One of the most enduring changes around 1960 revealed itself in the emancipation of technical media from the applied arts to become artistic media in their own right. Significantly in 1965 - the same year that video was launched on the market - the Fluxus artist Dick Higgins coined the term "Intermedia" to denote art that went beyond the traditionally handed-down genres, in which every medium and material is as worthy of becoming art as the next. The notion of works that extend throughout all of the arts was also bound to the farewell from the unique, one-off artwork that could be exhibited at any place one chose.
This notion of the work was dispensed with and replaced by artistic works that emphasised the production process and the active involvement of the beholder. The ephemeral works of Conceptual Art, Action Art, or interventions in public space were often captured for posterity by means of photos and video recordings. As is also abundantly clear from the photographic pieces that Bruce Nauman and Dennis Oppenheim made during this period, these were not so much pure documentary films as situations exactly tailored for the camera lens that put a certain image into action. The performative power of photography was also harnessed by Jürgen Klauke and Anna and Bernhard J. Blume, whose series of tableaux have today transformed photography into installations that encompass entire spaces.
The elevation of photography to an artistic medium, as could be witnessed during the 1960s and 1970s, led around 1980 to a conscious appraisal of the medium. Attention was directed to its promises of authenticity and the paradox of a reality deliberately staged for the camera, which was also often joined by a critique of representation. Jeff Wall's reflections on the history of the image and the way it transfers gestures and expressions of pathos from art history into contemporary everyday situations should be mentioned here alongside Cindy Sherman's assays of the image of woman conveyed by the mass media. Moreover, the appropriation of found photographs questions the system behind art when Sherrie Levine touches on the issues of authorship and the lack of the original in photography by making exposures of famous photographs and publishing them under her name, or when Peter Piller assesses and organizes already existing photo archives. It is a thesis of the renowned critic Rosalind Krauss that around 1960, photography came to be supplanted by the photographic, by a photography that no longer defined itself as likeness but as theming what is inherent to the medium. But with this we lose sight of all the photographs that have adopted a documentary approach.
The photographs of industrial buildings by Bernd and Hilla Becher were viewed in the years around 1970 as Conceptual Art. Not until the 1990s did it occur to people that their typologies had become a gigantic photographic archive of great historical import, which is to say the achievement made by the husband and wife artists was a documentary one. It is thanks to the recent history of art reception that today documentary photography is also placed in the category of art. By the same token, art can no longer be thought of without the inclusion of video. Although in the euphoria of the initial period artists talked of a new genre, "video art", and labelled Nam June Paik their godfather because he was the first to have worked with the new electronic visual medium, there are very few artists who have worked solely with video - such as Paik, Bill Viola or, in the next generation, Aernout Mik. For the majority, video serves as one medium among many. While artists such as Paik did not think twice about theming video above all in connection with the mass medium of television, this aspect shifted into the background around 1970, because by then video was being integrated into spatial installations that carried on where expanded cinema left off, or was placed in the service of Action Art. In the 1980s the breakneck developments in the technology increased the possibilities for video. It was transformed into video sculptures involving lots of monitors, thus bringing it closer to painting, or integrated into installations that embraced the entire space, and when in the late 1980s video projectors became affordable, it was used in darkened rooms much as in a cinema showing narrative movies. After 40 years of artistic work with the electronic image, the realisation has at last dawned that the special thing about the medium is precisely it non-specific quality. Depending on how it is used - on a monitor for instance like a TV, or projected like a film, or as a sculpture or an installation filling the whole space - it always submits itself to the rules and the history of other media. So ultimately it is art that defines the use of the media, and not the old notion of boundaries between genres that can be applied at will to new media and materials. The work Übertragen/Transfer - Partially Buried by Renée Green from 1996/97 is an example of this. Photos in the installation document a demonstration at Kent State University in Ohio, 1970, at which four students were shot dead. A further series in the room shows the artist at the same spot, thirty years later, where she also photographed the destroyed Robert Smithson installation that lent its name to her piece. The exposures make the chronicle of events visible, and together with the video interviews done with the artist's friends from various countries they invite the viewer to reflect on the task of remembrance and on the relation between art and politics. At the same time, Green makes us aware that the question of historicity also includes the question of where the artist and the beholder live. The skeins of meaning she activates by photography and videos, by the choice of colours for the space and the fittings she includes, produce a "global cognitive mapping" that is projected "on a social as well as a spatial scale", as the literary critic Frederic Jameson put it in 1984 in his call for a new art. His call was met in the 1990s by installations such as this one, which have however received the far from adequate labels "contextual art" or "institutional criticism".