Beryl Korot was born in 1945 in New York, where she continues to live and work. An early video-art pioneer and an internationally exhibited artist, her multiple-channel (and multiple-monitor) video-installation works explored the relationship between programming tools as diverse as the technology of the loom and multiple-channel video. She has commented: “Just as the spinning and gathering of wool serve as the raw material for a weave, so the artist working with video selects images to serve as the basic substance of the work.” For most of the 1980s, Korot concentrated on a series of paintings that were based on a language she created that was an analogue to the Latin alphabet. Drawing on her earlier interest in weaving and video as related technologies, she made most of these paintings on handwoven and traditional linen canvas.
More recently, she has collaborated with her husband, the composer Steve Reich, on Three Tales, a documentary digital-video opera in three Acts and a Prologue. It began in 1998 with Act 1, Hindenburg. While the Prologue contains biblical text about human creation, Act 1 begins with documentary footage of Paul von Hindenburg, the last president of the Weimar Republic (who named Hitler Chancellor in 1933), and ends with footage of the Hindenburg zeppelin and its explosion at Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. Act 2, Bikini, is based on footage, photographs, and text from the atom bomb test on Bikini Island and the subsequent removal of the Bikini people. Act 3, Dolly, explores the issues revolving around the first cloning of a sheep in Scotland, in 1997.
Together, the three individual acts form a progressive investigation of the way technology creates and frames our experience. In the context of Korot’s body of work, which began with her early video tapestries, Three Tales extends and deepens her interest in both technology as a material in which to make work—video, weaving—and as a relevant exploration of history in which to base her work. She lives in Vermont and New York.
Throughout her lifelong practice, Beryl Korot has brought the ancient and modern worlds of technology into conversation. An early figure in the history of video art, Korot was first known for her multiple channel video work in which she applied specific structures inherent to loom programming to the programming of multiple channels, constructing non-verbal narratives. Later, she invented a visual language based on the grid structure of handwoven canvas. Translating texts into her own language, she illuminated what thought might look like devoid of specific meaning. The sources for much of her work reach back to the technology of the ancient world, whether the technology of the loom or of writing itself. In her work, there is both the visualization of an interior landscape based on language and a spotlight on the intersection between technology and thought.
Co-founder and co-editor of Radical Software (1970-1974), the first publication to discuss the technical and formal possibilities of the new medium, Korot was also co-editor of Video Art: An Anthology, published in 1976. Her first multiple channel works—Dachau, 1974 (1974) and Text and Commentary (1976-1977)—have been exhibited at The Kitchen, New York, NY (1975); Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY (1977); Documenta 6, Kassel, Germany (1977); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1980, 2002); The Koln Kunstverein (1989), the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (1990); the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT (2010); bitforms gallery, New York, NY (2012); the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, England (2013); Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, Germany (2013); Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland (2014); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA (2014); Tate Modern, London, England (2014); the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2015); and SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA (forthcoming, 2016).
Other video installations and works have been exhibited at the Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, NH; Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, PA; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia; and Historisches Museum, Frankfurt, Germany, among many others. Two collaborations with composer Steve Reich—The Cave (1993) and Three Tales (2002)—brought video installation art into a theatrical context and toured worldwide. Both works continue to be performed and were exhibited as video installations at venues including the Whitney Museum; the Carnegie Museum; the Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Kunstverein in Düsseldorf, Germany; and ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany.
Korot’s work is in both private and public collections. Text and Commentary was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 2015 and Dachau 1974 is in the Kramlich Collection’s New Art Trust, shared by SFMOMA, MoMA, and Tate Modern, and is in the Thoma Foundation art collection. A Guggenheim Fellow (1994), Korot is the recipient of numerous grants including The National Endowment for the Arts and Anonymous Was a Woman (2008). In 2000, she was a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College with Steve Reich and in 2011 she was an Artist in Residence at Dartmouth College.