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Introduction
1989

First Video Positive festival, Liverpool

Video Positive '89 was organised by Merseyside Moviola, now known as FACT - the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology. Steve Littman and Eddie Berg had formed the Moviola in 1988 when Littman was a student at Liverpool University, and Berg was an assistant from the city's Everyman Theatre. Identifying a lack of spaces for showing artists film and video in Merseyside, they began to organise screenings in a disused chapel. A year later, they approached the director of the newly-opened Tate Liverpool with an idea for an exhibition that focussed on video installations.

The result, Video Positive '89, was billed as Britain's biggest ever video art festival. The venues were the Tate, Bluecoat and Williamson Art galleries, and a chain of TV rental shops throughout Merseyside run by D.E.R (Rentals) Ltd. (The use of these last spaces had a precedent in London Video Arts' Channel 5 festival in 1985.)

Video Positive included projected screenings, installations, performances, a conference and education programme. At the Tate, single-screen works by international and British videomakers were shown alongside installations featuring multiple monitors; David Hall's The Situation Envisaged: The Rite II (Cultural Eclipse), Marion Urch's Distant Drums, and Daniel Reeves Well of Patience.

Perhaps the most ambitious of the displays was the 'Videowall', composed of forty-two video monitors stacked together in rows and columns to form a vast segmented screen. Controlled by computer, images shown on the Videowall could be manipulated to multiply, fragment, and shift from monitor to monitor. The Videowall screened commissioned work by British artists Judith Godard (Silver lining), Katherine Meynell (Moonrise) and Jeremy Welsh. The German artist Maria Vedder's Pol/Oder, was first shown at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. Five more pieces were selected from a project first shown on a video wall in a Toronto shopping mall - an intervention in the kind of environment for which videowall technology was finding a commercial use.

At the Bluecoat, a number of tapes were compiled for projected screenings. The programmes included Maturity and New Blood: Recent work by women videomakers, selected & introduced by Catherine Elwes; The Home Front featuring Mona Hatoum, Catherine Elwes, Graham Young, and Sankofa; and student work from South Mersey College, and the Liverpool, Sheffield and Brighton Polytechnics.

Tom Roberts

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Catalogue, Video Positive 1989

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