Richard Serra (with Carlotta Schoolman), Television Delivers People, 1973, Video, color, sound; 6 min., Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art Circulating Film Library, New York, Photograph courtesy the artist. Television Delivers People is a seminal work in the now well-established critique of popular media as an instrument of social control that asserts itself subtly on the populace through "entertainments," for the benefit of those in power-the corporations that mantain and profit from the status quo. While canned Muzak plays, a scrolling text denounces the corporate masquerade of commercial television to reveal the structure of profit that greases the wheels of the media industry. Television emerges as little more than a insidious sponsor for the corporate engines of the world. By appropriating the medium he is criticizing-using television, in effect, against itself-Serra employs a characteristic strategy of early, counter-corporate video collectives-a strategy that remains integral to video artists committed to a critical dismantling of the media's political and ideological stranglehold. — UbuWeb

Ryan Trecartin, What’s The Love Making Babies For, 2003, Video, color, sound; 20 min., Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York.

A Survey of 30 Years of Video Practice and Corporate Manipulation

Alex Bag, Untitled Fall ’95, 1995, Video, color, sound; 57 min., Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York and Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York.

Keren Cytter, Dream Talk, 2005, Video, color, sound; 11 min., Courtesy Thierry Goldberg Projects, New York, and Elisabeth Kaufmann Gallery, Zurich.

 

Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
New York
800-944-8639
Kaufman Astoria Studios Gallery
Television Delivers People
December 12, 2007-February 17, 2008

Television Delivers People gathers together video works from the 1970s and 80s as well as more recent examples, which examine the relationship between television and the viewer. The exhibition is organized by curatorial assistant Gary Carrion-Murayari.

The eight artists whose works are included are Alex Bag, Dara Birnbaum, Joan Braderman, Keren Cytter, Kalup Linzy, Richard Serra, Michael Smith, and Ryan Trecartin. Works by Birnbaum, Serra, and Smith will be shown continuously on monitors, while the other works are projected, also continuously, on screen.

The exhibition borrows its title from Richard Serra’s video Television Delivers People (1973), which playfully pairs a Muzak soundtrack with a scrolling list of statements describing manipulative strategies and motivations imbedded in television by corporate advertisers. Works from the late 1970s and 1980s by Dara Birnbaum (Technology / Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978-79) and Joan Braderman (her 1986 work Joan Does Dynasty will be shown) extend Serra’s critique by using strategies of appropriation to analyze specific television genres and programs. These are some of the earliest examples of works in which artists acknowledged television as a primary medium for cultural communication and as a subject worthy of sustained analysis.

Videos by Michael Smith (whose work is included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial) and Alex Bag offer responses to television, in which characters’ lives are shaped by cable and infinite programming choices. In Smith's video, It Starts at Home (1982), his hapless alter-ego, Mike, has his relationship with television inverted when his daily activities are broadcast to the world. In Bag's recent videos, she adopts a shifting persona that parodies numerous television genres and programs. Her videos demonstrate her immersion in a media environment and suggest a viewer continuously adapting to changes in popular culture.

Younger artists like Keren Cytter, Kalup Linzy, and Ryan Trecartin adopt a similar approach in short narrative videos, and also draw on a dense internet culture, in which content from television, film, and music is accessible for manipulation and response. This is the first time the Whitney will be showing the work of Alex Bag, Keren Cytter, and Kalup Linzy, and both Bag and Linzy will be showing recently completed new videos. Ryan Trecartin’s work was exhibited in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

Dara Birnbaum, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman, 1978-79, Video, color, sound; 5:50 min., Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.