Simon Denny, Those who don't change will be switched off, (2012)
A TV set burns fiercely. These are the last days of the British analog television broadcast.
I kid you not, the United Kingdom limps sorely behind on digital conversion. Luxembourg was first to the finish line, followed by most of Europe, the States, North Africa, Japan. The UK, a chain-smoking marathon runner, who might or might not have gout, has decided — to hell with the lot of you — to race dressed as Chewbacca.
As we drag ourselves sodden and bronchial through those final steps, a slow clap from the ICA gallery greets us. The exhibition 'Remote Control' (April 3, 2012 - 10 June 10, 2012) marks the end of the analog signal by uniting works that take TV and break it apart.
Artist David Hall set television ablaze in 1971. His TV Interruptions were broadcast during normal BBC scheduling in Scotland. No announcement, nor explanation. A tap in the top right-hand corner filled the screen up with water as if it were a cross-section of a sink, a man filmed out at the audience from inside the set, a television burned to cinders in an open field. Each short film held its own during broadcast with a cool irony. Yet the creation and destruction of illusions simultaneously undermined the tyranny of any box masquerading as a window into reality. Hall pioneered art in television and continues to work with the medium and concept. With it, and in opposition to it, for the artists in 'Remote Control' hold their enemy close.
Commercial broadcasting is the adversary in Television Delivers People (1973) by Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman. A six and a half minute credit roll tells us merrily that we are the end product of TV, delivered through broadcast to be consumed by advertisers. The medium itself emerges banal, or shrill; the mechanisms of corporate control form the malevolent baseline. Screened in the ICA alongside these works by Hall and Serra as well as Gerry Schum, are further exposés on television advertising from TVTV, misogyny from Joan Braderman, and violence from Marcel Odenbach. Sixteen CRT televisions line up neatly to show us how artists rankled with the system over the decades past.
It doesn't sound very radical does it? The wit of the interruptions has already been dampened by their removal from the broadcast context. They confront an engaged, expectant audience, not their passive target. Can we understand quite how difficult it must have been to infiltrate the mainstay of the British broadcasting industry, the BBC, when there is such a multitude of platforms available today? Should an institution that holds the contemporary at its core not be addressing the hidden power lines of the mass media that immerse us now?