Screen

By Hainsley, Bruce | Artforum International, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Screen


Hainsley, Bruce, Artforum International


FRIEDRICH PETZEL

Supposedly testing where the "abstract or representational 'space' of painting" and the "abstract or representational 'space' of television" begin and end (and converge), "Screen," curated by Joshua Decter, had the equipment for a keen viewing experience, but the show was never plugged in. The accompanying video catalogue inter-cut shots of parts of paintings in the show or groups of parts of paintings with text about the rather flimsy conceptual and theoretical basis of "Screen" as well as stills - no noise or action - from television programs (Julia Roberts and one of the Friends guys; spacemen; the 60 Minutes stopwatch; etc.). But TV is noisy, filled with rapid, banal chatter, just like life; the (commercial) breaks from the chatter, unlike life, are even more chatter-filled. Television is still only when taped and paused on a VCR. The arty, premeditated silence of the video catalogue and its odd pacing - much slower than television, both faster and slower than painting - made it clear that Decter's project was safely closer to the realm of art than anywhere else, upholding a high/low dichotomy he surely intended to critique or at least to blur.

Of course, television and painting have influenced one another, but while it is fairly easy to see what these paintings have in common with television (color, blankness, cheesiness, entertainment value, and, yes, beauty), nowhere does Decter show what television has to do with the paintings he has chosen. For the most part, TV couldn't care less about painting: it is too busy moving on to something else. Its aim is proliferation, the redundantly new. Broadcasting. Now this. Click something sexy click random acts of violence click home shopping click.

Of course, television remains the most undertheorized of media, but are comparisons with painting really the aptest way to go about it? Fixating on the similarity of "screens," Decter ignores what is unique to television - as opposed to painting, video, film, the novel, and so on. He claims to be considering the "different velocities of seeing" by comparing television with painting, but neither his show nor the video "reconstruction" of it provides enough evidence or analysis to demonstrate why, if television has indeed quickened the pace of the gaze, it is necessarily a bad thing. …

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