Television and the Aesthetics of Power, Virtuosity, and Repetition
An answer to the question, "What kind of an art form is television?" is not arrived at easily. To begin exploring that question, however, think first about entering a gallery or a museum where either paintings or still photographs are exhibited. As you enter, you look around the space and approach a work hanging on the wall to the left just inside the door. You pause in front of it for twenty-five to thirty seconds. Then you move to the work on its right. This next piece does little for you; you gaze at it for several seconds and move on. You continue down the row until you come upon a painting you like a lot. You stay awhile in front of it, balancing yourself alternately on the left or right foot. You are moved by his work and your body shows it! You step forward so that you can look at the details. You shuffle back several steps to take it in from a longer distance. Then you recall something that you saw in the first work that you looked at. You cross the room quickly, looking at it again with new eyes.
This is not the case with film, video, and television. Nor is it true with going to the theatre or listening to music. How our time is controlled in experiencing each of these art forms depends upon the creative decisions of those who produce or perform the work. If you own a videotape, somewhere on its case or package you will find its length. If it is one hour and thirty-two minutes, then whenever it is played at normal speed it will consistently last ninety-two minutes. The videocassette player permits us to stop a video if the phone rings or to rewind the tape if we would like to watch a scene a second time. But this constitutes