[iDC] (no subject)

Gloria Sutton suttong at humnet.ucla.edu
Thu Jun 21 07:12:17 EDT 2007

I find the fact that David and Cynthia posted their questions (about  
television and the circulation of the art market respectively) to the  
list around the same time quite interesting. And while they serve two  
different threads of thought there may be some overlaps to consider.

David makes the astute observation about television “dropping out of  
most new media discussions.” I found this to be the case in my own  
research on Stan VanDerBeek who may be a case study of how TV gave  
way to other networked-based media. He honed his animation techniques  
that appeared in his experimental films while working on the 1950s  
broadcast television children’s show “Winky Dink and You”—a proto- 
interactive TV show where kids were encouraged to draw along with the  
program on plastic sheets that would cover their TV screens at home.  
By the 1960s he was writing letters to the Chairman of CBS seeking to  
be an artist in residency at the network. Clearly, VanDerBeek wasn’t  
alone in his enthusiasm for the potential of network television, the  
projects initiated at WGBH in Boston including VanDerBeek, Kaprow,  
Dan Graham and many others are a testament to this particular moment.  
But then the 80s does become a terminal point as David points out  
whether due to the rise of Cable or Ronald Reagan or both, but that  
history I think is uniquely mapped in a publication like Afterimage  
which tracked the heated debates around media, art, and issues of  
access. In the case of VanDerBeek, he seemed to have found burgeoning  
computer science departments more hospitable hosts for his  
residencies and in the late 70s and early 80s and turned to using  
digital animation techniques and computer networking equipment rather  
than television. His many published articles and notes always seem to  
stress the need for artists “to use what you can get your hands on.”  
I think the first line of David’s book sums it up, “Television tames  
the comet by turning light into private property.”

  Cynthia’s post about Art Basel and a broken food chain may be  
served by David’s book too. Instead of saying the general artmarket,  
it might be more specific to talk about what marketers have termed  
the “Grand Tour 2007” in Europe this summer which is boasting events  
like Art Basel, but also the Venice Biennale, Documenta 12 and  
Skulptur Munster. The “grand tour” that Vogel outlines in the article  
mentioned by Cynthia could best be described using David’s analysis  
of a “closed circuit.” With apologies for short-circuiting David’s  
well crafted arguments. Like television, the “Grand Tour” was  
conceived as a closed circuit “folding network into commodity and  
vice versa.”  Instead of expanding, biennials & fairs often restrict  
the dialogue about contemporary art to specific types of artists,  
with the result that the same handful of artists keeps appearing in  
these types of venues over and over again. So I think raising the  
note about “Quality” is a total red herring. The network of people  
that fuel the Grand Tour function as endorsers, or maybe what Pierre  
Bourdieu would have described as an act of consecration, bestowing  
value on something that had no prior intrinsic value. Then the role  
of the curator within this context is a literal filter, making a  
value judgment while at the same time conferring value.

Not to overly trumpet David’s book but he does also offer another  
important reminder… rather than creating an IKEA for the art market  
or turning to the internet to create an alternate to the art gallery  
– (which Charles Saatchi has already managed to co-op) the history of  
TV and video art in the US outlined by David is a clear example that  
there’s no cohesive ‘alternative’ to the market. Nor do I think it’s  
as simple as choosing to participate or not. We only have to read the  
writing of diverse artists such as Renée Green or Martha Rosler to  
get of sense of the disparate tracks that the issue of distribution  
and access can take. I am inspired by London Film-maker’s Co- 
operative and Anthology Film Archive; in the 1980s Sankofa and the  
Black Audio Film Collective; and more recently, organizations such as  
Rhizome.org and others, which, while not thwarting the system, have  
offered up different paths beyond “The Grand Tour.”

--Gloria Sutton

suttong at humnet.ucla.edu

On Jun 19, 2007, at 4:08 PM, David Joselit wrote:

> Hello:
> My name is David Joselit, and based on my new book, Feedback:  
> Television Against Democracy (http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/ 
> default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11109), Trebor invited me to pose a few  
> questions to the list.
> One of my motivations for working on television of the initial  
> network era (whose terminal point, in my view, occurs when cable  
> becomes the dominant delivery system) was my surprise at how TV  
> seems to drop out of most new media discussions even though its  
> genesis as a medium, like radio before it, is very similar in its  
> structure to that of the Internet:  military research and  
> development leading to a technology with uncertain use value;  
> adoption and dissemination by enthusiasts; and commercial  
> enclosure.  I was particularly struck in my research by how closely  
> the early discourse around cable-when it was still based in  
> community access-mirrors the early claims made for the Internet.   
> Is TV irrelevant, or does it embody a possible future for the  
> Internet?
> And secondly, as an art historian I'm attracted by the prospect of  
> displacing our analysis of images from what they mean-i.e., their  
> face value-to how they circulate, how they get concentrated (visual  
> tumors even) as icons that may create publics (think of the Abu  
> Ghraib photos, but, for those of you who are American and old  
> enough, Campbells soup!).  Is it possible to do for images what  
> Franco Moretti has done for the novel-create a kind of political  
> geography or economy?  Obviously television and the Internet are  
> two important public "spaces" structured by the circulation of images.
> Thanks for any thoughts on these questions.
> David
> -- 
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