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Video Positive festival, Liverpool

1991 saw the second Video Positive festival take place, curated by Eddie Berg, the then director of Moviola, formerly Merseyside Moviola and later to become FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). The first festival, Video Positive 89, had been organised by Eddie Berg and the artist and curator Steve Littman; it was at the time, and remained over the next decade, the UK's most significant international festival of 'video and electronic media'. Video Positive filled a unique function in the UK art scene since, in the early 90s, video had yet to become just another medium which artists could appropriate and the lack of exhibiting and commissioning opportunities was compounded by a lack of technical expertise to support artists interested in creating large scale video installations.

Operating out of Liverpool, away from the conventional centre of things, the first Video Positive had been ambitious in scope, bringing on board the newly opened Tate Liverpool and providing the first opportunity for British artists to make new work for a videowall, a sculptural matrix of 42 monitors. Video Positive 91 increased the scope of the first event even further, moving the festival from a largely British focus to an international one, with ten new commissions, fourteen artists from seven different countries, work installed in six venues across the city along with an extensive screening programme, performances and seminars. There was also greater emphasis on the interactive potential of 'electronic media' and the event was both critically well received and attracted record attendance figures for the venues involved. Key works included Simon Biggs' computer-based interactive work Alchemy; Judith Goddard's triptych installation The Garden Of Earthly Delights; Tony Oursler's multimedia installation Triun; Clive Gillman's interactive video installation Losing; Severed Head's interactive audio-visual installation Chasing Skirt and Mona Hatoum's 'slow scan' single channel video So Much I Want To Say. The festival also premiered Video Diaries, a project made in collaboration with Simon Robertshaw, the festival's "animateur" and local people; collaboratively commissioned works that explored the potential of technology to empower as well as entertain became a signature of the festival in its subsequent incarnations in '93, '95, '97 and 2000.

Marie-Anne McQuay

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