Today's POP is Rachel. In the living room with McLuhan & Habermas.
As the analogue to digital switchover signals the end of fuzzy television transference, the medium remains the message in the ICA's new show Remote Control.
The exhibition transports us back to a time when television was regarded (in some creative circles, at least) with pervasive suspicion. Reproductions of photocopied manifestos detail a call to arms for the media to be liberated; a collective push for independent control over the 'videosphere’.
What remains in the power of this programming, now that the freedom in on-demand choice has widened to make the terrestrial foundation of a five-channel selection obsolete?
A wall of boxy, glass-fronted televisions – objects already bound to nostalgic relic – line the lower gallery. Here, video works explore how this medium, acting as a collective bond for numerous decades, has offered artists a platform to engage with these themes of consumerism, propaganda, and identity.
‘The one thing electronics have not done is teach us how to have real contact,’ artist Lynn Hershman declares in her video work Desire, Inc. (1990). Her monologue weaves a narrative between a series of seductive television advertisements she created inviting audience participation, and the resulting interviews she conducted with the respondents.
The clips segue, like the flick of a remote control, between unnerving confessions of sexual expectations. We see women’s dejected desires to assert the American dream, adjacent to a particularly hilarious demonstration of what one man describes as his talent for ‘hula hands.’ By addressing this relationship between the fickle and serious, which at times can be intense, Hershman demonstrates the fragility of our engagement within the public sphere.
The majority of the videos displayed, by artists such as Antek Walczak, Joan Braderman, Kevin Atherton and Marcel Odenbach, were produced in the late 80’s and 90’s. The upper gallery houses more modern works. Upstairs, images from Tauba Auerbach’s Static series amplify electronic screen glitches into large-scale prints, highlighting a plausible and systematic beauty hidden within malfunctions.
By erasing the crackly terrestrial irks in transmission, we shrink the possibility for error. Technology dates easily, of course – adding a significant time stamp to the majority of the exhibition – but the state of society’s disrepair is a message that remains inherent and undiluted.
Adrian Piper’s 1988 video installation Cornered engages with direct address. An upended table acts as a physical barricade between the viewer and monitor, on which the artist appears centred between two copies of her father’s birth certificates on the walls behind her. On screen, Piper sits plainly behind a wooden table with a newscaster stance. She looks us dead in the eyes, ‘refusing to join our racial club’, as she says, and confronts her audience with a series of questions: Do you feel fronted, embarrassed, or accused? Maintaining unrelenting eye contact, her calm demeanour and penetrating delivery onscreen utilises the sense of unease that she believes the audience perceive in a deliberate attempt of self-reflection. It is a powerful work.
In the Fox Reading Room, previous broadcasts of Auto Italia LIVE from collective Auto Italia South East hint at future innovation within the medium. On 9 June 2012 they will present a live broadcast of their fourth episode, designed as a prototype for artists who could potentially use this format.
The display forms part of the exhibition’s event program, Television Delivers People, with a line-up that includes performance artist Jonny Woo, curator talks and an Artists’ Film Club. There are plenty of reasons to bathe in the glow of the fading terrestrial screen at the ICA.
Remote Control shows at the ICA until the 10th of June.
- POP 882 Weekend 6-9 April 2012
- POP 887 Weekend 14-15 April 2012
- POP 899 Weekend 28-29 April 2012
- POP 877 Weekend 31 March – 1 April 2012
- POP 816 Wednesday 1 February 2012
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- 21.04.12 / 5pm
- Adrian Piper, Antek Walczak, Auto Italia LIVE, ICA, Joan Braderman, Jonny Woo, Jurgen Habermas, Kevin Atherton and Marcel Odenbach, Lynn Hershman, Marshall McLuhan, Rachel Miles, Remote Control, Tauba Auerbach