Digital Picklock for Video Art Exgesis: Reflections, Conditions and Possible Employment of Distant Viewing to Moving Image Datasets in Visual Arts Scholarship


  • Diego Mantoan Ca' Foscari University of Venice



Video Art, Distant Viewing, Computer Vision, Pathosformeln, Image Detection


With the advent of digital humanities new expectations and challenges are emerging for institutions harbouring video artworks, specifically in offering access and analytical tools to their archival collections. The paper argues for the possible employment of distant viewing to allow visual arts scholars an unprecedented take on video art, holding together both quantitative comparison and aesthetic considerations. In doing so, the paper addresses the peculiar conditions of video art that need proper consideration for a fruitful employment of distant viewing. Set on the background of the existing platforms for video-art consumption –such as UBU Network, JSC Media Centre, and Daata Streaming Platform that constitute true forerunners in this domain– the paper explores productive connections, synergies and frictions that might emerge with methods in digital humanities. In doing so, this research aims at setting early theoretical assumptions necessary to draw a methodological approach in the employment of distant viewing to video art. Accordingly, the paper reflects on the effectiveness of using thematic sub-sets based on categories already defined by visual arts, as well as on the possible implications of widespread practices such as manipulation and appropriation of video material.


Bartz, Christian, Tom Herold, Haojin Yang and Cristoph Meinel (2017). “Language Identification Using Deep Convolutional Recurrent Neural Networks.” In Neural Information Processing. ICONIP 2017, edited by Derong Liu, Shengli Xie, Yuanqing Li, Dongbin Zhao and El-Sayed M. El-Alfy (Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 10639), 880–889. Cham: Springer.

Bell, Peter and Björn Ommer (2015). “Training Argus. Ansätze zum automatischen Sehen in der Kunstgeschichte.” Kunstchronik 68(8), 414–420.

Bell, Peter and Björn Ommer (2016). “Digital Connoisseur? How Computer Vision Supports Art History.” In Il metedo del conoscitore: Approcci, limiti, prospettive, edited by Stefan Albl and Alina Aggujaro, 187–200. Rome: Editoriale Artemide.

Bender, K. (2015). “Distant Viewing in Art History: A Case Study of Artistic Productivity.” Digital Art History Journal 1(June).

Bier, Arielle (2013). “Reviews: Ed Atkins.” Frieze (10). (last accessed 20-06-2021).

Blume, Jonas (2017). “Exploring the Potentials and Challenges of Virtual Distribution of Contemporary Art.” In Digital Environments, edited by Urte Undine Frömming, Steffen Köhn, Samantha Fox and Mike Terry, 97–116. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag.

Cocciolo, Anthony (2014). “Challenges to born-digital institutional archiving: the case of a New York art museum”. Records Management Journal, 24(3), 238–250.

Collins, Edo, Raja Bala, Bob Price and Sabine Süsstrunk (2020). “Editing in Style: Uncovering the Local Semantics of GANs.” IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 5770-5779.

Comer, Stuart (Ed.) (2009). Film And Video Art. London: Tate Publishing.

Deng, Jia, Alexander Berg, Kai Li and Li Fei-Fei (2010). “What Does Classifying More Than 10,000 Image Categories Tell Us?” ECCV, 71-84.

Esser, Patrick, Ekaterina Sutter and Björn Ommer (2018). “A Variational U-Net for Conditional Appearance and Shape Generation.” Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 8857-8866.

Esser, Patrick, Robin Rombach and Björn Ommer (2021). “Taming Transformers for High-Resolution Image Synthesis.” Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 12873-12883.

Foster, Hal (1996). The Return of the Real: The Avant-Garde at the End of the Century. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Foster, Hal (2002). “Archives of Modern Art.” October 99: 81-95.

Fried, Michael (2008). Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Frohen, Ursula (2008). Dissolution of the Frame: Immersion and Participation in Video Installations. In Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader, edited by Tanya Leighton, 355–370. London: Tate Publishing.

Grau, Oliver (2017). “Digital Art’s Complex Expression and Its Impact on Archives and Humanities.” In Museum and Archive on the Move, edited by Oliver Grau, 99–117. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

Heiser, Jörg (2008). All of a sudden: Things that Matter in Contemporary Art. New York: Sternberg Press.

Kimmelmann, Michael (1998). “Installation Art Moves On, Moves In.” New York Times (August, 9), 1.

Kotovenko, Dmytro, Artsiom Sanakoyeu, Sabine Lang and Björn Ommer (2019). “Content and Style Disentanglement for Artistic Style Transfer.” Proceedings of the IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV), 4422-4431.

Krauss, Rosalind (2000). A Voyage on the North Sea. Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Leighton, Tanya (2008). Art and the Moving Image: A Critical Reader. London: Tate Publishing.

Manovich, Lev (2013). “Museum without Walls, Art History without Names: Visualization Methods for Humanities and Media Studies.” In Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog and John Richardson. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mantoan, Diego (2018). “Video art between aesthetic maturity and medium immersion: Patterns of change and generational shift in moving image technology”. In Immersion - Design - Art, Revisited: Transmedia Form Principles in Contemporary Art and Technology, edited by Lars C. Grabbe, Patrick Rupert-Kruse and Norbert M. Schmitz, 98–117. Marburg, Büchner Verlag.

Monroy, Antonio, Peter Bell and Björn Ommer (2014). “Morphological analysis for investigating artistic images.” Image and Vision Computing 32: 414–423.

Moretti, Franco (2007). Graphs, Maps, Trees – Abstract Models for Literary History. London, New York: Verso.

Navarrete, Trilce, and Elena Villaespesa (2020). ‘Digital Heritage Consumption: The Case of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’. magazén 1(2): 223-248.

Newman, Michael (2009). “Moving the Image in the Gallery since the 1990s”. In Film And Video Art, edited by Stuart Comer, 86–121. London: Tate Publishing.

Redmon, Joseph, Santosh Divvala, Ross Girshick and Ali Farhadi (2016). Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), 779-788.

Rush, Michael (2007). Video Art: Revised Edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Saba, Cosetta G. (2013). “Media Art and the Digital Archive”. In Preserving and Exhibiting Media Art Book: Challenges and Perspectives, edited by Julia Noordegraaf, Cosetta G. Saba, Barbara Le Maître and Vinzenz Hediger, 102–121. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Sanakoyeu, Artsiom, Miguel A. Bautista and Björn Ommer (2018). “Deep unsupervised learning of visual similarities.” Pattern Recognition 78(C–June 2018), 331–343.

Schriber, Abbe (2017). “Sondra Perry. The Kitchen.” Artforum (March). (last accessed 20-06-2021).

Schwarze, Dirk (2012). Meilensteine: Die Documenta 1–13. Berlin: Verlag B&S.

Scott, Clive (1999). The Spoken Image: Photography and Language. London: Reaktion Books.

Segre, Cesare (1979). Semiotica filologica. Testo e modelli culturali. Turin: Einaudi.

Stallschus, Stefanie (2019). “Poetic Metaphor: Paolozzi’s Animated Films and Their Relation to Wittgenstein.” In Paolozzi and Wittgenstein. The Artist and the Philosopher, edited by Diego Mantoan and Luigi Perissinotto, 109–124. London: Palgrave MacMillan.

Taylor, Arnold and Lauren Tilton (2019). “Distant viewing: analyzing large visual corpora.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 0(0).

Wang, Xiaolong and Abhinav Gupta (2015). “Unsupervised learning of visual representations using videos.” Proceedings of the 2015 IEEE International Conference on Computer Vision, 2794–2802.

Yildirim, Gökhan, Debashis Sen, Mohan Kankanhalli and Sabine Süsstrunk (2020). “Evaluating salient object detection in natural images with multiple objects having multi-level saliency”. IET Image Process 14(10), 2249-2262.




How to Cite

Mantoan, D. (2021). Digital Picklock for Video Art Exgesis: Reflections, Conditions and Possible Employment of Distant Viewing to Moving Image Datasets in Visual Arts Scholarship. Cinergie – Il Cinema E Le Altre Arti, (20), 113–123.