explores the critical reception of media ar
t in Australia over the past three decades, with a view to encouraging more situated critical histories and historically aware critical practices. I give particular emphasis to the responses to key electronic and media art exhibitions by non-specialist critics, writing in newspapers and art journals. Starting with so-called ‘experimental video’ in the 1970s, I explore critical coverage of such seminal events as ‘Some Recent Australian Videotapes’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1980, curated by Bernice Murphy and Stephen Jones; ‘The Australian Video Festival’ in 1986; the ‘Third International Symposium on Electronic Art’ in 1992; various exhibitions held by Experimenta since the 1990s; ‘ConVerge: Where Art and Science Meet’, the 2002 Adelaide Biennale of Art; ‘2004: Australian Culture Now’, a collaboration between the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), and the biennial Anne Landa Award at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. While this survey reveals an ‘anti-science’ bias, to some extent it also challenges the conception that Australian art critics have ignored or dismissed media art on conservative aesthetic grounds. As such, I draw out some consequences of a too-confident avant-gardism on the part of the new media art community, including a collective fascination with the newness of ‘new media’ art. Another key theme to emerge from this local history is the hybrid role of the video interface. I argue that video art helped to enable the development of ‘new media art’ in the late 1980s, and can be seen as part of a broader shift, with performance art, from the representational tradition of visual art to one engaged in the more presentational modes – incorporating the sense of the viewer participating in the space of the object, images or action. The current position of Australian video art as a bridge between media art and mainstream contemporary art raises the complex issue of how national media art histories relate to broader national and international art contexts. More fundamentally, the survey shows the acute impact of media art’s global networks on local artistic and critical practices.