Charlotte Klink – Electric Seeing: Positions in Contemporary Video Art


Transcript Verlag, ISBN 978-3837657005, English, 360 pages, 2023, Germany

There is a hyper-fragmentation of media in the digital world, from the news reduced to tweeted titles to the average 42-second videos on TikTok. The over-consumption of these fragments raises many questions about the matter of the medium. Notably, such videos have ushered in the age of mass distraction. It is therefore crucial to understand the nature of video, with forays into the still undervalued field of video art. This book is Klink’s dissertation. In it, she traces video back to the electromagnetic signals that make it possible and dismisses the distinction between analogue and digital, since both are based on these signals. The uniqueness of the video structure (in comparison to films or other moving images) is reclaimed, while she invokes not classical models of communication, but a psychoanalytic model in which Lacan plays a central role. The expression of subjectivity is explored from 19th-century ‘electric seeing’ to the golden era of video art in the 1960s with all its innovations (e.g. portability and storage). The well-documented technical development and its significance merge seamlessly into the fascinating perceptual possibilities of the medium and the challenges to subjectivity in space and time that video makes possible, ending with the psychoanalytical concepts of the ‘phantasm’ in well-known video artworks.