Story: Media art

Page 2. Sound and moving images

All images & media in this story

Moving images

The emergence of videotape as an alternative to film in the 1970s made moving-image art more accessible for those without the funds or resources to work with celluloid film or cinema-style production and presentation.

Video art was usually presented using household TV monitors and VHS players, and it would often refer to this domestic context. From the 1990s, when large-scale projection equipment as well as digital media became available, there were increased overlaps between traditional cinema and more experimental modes. These included:

  • showing cinema films in gallery environments
  • building gallery environments that mimicked cinemas
  • showing film and video with live performances
  • artists making films to be shown in conventional cinema situations
  • cinema producers creating multi-screen installations for galleries.

Feminist media art

The feminist movement found an important outlet in media art, as it allowed artists to explore new formats and circumvent the conventional outlets and hierarchies of the art world. In the 1980s, for example, video provided an alternative to cinema and television and the modes of representation they perpetuated.


Sound increasingly became an important part of both experimental music and visual art production, and artists experimented with bringing music, images and objects together in creative ways. A mix of music, sound and art was a feature of the Sonic Circus festivals in Wellington, organised by Jack Body and first held in 1974 at Victoria University.

Live film or video was presented at concerts from the 1980s by groups such as Fetus Productions and Philip Dadson’s From Scratch. This became an integral part of performances by Michael Hodgson’s group Pitch Black, which developed special software for the live triggering of video clips from a computer.

The growing field of music-video production was an important platform for experimentation. Works by artists such as Fetus Productions and Chris Knox were featured in the 1996 exhibition VDU Video Down Under: Recent Video Art from New Zealand, and appeared in gallery presentations.

Later artists, including Rachel Shearer, Kim Pieters and Lissa Mitchell, similarly combined their involvement with art and bands to produce clips that mixed audio and visual experimentation. They also created live visuals to accompany musical performances – commonly known as VJing (a video equivalent of DJing).

Radio and noise

A growing range of sound sources – from found sounds in nature and industry to experimental instruments or electronically created tones and noises – have helped change the experience of listening to art and music.

Radio, a medium that spans the natural and electronic worlds, has long been an area of fascination for artists. Media collective Radioqualia made work that used data from radio telescopes to stream and broadcast the sounds of electromagnetic activity in space.

Finding meaning in noise was a significant preoccupation for many artists, particularly those working with sound. Stella Brennan’s ‘ZenDV’ (2002) explored this visually, questioning the distinctions we make between analogue and digital technology, by introducing simulated dust and scratches to a test pattern.

How to cite this page:

Andrew Clifford, 'Media art - Sound and moving images', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 2 October 2022)

Story by Andrew Clifford, published 22 Oct 2014