Distributor FAQ: Electronic Arts Intermix

What is Electronic Arts Intermix?
Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is a resource for artists’ video and alternative media. We distribute a collection of over 2,750 new and historical works by international artists and maintain an ongoing preservation program, a new Online Catalogue and collection database, a screening room, and related services.

What constitutes “electronic art?”
Within the context of EAI, it’s time-based art that engages with electronic media—in forms ranging from video to the web—as a language, a critical strategy, or a tool for creating work.

What does it mean to be a nonprofit in 21st century America?
For EAI, it means a commitment to serving our artists and audiences by providing an educational, art historical, and cultural context for our collection, while at the same time devising strategies for negotiating a dotcom world.

Who is EAI?
Lori Zippay, Executive Director; Galen Joseph-Hunter, Digital Media Coordinator; Seth Price, Technical Coordinator; Our new Director of Distribution, John Thomson, replaces Stephen Vitiello who has just left EAI after 12 years.

Where does the money come from to fund EAI’s activities?
Approximately 75% comes from earned revenue—tape sales and rentals. We also receive funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as foundations.

How, when, and why did EAI come into being?
EAI was founded in 1971 by Howard Wise, who had a gallery in New York that focused on kinetic art. In 1969 he organized “TV as a Creative Medium,” the first exhibition in the U.S. devoted to video art. Shortly after, he closed the gallery and founded EAI as one of the first nonprofit organizations dedicated to supporting video as a form of artistic and cultural expression.

Unofficial motto or driving philosophy:
It’s ultimately about a passion for the work.

What would people be most surprised to learn about EAI and/or its staff?
Because EAI’s tapes pop up in venues all over the world (and have for decades), people are often surprised to learn just how small the staff actually is; they assume we’re an enormous operation. And people who are just now discovering video as art are surprised to learn that EAI is almost 30 years old.

How many works are in your collection?
2,750 works are in active distribution. We also house another 500 or so works—a wonderfully rich assemblage of historical materials—that are not actively circulated. (Much of this material is available for in-house viewing, however.)

What types of works do you distribute?
The collection spans an eclectic range of genres, styles, and themes, from performance-based and conceptual works to experimental narratives and even CD-ROM projects by artists such as Chris Marker, Muntadas, and Zoe Beloff.

The earliest tape in EAI’s collection is the newly restored Button Happening from 1965, which is the first video recording made by Nam June Paik. The most recent tape is a new work by Cheryl Donegan, which was completed yesterday. The collection includes works by artists from across the U.S. and from Japan, Europe, Australia, and Latin America. Works range from 30-second spots to feature-length, and are distributed on formats from VHS to digital Betacam and everything in between. (Our archive also houses works on obsolete reel-to-reel and old broadcast formats.)

Best known titles and/or directors in collection:
Nam June Paik, Joan Jonas, Bill Viola, Jean-Luc Godard, Dara Birnbaum, Gary Hill, Bruce Nauman, Cheryl Donegan, Martha Rosler, the Vasulkas, and Vito Acconci. (These are just examples of some of the most well-known artists. The list goes on.)

How is the collection organized?
By artist. Our Online Catalogue is searchable by theme or genre, title, and artists’ name, and also includes a special archival section. We also distribute a number of special programs, thematic series, and touring exhibitions.

Upcoming EAI work to keep an eye out for:
We’ve just launched the first in what will be a series of artists’ projects created specifically for the web, Involuntary Reception by Kristin Lucas. (This web-based piece includes a video element that can be viewed with Real Player.) Also, our 30th anniversary is coming up in 2001, and among the anniversary events is an archival web project that traces EAI’s history through early documents and other ephemera, such as the very first catalogues of the collection.

The difference between video art and film art is…?
usually a matter of the artist’s intent, but often a matter of context.

Do you distribute works that have been shot on film, but were edited and can only be exhibited on video?
Yes. The boundaries between video and film are very fluid at this point. We also distribute a number of artists’ super 8 and 16mm films from the 1960s and ’70s, by artists such as Bruce Nauman, Vito Acconci, and Joan Jonas that we have restored and now make available on video.

How do you decide what to add to your collection?
There is a selection process. In terms of new works, we’re looking to represent the diverse discourses of contemporary art and media. We’re also actively working to add (and often preserve) major bodies of historical works from the late ’60s and early ’70s, so that this important alternative art and cultural history won’t disappear. In recent years we’ve added early works that weren’t previously in distribution, by artists such as Hannah Wilke and Ana Mendieta, among many others,

Most unusual place an EAI title has shown:
Two exceptional sites come to mind: the Sony JumboTron screen above Times Square, and inside the Biosphere, when it was still supposedly a self-sustaining environment!

Where do you find your titles, and how should makers approach you for consideration?
We’re always looking at work and going to exhibitions and festivals. We also have quarterly reviews of submissions—we ask that artists send a VHS compilation of work, along with contextual materials such as a bio, reviews, etc., and a SASE.

Range of production budgets of titles in your collection:
The range is dramatic and typical of the different approaches that characterize artists’ video. We have super-low-budget tapes made by artists who perform in front of a camera in real time (e.g. early performance works by artists such as William Wegman or more recent works by artists such as Ursula Hodel), or use in-camera edits, such as George Kuchar. On the other hand, we also have works that were commissioned as international television productions.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
In general, our strategy is to highlight new works in a special section of our web site, to represent the work in catalogue materials, email updates, and “new works” presentations. Our Screening Room plays an important role in our ability to introduce new works to curators, educators, and other programmers.

What’s the basic structure of an artist’s distribution deal with EAI?
EAI has nonexclusive contracts with artists. While terms may vary with specific artists or works, we tend to handle all forms of distribution. Artists receive a 50% royalty and are paid semi-annually.

Where do Electronic Arts Intermix titles show?
EAI tapes are shown in arts, cultural, and educational institutions all over the world. 65% of our audiences are outside of the United States; last year our tapes were distributed in 27 different countries. (The first day our new Online Catalogue was launched we received online orders from an arts center in Taiwan and a public library in rural Tennessee.)

How do people and programmers find out about your collection?
EAI’s Online Catalogue [www.eai.org] has proven to be an extraordinary tool for reaching programmers, curators, educators, and the other audiences. The catalogue includes artists’ biographies, descriptions of the works, images, direct online ordering, and special projects designed specifically for the site. We’re also now doing quarterly e-mail updates on new works in the collection. We are also working on a new print catalogue.

Biggest challenge in reaching your audience:
Trying to reach as wide an audience as possible while also maintaining a sense of one-on-one contact with the curators, educators, and others that we serve.

Biggest change at EAI in the last five years:
Internally, the biggest change has been our new Online Catalogue and database, which has had an enormous impact, both as an educational resource and as a marketing tool. Externally, the biggest change has been the remarkable explosion of interest in artists’ video within the mainstream art world, which has resulted in an explosion of distribution activity at EAI.

How have cuts in public monies available to media artists affected EAI and its work?
Many artists who were once making experimental video works are now making feature films or video installations. On the other hand, there is a new generation of young visual artists and filmmakers who are now working in video and new media. And just this year we’ve seen a new wave of dynamic short works created by artists (including Tony Cokes, Alix Pearlstein, and Charles Atlas) using digital editing systems in their own studios.

Most important issue facing EAI today is…?
The need to maintain the integrity of the historical works in the collection through continued preservation efforts, while at the same time supporting the work of new and young artists. A related issue is the need to meet the challenges of new digital technologies, and the impact these technologies will have on distribution and preservation. It’s about integrating the history and the present with the future.

The difference between EAI and other distributors is…?
that we are very engaged in preserving and cataloging the works in the collection. We also tend to function more as a resource than strictly as a distributor, with services such as our screening room. Finally, when we take on an artist for distribution, we commit to that artist’s complete body of work; that is, we represent an artist, not a title.

Other distributors you admire and why?
Our colleagues in the field of alternative media distribution, such as Women Make Movies, Video Data Bank, and Third World Newsreel, because they continue successfully to distribute challenging work in a world that demands entertainment, now.

About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.