You Know We're Living in the Computer Age? Computer History According to Law & Order

(0)

Artist Jeff Thompson received a Rhizome commission in 2012 for his project Computers on Law & Order, for which he watched every episode of the long-running television series and took screenshots of all the computers. Thompson will present an illustrated lecture based on the project  this Saturday, Feb 1 at 4pm at the Museum of the Moving Image, followed by a discussion with Law & Order graphic designer Kevin Raper. In this article, he shares some of his findings. 

In the fall of 1990, a television program about crime, police investigation, and criminal trials named Law & Order aired for the first time. The show eventually ended in 2010, tied with Gunsmoke for the longest-running live-action television show at 20 seasons and 456 episodes.[1] With its unique (and consistent) style and trademark "dun-dun!" sound, Law & Order has generated several spin-offs and can likely be found playing at any hour of the day somewhere on cable.[2]

READ ON »


An Interview with Superlative TV

(1)

As part of England’s nationwide switchover from analog to digital tele-broadcasting, London’s official analog signal went down on April 18, 2012. While dumpsters citywide filled with old TV sets, a flurry of commemorative activity sprung up in the art world. Most notably London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) staged Remote Control, a large survey show examining prominent artists’ responses to television; and across town pioneering British video artist David Hall staged 1001 TV Sets (End Piece), 1972 – 2012, an epic installation in which 1001 sets, tuned to one of five UK analog channels, gradually transitioned from color broadcasts to snow and noise.

Against this backdrop of retrospection and nostalgia the politicised London-based pirate television group Superlative TV formed. Set to begin broadcasting the evening of September 14, Superlative TV will be available to anyone in the city who can unplug a TV digital receiver and tune into the yet to be designated frequency. Inclusive, liberal, and egalitarian, the channel will run a program consisting of community led documentaries, artists’ works, performance, news, and film. Tackling subjects like the 2011 London riots – civil unrest that saw unprecedented looting, arson, and violence in the city – Superlative TV are distancing themselves from the post-modern tendencies of contemporaries like South London’s Auto Italia South East and Lucky PDF. In other words, it is not all about VHS generation loss and ironic distance. Instead Superlative TV seek to offer a politically active model of public access television: an enfranchising, free television service in dialogue with its users, as opposed to a paid for service that is not. Recently I spoke with Superlative TV co-founder Anne Tennor about the upcoming broadcast.


 

How did Superlative TV start and why?

I think it started because we saw a need. Not that there isn’t a lot of “art TV” out there, because there is a lot, but art TV seems to have almost become about a brand. A brand in which an individual’s voice might get lost in the crowd. So what we're facilitating is a kind of open platform that is missing from British broadcasting in general, and the idea is to fill the gap of open access television as well as produce art TV.

We have a background working with lots of artists in London, doing various projects with moving image and broadcasting whether that is radio or television. Then the digital switchover happened and it just seemed like the perfect time to subvert an old medium that people aren’t using anymore. We see it as a redundant space that can be completely free, completely uncensored, completely unrestricted. Not even the Internet can provide that opportunity, for artists especially. But if you look at last summer’s riots the government was trying to shut Twitter down. So we’re still being controlled, in spite of the idea that we use modern technology to have a voice.

It’s interesting that you’re talking about issues of control; because what you are doing you have to do covertly as it’s illegal. 

We’re hoping through our activity we’ll eventually not be seen as criminals, but as people offering something which should be made legal. Eventually the idea is to have an open access television station in the UK as there isn’t one, but it’s happening all over the world now, of course in America, but also in parts of Eastern Europe you’ve got artists who are offered half an hour on a local channel. That said, open access isn’t the extent of what we plan to program. We’d like to commission relevant programs that national TV doesn’t seem to cover. Also, given the current political situation in the UK, there’s a feeling that some parts of society are being targeted by Conservative policies and not being given a voice at all.  So this goes beyond just offering young artists, or people with nowhere to show work, a space.

I was thinking about the fact that it’s on analogue television, which means people will have to detune their sets to watch. First of all you’re getting an active and engaged audience, because their making a big effort to find out what we’re broadcasting; and second it’s like time travelling, which is how it feels in the UK at the moment. I just think that a lot of what’s happening has happened twenty, thirty years ago with Margaret Thatcher, and even before that. Things seem to go in cycles and it would be nice to offer some hope.

So can you tell me a bit about where you’re at with the project at the moment?

Well you’ve come towards the end of phase two. Phase one has been collecting content, practising camerawork, assembling equipment, and we’re ready to go live. We’ve been trying to collect shows together, and ideas for formats. We have a show that we’re advertising now, which is called Prime Time: we’re asking artists and curators to submit three videos to us, one that they’ve made, one they have influenced and one that has influenced them. We’ll screen those after we’ve launched piratically on the 14September.

We’ve also been filming and documenting events for the last year: working with PAMI (Peckham Artists Moving Image festival), and a radio show on Resonance FM called The Gravy.  They have a great bunch of weird and wonderful musical acts, that we filmed and put our live mixing over, and we have a whole catalogue of them now. We’re also commissioning new works with artists, so a lot of great young talent is going to be shown via our channel. On top of that we’re working on more documentary style content about the political situation now... 

READ ON »


Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Television

(0)


X1795 by Max Capacity


A collection of items from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive, around the theme of 'Television' 

 



de/Rastra by Kyle Evans 



An old television set is converted into a live performance instrument, an oscillographic synthesizer which "... allows a performer to generate visualizations intrinsic to cathode ray tube technology while simultaneously creating the acoustic analog of the displayed imagery ... " Project Home Page  (PK

LG Plasma Arc Display Panel - Burn Baby Burn 


A burned-out Plasma television, applied with excessive voltage, displays a slow yet spectacular visual disintegration which would make Gustav Metzger proud. (PK)



fuba_recorder


Japanese automated glitch image project, running since January 2009, creates random images from mixing various Japanese television feeds and uploads the results to it's Flickr account.

"I am a robot for generating abstract-images of Japanese TV programs requested by my followers"

クッキンアイドル アイ!マイ!まいん!「特集 



Flickr / Twitter @fuba_recorder 


1001 TV Sets (End Piece) 


Installation by David Hall at the Ambika P3 Gallery, London. Using television sets of various ages, all were running up to the 18th April which was the switch-off point for analogue television signals in the UK.



Here is a video from the University of Westminster of the piece - wait till the 2 minute 19 mark (PK)  


Television Test Cards From Around The World 


A Russian Livejournal entry from 2009 features a collection of television tuning displays (unnecessary for modern televisions) from around the world, which we can now appreciate for their geometric aesthetics.






More (in Russian) here. (PK)

Other Notables:

MORE »


You'll (N)ever Watch Alone

(0)


Still from Art21 Telethon, May 2012

There's performance: immediate, rehearsed and present; then there's television: distant, canned, and broadcast. One offspring of their coupling is the telethon. 'Telethon' became a recognized portmanteau of 'television' and 'marathon' with Jerry Lewis' aid in the 1950s. His telethons for the Muscular Dystrophy Association ran and ran: there'd be a song, a celebrity, a mail carrier, a joke, banter and filler. The marathon viewing sessions kept attention on the cause at hand by providing various entertainment in service of one goal: to raise awareness and funds for the organization. The camera was always on: in order to look away, the viewer had to hit the clicker to change the view (or turn off the box). Inside, the telethon continued.

Recently, Art21 held their own artist-led telethon. Hosted by Ronnie Bass, who had explored the format in 2007 in order to raise funds for his Performa TV piece, the event came to be after the NEA cut funding to the PBS art documentary program. Artists replaced entertainers to create some nine hours of durational broadcast performance streaming from Algus Greenspon Gallery to the Art21 site. It was telethon to its core, making up what it lacked in big-production finesse with performative sincerity, intimacy, and palpable camaraderie.

The telethon as a fundraiser makes less viable sense today: crowd-funding options are less time-consuming and presentation-intensive. What remains is its value as a style: the telethon as an experience that fills time with performance, and an endurance event in service of an objective.

MORE »


Remote Control

(3)

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.

            Still from David Hall, TV Interruptions (Tap piece) (1971)

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?

 

READ ON »


Technology is Not Enough: The Story of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program

(4)

4th Floor of ITP at 721 Broadway, photo by Jason Huff

NYU’s ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program) celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2009, but much of the program dates back to forty years ago. The graduate program is “dedicated to pushing the boundaries of interactivity in the real and digital worlds.” This year is also a landmark year as founder Red Burns is starting to archive the program's history. The archive is beginning just as New York City, with its thriving startup scene, is starting to feel geeky enough to be a natural home for the innovative program.1 Beyond its original intentions, the program is pioneering in "physical computing," as coined by a faculty member. It has even managed intellectual property policies that let students keep full ownership of their ideas.

As I sat down for an interview with Burns in her office at 721 Broadway, she searched for a copy of the first grant proposal she wrote to set up the Alternate Media Center (AMC) in 1970-71, which later—in 1979— would become ITP. “If I could find that—I would die to find it. It must be the worst proposal, but it was original and it was fresh,” she declared. That lost proposal is what started everything; it helped secure grant money from the Markle Foundation, workshop space in the two floors above Bleecker Street Cinema in Greenwich Village and essential equipment.

Bleecker Street Cinema circa 1970, photo by Robert Otter via Soho Memory Project

The year the AMC started was the same year Sony introduced the first portable video recorder—the Portapak. The units cost around $1500 to buy, but according to a New York Times article from that year, they could be rented for $75 a day. Burns and her collaborator, George Stoney, with

 

READ ON »


The Twilight Zone for the Facebook Age: Charlie Brooker's "The Black Mirror"

(0)

The Black Mirror is a British television program that premiered last night. Charlie Brooker, creater of the series, a media critic and host of the shows Screenwipe and How Television Ruined Your Life, was inspired by The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling's "quasi-fictional world" allowed for more political and provocative television scripts to go uncensored by networks and corporate sponsers, Brooker argues in the Guardian. 

The first episode of The Black Mirror is provocative but with unambitious targets —the 24 hour newscycle, omnipresent social media— the disgusting premise is unmerited. One gets the sense it was written mostly to test television's limits; which may be a worthwhile demand itself. Nevertheless, upcoming episodes sound much more promising.

Trailer for The Black Mirror

Episode descriptions via The Guardian:

1. The National Anthem

Set slap-bang in the present, The National Anthem, starring Rory Kinnear and Lindsay Duncan, recounts what happens when fictional royal Princess Susannah is kidnapped and prime minister Michael Callow is presented with an unusual – and obscene – ransom request. The traditional media finds itself unable to even discuss what the demand is, while the Twittersphere foams with speculation and cruel jokes. As the ransom deadline nears, events start to gain a surreal momentum of their own. This was inspired partly by the kerfuffle over superinjunctions, and partly by the strange out-of-control sensation that takes grip on certain news days – such as the day Gordon Brown was virtually commanded to apologise to Gillian Duffy in front of the rolling news networks. Who was in charge that day? No one and everyone.

2. Fifteen Million Merits

In 1984, Apple ran a famous advert that implied the Mac might save mankind from a nightmarish Orwellian future. But what would a nightmarish Orwellian future that ran on Apple software actually look like? Probably a ...

MORE »


(Recent) History Class: Paul Ryan Interviews for Grey Room

(0)


“Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare Revisited: From Klein Worms to Relational Circuits” In an interview by Felicity D. Scott and Mark Wasiuta for the Summer 2011 issue of GreyRoom, artist and writer Paul Ryan talks about the time he spent working with Marshall McLuhan, the early days of video art, and his work.


“At that moment [1967] I thought of myself as a writer. I was holed up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with my typewriter, trying to write, and I heard McLuhan on the raso saying, ‘of course, in this electronic age of computers, satellites, radio, and television, the writer is no longer somebody holed up in his garret pounding a typewriter!’ It stopped me cold. I had to find out what this guy was about.”


Ryan gives a fascinating account of video art in the 1960s, from the Howard Wise Gallery, to securing money from the New York State Council for the Arts for video art at a time when no such funding was readily available, and tells the story of meeting the heir to the IBM fortune who admired McLuhan and wanted to give him two Sony Portapaks that both ended in Ryan’s hands to “experiment” with.

 

Artist book based on the Triadic Tapes, 1976 (via the Smithsonian Archives of American Art)


Ryan wrote extensively about video art, cybernetics, and technology; his work was then featured in some seminal exhibitions, such as “TV as a Creative Medium” at the Howard Wise Gallery (1969) and “Primitivism in Twentieth Century Art” at MoMA (1984). (Here's a 1969 letter by Ryan to Howard Wise.) 

“I would avoid the term visual to describe video. You can see a bottle of perfume, but sight is not the sense it really affects. You can see video images but their effect is primarily kinesthetic or proprioceptive when you see yourself. Video is about perceiving events with the nervous system, not visualizing in a pictorial way.”

 

READ ON »


Luminant Point Arrays (2010) - Stephan Tillmans

(0)




The Luminant Point Arrays show tube televisions in the moment they are switched off. The television picture breaks down and creates a structure of light. The pictures refuse external reference and broach the issue of the difference between abstraction and concretion in photography. The breakdown of the television picture describes the breakdown of the reference. The product is self-referential photography.

-- DESCRIPTION FROM THE ARTIST'S STATEMENT

Originally via today and tomorrow and iGNANT

LINK »


Compression Study #2 (Untitled) (2007) - Paul B. Davis

(1)

MORE »