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Darcy Lange, Videography as Social Practice

  • Book
  • © 2024


  • Focuses on a pivotal analogue videographer expanding the understanding of video’s predominant structural tendencies
  • Considers video as a democratic dialogical tool for social transformation
  • A materially modest, self-effaced, poignant critique of labour and class, education and indigenous struggles

Part of the book series: Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image (EFAMI)

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About this book

The Videography of Darcy Lange is a critical monograph of a pivotal figure in early analogue video. Trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art, Lange developed a socially engaged video practice with remarkable studies of people at work in industrial, farming, and teaching contexts that drew from conceptual art, social documentary and structuralist filmmaking. Lange saw in portable video a democratic tool for communication and social transformation, continuing the legacy of the revolutionary avant-garde projects that merged art with social life and turned audiences into producers. This book follows Lange's trajectory from his early observational studies to the crisis of representation and socially engaged video and activism, as it is shaped by, and resists, the artistic, cultural and political preoccupations of the 1970s and 1980s. It strikes a balance between being a monographic account providing a close analysis of Lange's oeuvre and drawing from unpublished archival materials—a sort of catalogue raisonné—whilst maintaining a breadth with theoretical discourses around the themes of labour and class, education, and indigenous struggles central to his work. The book's frameworks of Conceptual Art, structuralist and ethnographic film theory, social documentary and the critique of representation, video as social practice and the notion of 'feedback', participatory socially engaged art and postcolonial and indigenous theory,—expand our understanding of video outside the predominant structuralist tendencies. Lange's transnational and nomadic career introduces notions of alterity and challenges nationalistic accounts that excluded him in the past. 

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Table of contents (7 chapters)


 For nearly two decades Mercedes Vicente has been assiduously revisiting, recuperating and

researching the work of New Zealand-born videographer Darcy Lange (1946–2005). Through

her efforts in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, USA, and Europe, the corpus of his video

works has been compiled and collected, his original tapes saved, an archive secured,

exhibitions staged, and articles published. Despite his peripatetic life and the idiosyncrasies

of his practice, Lange now enjoys a secure place in the annals of post-1960s experimental art.

In this new volume based on her doctoral studies at the Royal College of Art in London,

Vicente has compiled the most comprehensive account of his work, offering deeply informed

and relevant readings of his output, through various art historical and theoretical lenses. Her

original insights into the specificity of Lange’s contribution to art history as a ‘real-time’

image maker with a deep commitment to examining and interacting with specific arenas of

social life – homes, schools, workplaces, and whenua (ancestral land of Māori, indigenous

people of Aotearoa New Zealand) – is a remarkable achievement. Her conclusions

importantly reveal Lange’s ongoing currency as a pioneer of social practices that seek to turn

passive subjects into active and engaged participants. This is a book of great integrity and


 Christina Barton, Director, University of Wellington, UK.

 Vicente's book doesn't just make the simple (and perhaps now uncontroversial) claim that Lange should be included in the canon of twentieth-century art. It's also attentive to the ways in which Lange's conception of videography was itself part and parcel of the twentieth century's reconfigurations of social and aesthetic conceptions of production, labour, autonomy, realism, ethnography, and canon itself.

 Eu Jin Chua, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, University of Auckland, New Zealand

 Long overlooked, video artist Darcy Lange’s practice in the 1970s and 1980s seems remarkably topical today. In her deeply researched and vividly written study, Mercedes Vicente shows how Lange’s experiments were deeply motivated by ideas of social justice. Exploring participatory socially engaged art and postcolonial theory, Vicente's book is a reset for the way in which the history of video art is understood and written.

 David Crowley, Professor of Visual Culture, National College of Art and Design, Dublin

 This tremendous book is the fruit of Mercedes Vicente’s tireless restoration of the work of

Darcy Lange, the maverick moving image activist, from inspirational community portraits to

cosmopolitan multimedia. Trends in contemporary arts, from slow cinema to community

practice, found early and probing expression in Lange’s work. Indispensable.

Seán Cubitt, Professor of Screen Studies, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

 Comprehensively conceived and lucidly written, this long-awaited monograph on Darcy Lange’s pioneering videographic activism locates this practice in its times, places, and concerns. Building on thorough archival and contextual research, Mercedes Vicente renders intelligible the originality of Lange’s ethical-aesthetical quest of overcoming traditional notions of authorship, and his consequential plea for observation, collaboration and participation.

Tom Holert, Harun Farocki Institut, Berlin

 Darcy Lange has long been an enigmatic figure. His use of photography and the video camera served a deep commitment to understanding class and race dynamics in Britain, New Zealand and Europe, yet he is often difficult to place in its art historical canons. Until now. Mercedes Vicente’s excellent study of his work, the culmination of many years of research, opens up new insights on his practice and approach, and the complex contexts of conceptual art, video practice and ethnographic film in which it developed. Through Vicente’s passionate advocacy, Lange’s work now fully situated in the complex socio-political histories of his time. In the process, an artist of great contemporary relevance is also revealed: prescient in his close and ethical attention to the lives, work and rights of those communities – urban and especially rural – who were overlooked.  

 Lucy Reynolds, Course Leader for MRES Creative Practice Centre for Research in Education, Art and Media, Westminster School of Arts Co-editor, Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ)

Darcy Lange’s ‘witness’ documentaries on labour in the 1970s and the participatory film-work on Maori land-rights in New Zealand in the early 1980s provided a vivid, if short-lived, contribution to debates on representation during and after conceptual art. Mercedes Vicente does a terrific job of reassembling and reassessing this film and video material, enriching our understanding of Lange’s work and the multiple artistic sources and intellectual pathways that generated it. We now know the moving image debates of the 1970s far better. This is critical art history of the highest order. 

 John Roberts, Professor of Art & Aesthetics, University of Wolverhampton


Authors and Affiliations

  • London, UK

    Mercedes Vicente

About the author

Mercedes Vicente is a curator, writer, and researcher. She is Associate Lecturer in Critical and Contextual Studies at the London Metropolitan University and was a lecturer at Royal College of Art, UK. She has held museum positions as interim Director of Education and Public Programmes at Whitechapel Gallery in London, Curator of Contemporary Art and Darcy Lange Curator-at Large at Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand, and Research Curatorial Assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Darcy Lange, Videography as Social Practice

  • Authors: Mercedes Vicente

  • Series Title: Experimental Film and Artists’ Moving Image

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Literature, Cultural and Media Studies, Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2024

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-36902-5Published: 21 November 2023

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-36905-6Due: 22 December 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-36903-2Published: 20 November 2023

  • Series ISSN: 2523-7527

  • Series E-ISSN: 2523-7535

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVIII, 278

  • Number of Illustrations: 45 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Experimental Film, Fine Arts, Photography

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