TV--THE NEXT MEDIUM - Electronic Arts Intermix

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TV--THE NEXT MEDIUM - Electronic Arts Intermix

TV--THE NEXT MEDIUM “It’s the new everything,” says Andy WarholJohn S. MargoliesT he first generation of "television babies" is now reaching maturity;the average American home has one and one-third televisionsets; American homes have more television sets than bathtubs,refrigerators or telephones; 95 percent of American homes havetelevision sets; portable video-tape equipment for home use isavailable to the general public right now.Television is clearly ready to be recognized as an educationaldevice and an artistic medium of great influence. Analogous tofilm, which was not considered an "art" until it had been aroundfor many years, television’s finally receiving serious recognition.In March 1969 a program of video tapes by six artists --"TheMedium Is the Meduim"--was broadcast nationally. In May 1969the first major show of television artists--"TV as a CreativeMedium"-- was mounted at the Howard Wise Gallery in NewYork to show eleven different experimental programs.Television has already had a profound impact on world culture,Andy Warhol was commissionedto make a television commercialfor New York's formerly staidSchrafft's restaurant chain aspart of a campaign to rejuvenatethe Shrafft's image by F. WilliamFree & Co., advertising agency.The result, above, made in late1968, is The UndergroundSundae, a 60-second colorvideo-tape opus centering in andout of focus on a chocolate sun -dae. Warhol achieved a widerange of "cosmetic" colors andplanned to get effects of a colortelevision set tuned incorrectly.He was concernedwith the range of color- andimage- distortion possibilities inthe video-tape medium. SaysWarhol, "My movies have beenworking towards TV. It's the neweverything. No more books ormovies, just TV." And Schrafft’sobligingly created an"Underground Sundae" for theirrestaurants: "Yummy Schrafft'svanilla ice cream in two groovyheaps with three ounces of mindblowingchocolate sauce undulating with a mountain of purewhipped cream topped with a pulsating maraschino cherry servedin a bowl as big as a boat. $1.10."


Les Levine's Contact: A CyberneticSculpture was completed in 1969 undera commission by Gulf & WesternIndustries for the lobby of their newheadquarters building under construc -tion in New York. The eight-foot-hightelevision sculpture will have identical"seeing" sides facing in two directions,each side having nine television moni -tors and four TV cameras equipped withdifferent lenses and set are differentangles. The screens of each monitor arecovered by colored acrylic sheets. As thespectator stands before Contact, he seesimages of himself in close-up, mid-rangeand long-range focus and material pro -grammed through a slide scanner; theimages jump form monitor to monitor inrandom sequence. The sculpture isencased in stainless steel with reflectiveplastic bubbles covering each "seeing"side. “Contact is a system that synthe -sizes man with his technology,” saysLevine. "In this system, the people arethe ‘software.'" Photo by Hans Namuth.Nam June Paik, a pioneer televisionartist, turns the cathode-ray tube into apalette to create a myriad of movingabstractions. Paik rewires sets that havebeen discarded as junk and then attach -es devises such as audio generators,elecromagnets and signal interceptorsto distort the transmitted image. Theartist provides controls so the at thespectator can change the image. "I pre -fer that people do it themselves," hesays. In one piece, Tango Electronique,1966 (top pair of images), the turn of aknob makes the screen explode in pat -terns of shimmering lines. In anotherwork, Participation TVs/1965, 196 (bot -tom pair of images), passing a magnetin front of the screen causes the trans -mitted image to distort and dissolve inan infinity of patterns. Mr. Paik esti -mates that by attaching distortingdevices, he can create at least some 500different abstract possibilities from anormal TV screen. "I am tired of TVscreen. "I am tried of TV now," saysPaik. "TV is passé. Next comes thedirect contact of electrodes to the braincells, leading to electronic Zen." Photosby Paul Wilson.


Argentinian artist Marta Minujinperformed the event"Simultaneity in Simultaneity" inBuenos Aires in October 1966 bycombining the media of televi -sion, radio, film, photography,telephone, telegram and newspa -per. A preliminary phase of theevent took place when 60 wellknownpersonalities came into atheater with 60 radios and TVsets to be filmed, photographedand recorded. Eleven days laterthe 60 people were invited back,and as they entered they sawtheir images projected andrecorded from the different infor -mation sources. At this time a10-minute video tape was broad -cast publicly on one of the TVchannels, as well as on the radio.Meanwhile a selected home audi -ence of 500 people were instruct -ed to watch and listed. As theydid, all received telephone callsand 100 received telegrams.Allan Kaprow in his Hello, aportion of "The Medium Is theMedium"--a nationally telecastprogram produced in January1969 by WGBH-TV, Boston--chose four sites in the Bostonarea and interconnected themwith five TV cameras and 27monitors. A group of peopleassembled at each site, the onlyrequirement being that theyacknowledge their own image ora friend's when they saw it on amonitor by calling out "Hiya,Bob," "I see you, Paul," etc.Says Kaprow: "Everyone was aparticipant, creating, receivingand transmitting information allat once. That information wasnot a newscast or lecture, butthe most important message ofall: oneself in connection withsomeone else....We had fun. Weplayed. We became somethingelse, transformed by audio-videoimages that eliminated distancesand shifted us to a totally newnon-place, the TV realm of elec -tronic bits." And the artist envi -sions an expanded form of Hello


Thomas Tadlock's Archetron,completed in 1969 after two yearsof work, is a complex device thatthakes live TV signals and scram -bles them to make a series of con -stantly changing visual effects.The artist set about making theArchetron after viewing televisionthrough a teleidoscope. "It's aspecial way of looking at TV,"says Tadlock. "It shows what youwatch on the home screen in anew way. I am concerned with thepatterns, rhythms and timingcycles that make people watch TV,the same concern the advertisingpeople have. The Archetron givesyou an image without the mes -sage. You get a super-positive outof it and watch it with accompa -nying music." The Archetrontakes a number of black-andwhitesignals and feeds them intoa color monitor, creating teleido -scopic effects throughuse of a "Specula" device. TheArchetron (meaning an electronicdevice for production of arche -types) was commissioned byDorothea Weitzner and is used inNew Age Rituals at the AquarianRepublic, Inc., New York, as aprophecy, meditation and healingmachine. It was featured in a seg -ment of "The Medium Is theMedium" television program.Photos by Jamie Andrews.than radio with a picture, a vaudeville show miniaturized, a newspaperwith an audible voice, a proscenium stage or sports arenareduced to 140 square inches, a tiny movie projection device. It isa source of immediate, transitory information. Television is theultimate "reproducible" image, and, says TV artist Nam JunePaik, "the cathode ray screen is as important as paper."In communicating information, television not only translatesimages, but transforms them into a unique and powerful superrealitywhich has an independent life. McLuhan has described thenature of the television image, pointing out that it is not a stillphotograph in any sense. The image, says McLuhan, is formed bylight passing through the screen at the viewer, the viewer formingthe image by accepting a few of the some three million dots persecond transmitted to the receiver. The very fact that we can turna small knob to bring television images and sound into the homegives these pervasive images incredible influence -- a point thatGilbert Seldes analogously pointed out for radio as far back as1924. That the transformed image has a life of its own can beillustrated by experiencing an event and then experiencing it ontelevision. The television experience is more condensed, conciseand powerful. The television camera--and cameras in general--is afanastic tool for teaching people to see. The lens can be consideredan extension of the eye, and can guide the eye in paths that itusually does not take.Television is becoming a new form of documentation for traditionalart forms--criticisim, happenings, dance, etc. And when agreater number of people acquire home video-tape equipment, theaudience will have a means of forming their own documentation,of making the transitory images permanent. The public will haveavailable a whole new form of collage In which random televisionimages can be recorded and edited into any combination.Video-tape equipment has revolutionized traditional film-makingtechniques, and has caused traditional commercial film-making toseek new areas where its medium can do a better job than anyother. Commercial films will probably evolve into dazzling multiimage,multi-screen presentations within their specially designedhalls.Rarely does the television experience involve coming to the setat a specific time for a specific program, sitting in front of the setand watching it for the length of the program, and then turning itoff. This is the content-level approach, where the spectator andevent are mutually restricted. At the process level the televisionset may be on constantly, with the program most interesting tothe viewer at any particular time slot. If the content of this programis of sufficient interest to the viewer, he will certainlyremain transfixed before the set. But a characteristic of the televisedimage is that it is but one of many options for the attention--the image can be changed or shut off. The viewer can also adjustthe intensity and clarity of the image and the sound, in effectmanipulating the process as well as the content. And when thenumber of receivers in increased, a whole new set of options isprovided for the viewer. He can watch the same event as it is


and programs on WCBS-TV, New York, by Alwin Nikolais andAllan Kaprow. Andy Warhol's sixty-second commercial forSchrafft's restaurants opens up a whole new area for artists toexplore, although there are already many "artists" of great meritworking in this medium.Many artists are involved with making video tapes which havereceived theater and gallery viewing. Les Levine has been makingtapes since 1966, using the medium as a documentary device, andhe presented a series of these in four evenings at the ArchitecturalLeague of New York in 1968. Andy Warhol made a series of tapesin 1965 when the editor of Tape Recording Magazine lent Warholsome video equipment to see what he could come up with.Sculptor and media artist Bruce Nauman has exhibited in LosAngeles and New York a series of video tapes made during thepast year. The Nauman tapes show the artist performing variousactivities in his studio. Eric Siegel has made a series of tapeswhich demonstrate great virtuosity, and Channel One, a television"theater" in New York City, is now in its third production ofvideo-taped programming.Television has been used as an awareness device in many contexts.It has been used in performances by five of the artists in "9Evenings--Theater and Engineering," sponsored by Experimentsin Art and Technology in October 1966, in New York--TV beingused by Oyvind Fahlström, Alex Hay, Robert Rauschenberg,David Tudor and Robert Whitman. Performances using TV havealso been given by Paik, Pienne, Tambellini, Siegel, Levine andSerge Bontourline. In the area of happenings, television was amajor component in Marta Minujin's "Simultaneity inSimultaneity" in Buenos Aires in 1966. Allan Kaprow and WolfVostel had planned to present identical events simultaneously withMinujin's, to occur in the United States and Germany, with interactiontaking place between the three events, but the Kaprowand Vostel events did not take place. Ken Dewey used TV systemsin two of his happenings in 1966 and 1968. Les Levine hasproduced two television sculptures, Iris in 1968 and Contact in1969, using live images of spectators on monitors. Levine hasalso used television in many of his environmental works over thepast four years to provide information about his environments.Other artists concerned with the documentary and education possibilitiesof television include Paul Ryan, David Court, FrankGillette, Ira Schneider and Serge Boutourline.Another major area of television involvement for artists is thedisabling of the normal function of the television receiver, turningit into a "canvas" for creating abstract patterns and distortionsof the transmitted image. Nam June Paik is the pioneer inthis area, having had his first showing of abstract televisionimages in Germany in 1963. Various projects in this areainclude: Boyd Mefford's "Arlington," exhibited in 1967; RobertKragen and Robert Lippman's "Come Unto Me," exhibited in1968; Peter Sorenson's "Lumokinetic Paint Set," in 1968;Thomas Tadlock's "Archetron," in 1969; Joseph Weintraub's"A/C TV," in 1969; Earl Reiback's "Aurora," in 1969. TedKraynik's 1968 "Video-Luminar" defies classification. It is aphotosensitive device which, placed in front of a TV screen,scans changing patterns and diffuses abstract patterns on patternedplastic sheets for decorative effects. This instrument translatesTV images into electrical energy capable of illuminatinglamps or running motors.Artists have for some time been using the TV set or its imagein assemblages, collage and graphic works. Richard Hamilton'sAldo Tambellini is shown in the stu -dio of WGBH-TV, Boston, as he wasmaking his segment, titled Black,for "The Medium Is the Medium."Tambellini's event, right, took placewith about 30 black children formthe Roxbury section of Bostonbrought into the studio to interactwith 1,000 of his slides and seven ofhis 16-millimeter films projected inthe space. In the past few yearsTambellini has been concerned withthe color black as a concept of timeand space and as a social concept.He works in black and white. Hisfilms and slides include abstractimages created on video tape (froma series of "Black" tapes madesince 1966) and images filmeddirectly form the home televisionscreen. Tambellini's intent: "toexperience TV as a medium itself,and to bring a direct relationbetween the audience and the char -acteristic elements of TV in a totalinvolvement of the senses." One ofTambellini's short films "Black TV,"was awarded the Grand Prix of theInternational Oberhausen ShortFilm Festival, Germany, in 1969.


famous collage of 1956, This Is Tomorrow, which is a precursorof pop art, included an image of a TV set. Edward Kienholz inThe Big Eye, exhibited in 1961, used a non-functioning consolemodel television as part of an assemblage sculpture. In 1963, ina series of give painting-assemblages, Tom Wesselman includedworking television sets. Wolf Vostel in TV-Décollage, a seriesof collage-assemblages exhibited in 1963, used functioning TVsets with vertical and horizontal controls out of adjustment. Agroup of six artists collaborated with Nam June Paik for his1968 exhibit and Galeria Bonino in New York to produce TVassemblages. Included were Otto Piene's metallic pearl-inlaidTV set, Ray Johnson's chair-TV, Christo's "wrapped" TV, TobertBenson's photo-assemblage, Robert Breer's kinetic assemblagesculpture with toy automobiles, Ayo's cocktail-table television.Sculptor John Seery recently embedded a working TV set withina clear polyester block--as a comment on the proliferation ofobjects in society. The USCO group projected slides of televisionimages in "Intermedia, Imagimotion" at New York'sWhitney Museum in 1968. Les Levine has produced a series ofnine television prints this year as a by-product of his multipletelevisionsculpture, as well as a number of posters using thetelevision image.But TV as subject matter now interests artists only incidentally.TV as a medium for artists to express their perception--that'swhere the excitement is. In the next few years there will be anincrease in the number of channels--on UHF stations and oncable TV hookups. A growing group of artists will turn to television,seeking to have a relevant and influential role in society.The combination of these factors portends the possibility of awhole new realm of "art" experience opening up to an incrediblyvast audience.Eric Siegel is a young televisionartist with great technologicalcommand of the medium, havingbuilt his own camera and specialeffects box. Working since early1968, his Psychedelevision is aseries of black-and-white tapesranging from abstract patters torepresentational images. Amonghis tapes are: Einstein, top (donein collaboration with MichaelKirsch), in which abstract patternsare created within the head of aphotograph of Einstein; a dancepiece of Jenny Nyqust, center,where positive video feedbackcauses the echo effect of theimage; and Symphony of thePlanets, bottom, where signalsfrom a TV camera were fed backthrough the camera and distortedto create moving abstract patternswith accompanying music. Siegel,impressed with the versatility ofthe TV medium, says "the picturetube is an excellent lightmachine."

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