Harrison, Nate.

*1972 in Eugene, Oregon
lives in Brooklyn, New York
studied at California Institute of the Arts

2009 PhD Candidate, Art and Media History, Theory and Criticism, University of California, San Diego


Exhibitions [Selection]:

2011 "A Purpose On Image", Beton 7, Athens, Greece
"I Like The Art World And The Art World Likes Me", EFA Project Space, New York
2010  Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin/Madrid, at Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
"The Amen Break", Galerie Thomas Flor, Düsseldorf, Germany

Aura Dies Hard (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Copy)

Date: 2010
Length: 14:10 min.
Format:  4:3
Specification: Colour, Sound


The narrator of Nate Harrison's video essay challenges the traditional notion of video as a dematerialized form of art. During his visits to an exhibition on the history of video art, the narrator starts questioning the claim of the exhibition's curatorial text that video art has always put an emphasis on the performative aspect of the genre rather then on the production of a discrete and precious art object. The narrator points out that since the 1960s, which marks the beginning of video art, there has emerged a hierarchy of copies, ranging from a whole array of authorized video pieces such as master-, exhibition- or archival copies, to bootlegged copies illegally reproduced in violation of authorship or distribution rights. Thus the art world has developed new rituals of duplication, preservation and distribution that clearly show that a video art carrier can often be viewed as a repository of ‘aura’: Walter Benjamin's notion of authenticity, characteristic of traditional works of art. The narrator illustrates his words with a sequence of video excerpts from 48 of the best-known video and performance artists who he has seen in the exhibition and copies of whose work he actually has stored in his personal video archive.






► 1. Your video has been chosen among over 1700 festival entries to participate in Videonale 13. How central is the video medium to your overall artistic production? Is it complimentary to other media you use or do you work exclusively with video?


Video is important, but perhaps even more important is the sound component. My projects usually involve some amount of writing, and are realized both as video essays or as audio essays. I suppose it depends on whether or not I also want to present a visual argument. For my work for Videonale, the visuals were essential to the overall concept.


► 2. Is there a particular theme, concept or problem your art addresses the most?


I am interested in modes of cultural production and circulation given the dominance both of an "immaterial lifestyle" today and intellectual property regimes that complicate that lifestyle.


► 3. What artists do you relate to or find significant for your own art-making?


In general I have always been attracted to the film and video essay form, so of course prominent makers such as Guy Debord, Chris Marker and Harun Farocki figure into my practice. However, currently I am finishing my doctoral research so I am more focused on various authors right now: Peter Bürger, Fredric Jameson, Jean-François Lyotard, Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello are just some writers and thinkers who are really helping me at the moment. All of the above could certainly also be said to inform my video practice and approach to media critique in general.


► 4. Do you think the video medium can address social or political issues better than other art media?


This question for me is the classic question, debated over so dramatically by Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, for instance. For me the question is similar to this one: how to realize the socially or politically transformative potential of new communication technologies without their subordination to ideological instrumentalization? My answer, which is unsatisfactory, is that one has to look at the problem dialectically.


► 5. Art can be seen as a mirror that registers and reflects life or as a tool that transforms it. Which of the two positions is close to your own art-making philosophy?


Certainly the latter. Lived experience is a constructed one, it builds over time. So to understand art as a "mirror" of society is to ignore the fact that art and culture *produce* subjects, not merely reflect their already-formed ideas and ways of being in the world.


► 6. How do you understand success in an art-making career?


An adequate answer would be much too long! I do not believe in a separation between art making and knowledge production, so I suppose "success" would entail seeing my students (I am a Professor of Art in the US) take ideas and continue working with them in new and interesting ways.


► 7. What is the most difficult and the most rewarding thing about making art / being an artist?


The most difficult and rewarding are actually the same thing: autonomy. On the one hand, being an artist is not a 9-5 job; you're always on the clock. You really have to be disciplined and proactive with your use of time. On the other hand, you get to spend the majority of your time concerned about matters that you find most relevant, important, or meaningful to you.


► 8. What are your upcoming projects?


I have a couple of collaborative video projects I am working on with my wife, but I am mostly focused on my dissertation at the moment!


► 9. What do you do when you don't make art?


Write. Think. Teach. Hug my wife. Pet my cats.


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