Peripheral Histories

Uncovering media histories

Xpose Art Collective

Book Design
Communication Design
Content Curation

“Peripheral Histories” is a print and digital book exploring an alternative view of experimental film, video, and television art in Romania from the 1970s to 2020. The book narrates the sociocultural and cross-generational transformations and proposes new readings of media and history.

The book provides a cross-generational overview of how media arts have evolved in Romania and allowed artists to translate broader social transformations through experimental film, video, digital, and television art. It analyzes the prominent motifs in the works of some of the most renowned contemporary Romanian artists and groups the most representative artworks for the first time. Furthermore, the interpretation avoids the common understandings of the ‘periphery’ in art and cultural criticism, emphasizing its potential for different perceptions and inviting readers to look at this fragment of media history from a different angle.

An argument is outlined in the introduction, “Peripheral / Video, Art, Cameras,” that much of the criticism has focused on understanding the ‘periphery’ in spatial terms that often reinforce perceptions of (self-)marginalization and hierarchical modernism. But different readings are possible, where the peripheral relates to fields of vision or added components that increase a computer’s capacities. In this interpretation, the technical medium refers to enhancement modes governed by different functions, operations, and properties. While art-centric accounts often generalize approaches around the technologies that inform new art production and interpret works in terms of image technologies, video and digital are primarily time technologies that contract and distribute temporal material.

The first chapter, “1978-1989 / Memorizing Fragmentation,” analyzes representations of memory, body, and identity through the concept of fragmentation to show how various motifs and techniques from drawing, collage, photography, and cinema overlap to inform artistic practices. It provides an overview of how film encompasses graphic and cinematic techniques such as mixed media, pictorial elements, engraving, patterns of visual fragmentation, distorted effects, and partial visions that define many of the works produced until the end of the ‘80s. But one argument in the chapter is that interpretations based solely on image fragmentation tend to overlook the role of time, timing, time manipulation, or rhythm specific to film and prominent in video and digital technologies. Particular ways of seeing, knowing, and acting are inseparable from the camera's technology and the industrial society's conditions.

Two chapters, “1989 / Cameras and Revolution” and “1993 / The Year We Made Video,” analyze the changes brought by electronic communication and the significant changes in the social and political fabric of the times. On the one hand, the Romanian revolution in 1989—a defining moment in television and media history with a media counterpart in the Gulf war—is analyzed as a symptomatic condition of the society, generating a unique relation to television as media. On the other hand, the 1993 exhibition “Ex Oriente Lux,” an experimental and impressively large-scale event that remains the single major video art exhibition of its kind to this day, takes place at a time of unique informational boom among the ex-socialist Eastern countries. Sculptors, architects, filmmakers, and artists with different media backgrounds now translate their concerns through the medium of video and media installation, some for the first time, to explore the intersections between reality, mass media, television, and the possibilities of artistic media and to reflect on the social conditions of the time.

Two extensive chapters, “1994-2007 / Remnant Discontinuities” and “2007-2018 / The Distant Present,” analyze how film, video, and digital practices have evolved on either side of Romania joining the EU in 2007—a time of extreme sociocultural, economic, political transitions marked by conflicting ideologies. Ideas of discontinuity, synchronicity, identity, and difference now take prominence in the works of established and upcoming artists. Generational differences become manifest and different relations to media and history take shape. Two subchapters showcase this more prominently. “Different Cameras: Difference and the Renegotiated Gaze” discusses how successive generations of female artists use film and video practices to provide social commentaries and question patriarchal constructions. “The Nature of the Future: The Curious Case of Mihai Grecu” singles out an artist whose work intertwines with digital and post-digital practices to explore the new conditions and possibilities of moving image media.

The emergence of cinema is inseparable from the shifts in industrial organization and time rationalization that define capitalist modernities. When society is memory, the significant changes in the dominant technologies affect the very definition of the social and art forms of sociality. As such, ever-new media reflect on the ever-new forms of social memory that expand beyond the frameworks of machine memory. “Peripheral Histories” is a fragment and a point of departure for analyzing how socialities have transformed in Romania over the course of five decades—and an attempt to spark interest in an often disregarded fragment of media history that may serve to provide novel perspectives and understandings. 

Peripheral Histories is currently pending copyright clearances for publication and is expected to launch in July 2023 in print and digital format. Identity design developed in collaboration with Echo Branding © Stranger Projects OÜ. Samples of graphic design in early construction stages © Sabin Borș, 2019—2022 / Stranger Projects OÜ, 2022-2023. Screenshots of artist works, in order © Emanuel Tet, Aurelia Mihai, Anca Munteanu Rimnic, and Mihai Grecu. All rights belong to the respective artists.

No items found.