people involved. Dessa Foxin the NMEtried a similar hype when she suggested that scratch video was a televisual punk rock". [ [http://www.duvetbrothers.com/history.htm the duvet brothers - history ] ]
Scratch Videocontinues to be popular historical form, maintaining a cult following in niche contemporary art video circles. Original Scratch Video works continue to be shown in major exhibitions around the world. Notable events, amongst others, being Gorilla Tapes' participation in the ICA's 2007exhibition Last Days of The British Undergroundand "SCRATCH!" a recent retrospective exhibition curated by Paul Pieroniat SEVENTEEN, London.
*Video Art: A Guided tour Catherine Elwes London 2005 ISBN 1850435464
*Andy Lipman Scratch and Run City Limits London [http://www.earthlydelights.co.uk/archive/scratch/scratch.html]
*BRITISH FILM AND VIDEO 1980-1985 THE NEW PLURALISM selected by
Tina Keaneand Michael O'PrayTate Gallery catalogue [http://www.earthlydelights.co.uk/archive/scratch/newpluralism.html]
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