Artists‚Äô interventions into television and strategies for self-broadcasting from the 1970s to today.
This international group exhibition contextualises the current trend of sharing videos online (on websites such as YouTube) through the presentation of works of video art and web-based art from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It includes the work of a diverse group of artists who have challenged television culture and questioned what it means to undertake the personal act of putting oneself ‚Äėon-air‚Äô.
Broadcast Yourself demonstrates how artists have challenged the passive relationship viewers have with television by taking control of TV and the way it is both produced and consumed. The works in this exhibition are examples of how individuals have established themselves in relation to the dominance of broadcast networks. The exhibition considers the types of televisual ‚Äúplatforms‚ÄĚ which have been used by artists (commercial networks, cable and state sponsored TV, pirate TV, the Internet, and artists‚Äô own private initiatives). These artists question television‚Äôs cultural influence and authority.
In the 70s and 80s, artists approached television from two different perspectives: some wanted their video works broadcast, while others wanted to control how broadcasting functioned. Van Gogh TV‚Äôs Piazza Virtuale recognised that TV was a powerful influence, outside an individual‚Äôs control. In response, they created their own interactive system, controlled by the audience, which was broadcast internationally. Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz also allowed audiences to broadcast themselves when they opened a Hole in Space, linking in live, life-size video and audio, passers-by on streets in NY and LA via the satellites used by television networks.
In the USA, TV was controlled by commercial interests, for advertising profit. Being on television meant collaborating with broadcasters. Provocatively, Doug Hall, Chip Lord and Jody Procter did this through their residency at KVII-TV (Channel 7) in Amarillo Texas (the news desk they broadcast from is re-created here); Bill Viola filmed the public who watched WGBH, Boston‚Äôs Public Television station, and broadcast the footage on the same channel. In the UK, Ian Breakwell aired his Continuous Diaries in an irregular format at irregular times with the launch of the alternative Channel 4. Prior to these initiatives, one of the only possibilities for artists to broadcast their work was to become in effect a company (or partner with one) and purchase commercial time, as Chris Burden and Stan Douglas did.
The push to get oneself onto TV cooled in 1989, with the camcorder revolution. This new technology put broadcast quality production into the hands of artists and influenced what was seen on local cable TV well into the 90s and led to what we now understand as narrow-casting ‚Äď or limiting distribution of programmes to a niche audience (similarly to today‚Äôs podcasts). Pat Naldi and Wendy Kirkup‚Äôs project, SEARCH used the closed circuit TV network installed by Northumbria Police in the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne, and broadcast their performances in front of those cameras (which might only have been seen by a single security guard) to audiences of millions on Tyne Tees television. Film-maker Miranda July started a video chain-letter, Joanie4Jackie, which redistributed short videos by woman artists via the post, cutting out the TV networks entirely, and prefiguring the possibilities of video file sharing now available online.
The web-browser, introduced the mid 1990s, followed by greater access to higher speeds of connection to the Internet and affordable web cameras allowed artists to connect with each other and create their own broadcast networks, as the collaborative projects 56kTV and TV Swansong demonstrate. Individual broadcasts of newsworthy televisual events became possible, like Guillermo G√≥mez-Pe√Īa‚Äôs guerilla webcast performances El Naftazteca: Cyber-Aztec TV in 1995, and Alistair Gentry‚Äôs ‚Äėlanding‚Äô on Mars a decade later. Thanks to Active Ingredient‚Äôs MakeTV installation here, audiences can even be interviewed as though a celebrity, and broadcast live. Shaina Anand‚Äôs CCTV projects in India demonstrate how artists continue to create their own systems to contest the fact that they have limited access to the technologies for television broadcast.
The works in this exhibition revise our perceptions of broadcast television (from reality TV and soap operas, to the news and commercial breaks) while at the same time they question our role in the creation of television culture. How we individually understand television will continue to change as new digital technologies expand the distribution of audio/video work on the web. These artists have demonstrated how we can all, now, broadcast ourselves!
Sarah Cook and Kathy Rae Huffman