Beamed directly into living rooms across the globe, television has had an undeniable impact upon contemporary culture. A new National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) exhibition, Transmission: Legacies of the Television Age, will explore artistic comments on the medium and track the evolution of screen culture from televised historical moments such as the Vietnam War and 9/11 through to the rise of the Internet.
Transmission will present more than 30 works, primarily videos but also including prints, photographs, fashion garments, sculpture and collage, to explore Australian and international artists’ responses to, and engagement with, television, sets and screens, visual broadcasting and the transmission of information.
“Australia is currently undergoing significant changes in broadcasting with the recent introduction of streaming services and, with reports that Australians spend more than 3 hours per day watching video content on TVs and other devices, this is a timely reflection on the significance of television to art and contemporary culture,” says Tony Ellwood, Director NGV.
“Transmission is drawn largely from the NGV’s strong holdings of video art, of which the NGV was an early collector, with works dating from the late 1950s, when television was becoming a mass medium, through to today.”
The exhibition will feature works which reveal the power and influence of television broadcasting on politics and society. Globally historic events such as the Vietnam War and 9/11 were simultaneously viewed on screens across the world; Australian artist Elvis Richardson’s Now 7 Years Later 2008 is a video installation which examines the experience of 9/11 through the memories of those who watched the event unfold on television.
The recollections, written in chalk on a blackboard, allude to the fragility of memory. Australian artist John Immig’s photographs of television coverage of the Vietnam War, which came to be known as the TV War, will also be shown.
Transmission will also explore television as a distributor of pop culture and consumerism. Australian artist Darren Sylvester comments on popular culture with You should let go of a dying relationship 2006, which sees the artist restage the music videos for David Bowie’s Heroes and Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, while American performance artist Kalup Linzy writes, directs, shoots, and acts out every character in his own version of a daytime soap opera, with episodes broadcast on the artist’s YouTube page.
Transmission will present a room dedicated to the work of American video art pioneer, Dara Birnbaum, who subverts and critiques the power of mass media images. One of her most famous pieces, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman 1978, recontextualises the pop cultural icon Wonder Woman by repeatedly revealing the moment the character transforms from Diana Prince into the superhero.
Transmission will also feature video works by Nam June Paik, Miranda July, Ant Farm and Robert Rooney, print and photographic abstractions by Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton and Susan Fereday, alongside contemporary works by Elvis Richardson, Patrick Pound, Simon Denny and Eamon O’Toole, among others.
“Transmission presents diverse artist responses to television broadcasting. Many artists were critical of the medium while a notable few, such as Nam June Paik, embraced the global and seemingly utopian possibilities for communication,” says Maggie Finch, exhibition curator.
“There is consideration of television as a means of global communication; a mediator of technology; a distributor of pop culture and consumerism; a filter of media and the news; a vehicle for a new ‘reality’; and a transmitter of information.”
“Several artists reflect on the form and content of television as they look to newer technologies that have marked the transition from analogue to digital broadcasting and the Internet, and the simultaneous shift from passive to active interaction,’ Ms Finch concluded.
Transmission: Legacies of the Television Age
NGV International, 180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Exhibition continues to 13 September 2015
For more information, visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: Elvis Richardson, Televisuals: Salute Elvis 2008 (still), colour video, sound, 6 min 16 sec. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie PomPom, Sydney and Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide. © Elvis Richardson, courtesy of Gallerie PomPom, Sydney and Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide