Notes on television


Assume that there are two kinds of power: economic power and sexual power. What new TV-equipment does, now, is camouflage economic power: it gives the buyer the illusion that economic power is in his/her hands – after all, the buyer can prove it, the buyer can hold the state-of-the-art in a box (as if looking at himself/herself in a photograph, like other people, in other photographs, holding the state-of-the-art in a box).

And holding it, and looking at it later in the privacy of his/her home, and making that home a show-place where equipment can be shown off to friends – all this is a way of draining sexual power. Because television is the absence of the body: television signifies the body-become-electronics, the body-without-sex. This sexlessness, then, is placed in the home, in exactly those spots where the body runs rampant: the woman watches the TV set in the kitchen, as she prepares food – the couple watches the TV set at the foot of their bed, right before sexual intercourse. The sexlessness of the television set functions as a sign, a reminder; it induces a nostalgia not so much for the past as for a fiction of the future: “If only we didn’t need to eat”, “if only we didn’t desire to fuck”…

Notes on Television

Video installation is the conjunction of opposites (or, to put it another way: video installation is like having your cake and eating it, too). On the one hand, “installation” places an art-work in a specific site, for a specific time ( a specific duration and also, possibly a specific historic time). On the other hand, “video” (with its consequences followed through: video broadcast on television) is placeless: at least, its place can’t be determined — there’s no way of knowing the particular look of all those millions of homes that receive the TV broadcast.

Video installation, then, places placelessness; video installation is an attempt to stop time. The urge toward video installation might be nostalgic: it takes airplane travel, where all you can see is sky, and imposes onto it the landscape incidences of a railroad journey. Video installation returns the TV set to the domain of furniture; the TV set, in the gallery/museum, is surrounded by the sculptural apparatus of the installation, the way the TV set, in the home, is surrounded by the furnishings of the room. The difference is: in the home, the TV set is assumed as a home-companion, almost unnoticed, a household pet that can’t be handled and kicked around; the viewer doesn’t have to keep his/her eyes focused on the TV screen, the TV set remains on while the viewer (the home-body) comes and goes, the viewer goes to get something in the kitchen and brings it back to the TV set. Once a TV set, however, is placed in a sculpture-installation, the TV set tends to dominate; the TV set acts as a target — the rest of the installation functions as a display-device, a support-structure for the light on the screen (the viewer stares into the television set, as if staring into a fireplace).

The rest of the installation is in danger of fading away, the rest of the installation is the past that upholds the future (as embodied in the TV set), but the future wins. Video-installation starts out by dealing with a whole system, a whole space; but the field, the ground, disappears in favor of the “point”, the TV set. The situation seems similar to wanting what you can’t have; now that the TV set is camouflaged by the apparatus of an installation, an extra effort is made to find it, to “get the point”. The reason for this might be that the conventional location for a television set is in the home; when it is come upon somewhere else, whether inside a gallery/museum or outside, in a store-window or a supermarket, the viewer is stopped in his/her tracks: the situation is like that of a visitor from another planet happening upon a TV set — only in this case it is the “other planet” (the home, the living-room) that comes upon the viewer, seeing the TV set, is brought back home — and here, abstractly, “home” reads the way it could never be allowed to read when surrounded by the customs of living-room furniture: “home” means “resting place”, “the final resting place”, the land of the numb/the still/the dead.

Allan Kaprow performs last “Happening” at 78

Al Hansen (in mask) appearing in his happening, Red Dog, at his Third Rail Gallery
Photo from: The New Bohemia, John Gruen

Allan Kaprow died of natural causes, according to the AP Wire sources and a friend/associate, this past Wednesday April 5, 2006 at the age of 78 in his Encinitas, California home. Kaprow taught at the University of California, San Diego for many years. Kaprow had also studied with composer John Cage before he started to perform, then call later “Happenings” in 1958. Following is an excerpt from John Gruen’s book, The New Bohemia, published in 1967.

Here is a typical happening by Allan Kaprow, the artist credited with having invented the genre:
Maze of wall size mirrors (as at old-time carneys). Rows of blinking yellow blue and white lights. Ouiet neons. Everyone wonders aimlessly. Rubbish on floors in passageways. Five janitors come in with vacum-sweepers sucking up debris. Crackling sounds. Janitors leave. From above, whistling of some sad pop-tune like “Don’t Play it no More.” More debris is dropped into passageways. Crackling sounds again. Janitors rush around handing out brooms and everybody sweeps. Lots of dust, coughs. Wheelbarrows and shovels rolled in. Frenzied loading of trash, much noise. Brooms are grabbed from people, are held up close to mirrors and examined. Fellow comes in with wide brush and pail of soapy water and wipes over reflections. Janitors sweep and shout at each other from different passageways. But all their words are backwords. They yell louder and faster. Then work and noise wears out and finally stops, dust settles, cans of beer are brought in for everybody. Workman take a swig, burp and pour beer on the floor. They go. Dead silence——-. Three pneumatic triphammers are dragged in. Compressors start. Floor is drilled into, noise is deafening, mirrors shatter.

What may be surmised from this and other happenings is that Kaprow has his finger on the anxiety button, and he seldom lets go. Instead of merging the arts, he merges everyday actions and objects chosen for their ordinariness and anxiety potential. He has been creating happenings since 1958, many on a much more epic scale than Mirrors.

Library Opening in Duesseldorf

Dear Friends,

The Library, not unlike a museum, is a place full of history.

As we enter into such institutions we re-author our history with each visit. Everyone contributes to the interpretation of our culture whether it comes from a document, book, or painting. The discourse with history enables us to prevent its repetition.

Unfortunately many stories fall by the wayside. The mere fact of ignoring or forgetting past events is an invitation for them to rear their ugly heads again.

We have entered into such a phase again where past lessons could have prevented recent problems. In particular we are living in a time governed by fear. Fifty years ago we felt the same way. Bomb shelters were built books were burned and people were convicted for thinking differently. Presently we have all conformed to the new worries, with terrorism and loss of security being the protagonist. We patienty wait in line for our next security check. We offer no resistance as our lines of communication are being tapped. We resign to this state of paranoia as a coping mechanism to the daily dose of fear shoved into our life.

The Joe McCarthy Memorial Library is not a tribute to a celebrated life. It is a subtle reminder of the fears he sold and how we have fallen victim to them again. Explore the Library and its glow in the dark archives in person in Duesseldorf on April 21st at 8PM or on the World Wide Web @


Honk If You Like Ray At Night

I’m sure I would hear a lot of noise from the streets, judging by the crowds that attended the art openings on Ray St. last saturday night. Who are these people? What happened to all the artists that used to attend this monthly event? Better yet, what happened to the GOOD art that SOMETIMES flanked the walls of these galleries on this one block art scene? The answer is: I don’t know. While stepping into a hair salon that used it’s space to showcase a photographer, I ran across a lady that curated shows (I had my artwork in one of the shows) at a gallery downtown that is no longer in existence. She also shared the same feelings that I had about Ray at Night. She did mention that it COULD be a great art street…with really “cool” galleries displaying art worth seeing. But, we both shook our heads at the same time! After all, this IS San Diego. We can’t be too optomistic. Maybe that is why the artists shy away from attending these openings.. there is really nothing of importance to look at. I really hate being so negative, but this is RAYDICULOUS!!!

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