When Tank Magazine hits the bookshelves in 1998 it created somewhat of a publishing stir. In a format too cute to ignore, and with an ingenious blend of editorial content that read more like a zine than a newsstand magazine, Tank Magazine achieved a major following of appreciative readers and publishers the world over.
Following on from this success, Tank explores the territory of the moving image with its on-line portal Tank TV, launched in December of 2003. With such a huge increase in short film and video production worldwide, and a dizzying amount of streaming content on the web, finding thought provoking and conceptual video work can be a little overwhelming.
That's where Tank's smart editorial approach comes in, by sourcing quality motion works from a wide pool of established and 'unknown' artists, in any format, that all engage with the editorial theme, in surprising, and often humorous ways. Each submission is limited to three minutes, to encourage artists to convey their message succinctly and to the point, working more as a collection of creative insights to keep viewers engaged. In keeping with this, the graphic interface is functional and straightforward, to allow visitors to access the works with the minimum amount of mouse-clicks needed.
In September's topic, Tourism, Tank.tv encouraged us to sit back and explore the 'modern anxieties' of contemporary holiday-making with a selection of video works by a range of creators, from your average tourist's wobbly, handheld video footage, to artists who directly address the theme from within a conceptual framework.
Artist Douglas Fishbone's second clip is an amusing and often disturbing monologue piece begins rather cynically with a nursery rhyme, then continues to describe his childhood. Still images flick through like a slide-show, all describing his difficult family life.
It's an entertaining play of words and pictures, with a series of found images - space, computer games, newspaper photographs, and disfigured people - mixed with family photos. Here, the holiday slide show becomes a slide show of life's experiences and living in America.
Tank.tv collects videos itself from various sources, and adding an interesting angle to the 'Tourism' topic, is a work by KFA Delegation. But they're no conceptual art collective. KFA is an acronym for 'Korean Friendship Association', and this short, low budget video promotes travel to North Korea, with footage of public parades, fireworks, long highways, and socialist statutes, determined to show a modern and positive image of the socialist society.
Delphine Bovey and Tank.tv collaborate together with a piece titled 'God Save'. Lines of people on the street watch a royal public visit, in this case only assumed to be the queen, as there is never a shot of the subject in question. 'God Save The Queen', Britain's national anthem plays in the background, while the camera pans across the spectators, many holding up digital cameras in a communal salute, as if moments are now only experienced through the flat screens of digital devices.
More recently, the site has moved beyond the web and into the gallery, with numerous events and installations of Tank.tv video content. August 2004 saw a show at the ICA in London, at the ICA Digital Studio, including artist's talk and a room full of computers for viewing works, drawing an increase in visitors to the gallery and growing the profile of the project.
ICA Digital Studio, August 2004
Philine Von Guretzky, co-editor of Tank.tv, spoke a few words to Shift about the concept behind the site.
What are some reasons for limiting each piece to three minutes?
The first obvious reason would be that we are internet based, thus we have to limit the space because of technical reasons. On the other hand we like this time limit, because it forces the artists to bring their point, idea or vision across without distractions. It is the right amount of time for little creative outbursts from everyone.
How has Tank Magazine influenced Tank.tv?
Tank.tv and Tank Magazine influence each other in what we do, who we know and where we go. The main influence is probably though that we try to stay innovative and always search for new and upcoming artists.
Tell us a bit about the recent ICA digital studio show.
It was a nice success for us and the artists, and I don't think the ICA ever had as many visitors down there before. We will try to repeat this in February 2006 of course, and this time we will try to commission some artists, which we would like to do more often.
It's the eclectic selection of moving image content, that makes visiting Tank.tv a thought-provoking experience where you never really know what you're going to see next. And with around 15,000 to 20,000 hits a month, and a subscriber base of nearly 3000, it's proving to be an effective way for film and video creators to get their work out there. Tank.Tv - Now showing, on a computer screen near you.
Text: Peta Jenkin