Craig Baldwin: Spectres of the Spectrum

Craig Baldwin’s Spectres of the Spectrum is an assault to the senses, in the best possible way. We are bombarded with images and sounds and fast moving footage accompanied by a constant and relentless narration.
The story is set in 2007 in the bleak landscape of Nevada, in a dystopian or maybe even post-apocalyptic future where the “New Electromagnetic Order” rules. Baldwin explores the rich history of the development of electromagnetic technologies, from X-rays to atom bombs but also from TV to the internet. BooBoo, a telepath and her father, Yogi, are rebelling against this new order.

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Ernie Kovacs

Ernest Edward "Ernie" Kovacs (January 23, 1919 – January 13, 1962) was an American comedian, actor, and writer.

Kovacs's visually experimental and often spontaneous comedic style influenced numerous television comedy programs for years after his death. Many individuals and shows, such as Johnny CarsonDavid LettermanRowan and Martin's Laugh-InSaturday Night LiveMonty Python's Flying CircusJim HensonMax Headroom,[1] Chevy Chase,[2][3] Conan O’Brien,[4] Jimmy KimmelCaptain KangarooSesame StreetThe Electric CompanyDave Garroway,[5] Uncle Floyd, and many others[6][7] have credited Ernie as an influence. Chevy Chase thanked Kovacs during his acceptance speech for his Emmy award for Saturday Night Live.[8][2]

Some of Kovacs's unusual behaviors include having pet marmosets and wrestling a jaguar on his live Philadelphia television show.[9][10][11][12]

When working at WABC (AM) as a morning-drive radio announcer and doing a mid-morning television series for NBC, Kovacs claimed to dislike eating breakfast alone while his wife, Edie Adams, was sleeping after her Broadway performances. His solution was to hire a taxi driver to come into their apartment with his own key and make breakfast for them both, then take Ernie to the WABC studios.[13][14]

While Kovacs and Adams received Emmy nominations for best performances in a comedy series during 1957, his talent was not recognized formally until after his death.[15] The 1962 Emmy for outstanding electronic camera work and the Directors' Guild award came a short time after his fatal accident.[16][17] A quarter century later, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.[18] Kovacs also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in television.[19] In 1986, the Museum of Broadcasting (later to become the Museum of Television & Radio and now the Paley Center for Media) presented an exhibit of Kovacs's work, called The Vision of Ernie Kovacs. The Pulitzer Prize–winning television critic, William Henry III, wrote for the museum's booklet: "Kovacs was more than another wide-eyed, self-ingratiating clown. He was television's first significant video artist.

"Handsworth Songs", Black Audio Film Collective, 1986/1987

Handsworth Songs is a 1986 film directed by John Akomfrah and produced by Lina Gopaul. It was filmed during the 1985 riots in Handsworth and London. The production company was the Black Audio Film Collective,[1] who also wrote the screenplay. With cinematography by Sebastian Shah and music by Trevor Mathison, there were voice-overs by Pervais KhanMeera SyalYvonne WeekesSachkhand Nanak Dham and Mr. McClean. 

Handsworth Songs was commissioned by Channel 4 for their series Britain: The Lie of the Land and won seven prizes internationally, including the John Grierson Award for Best Documentary (BFI). The production company used their now renowned methods of intermixing newsreel, still photos and a sound mosaic, creating an experimental multi-layered narrative. It gives accounts of those involved in or observing the 1985 riots and more significantly their personal reflections.

Viewers create their own interpretation of narrative through navigation of the multi-faceted material presented, which is a direct response to the fragmented presentation of the story of the riots.[3] Ann Ogidi, the author, sees it as a journey as if wandering through an art gallery with images of the 1950s.[3]

In 1983 the Black Audio Film Collective came together to encourage a Black film culture within film and video, specifically looking at questions of Black representation, including colonial imagery and anti-racist/sexist film material. Their work includes Signs of Empire (1989), Images of Nationality and Handsworth Songs (1986).

Vidas Perfectas, 2014

Vidas Perfectas was presented as part of the program of performances by Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman at the 2014 Whitney Biennial in NYC, April 17-20, 2014.

Vidas Perfectas is an all-new Spanish-language version of Robert Ashley's ground-breaking “television opera” Perfect Lives (1983). With Ashley's blessing, Alex Waterman directs this all-new production, from a Spanish translation by Javier Sainz de Robles.

In the Vidas Perfectas lounge we discover a place where Spanish and English are mutually understood through the transformative and magical act of singing. Originally set in “The Corn Belt” of the midwest, Vidas Perfectas transports us to the deserts and ranches of the southwest– a vision of (an)other America.

The performances of all seven episodes at the 2014 Whitney Biennial marked the beginning of the filming and recording of the complete opera in full theatrical staging. All episodes were filmed in front of a live audience. Footage shot on-location in Marfa, Texas in February 2014 was be mixed with live camera feeds as part of the live television experience. Between the performances, Alex Waterman and E.S.P. TV used the room as their workspace to rehearse, edit, and prepare footage for live television.

Perfect Lives was originally commissioned for television by The Kitchen (NYC) in 1979 and was completed in 1983, co-produced by The Kitchen and Channel Four in Great Britain. It was aired on Channel Four in 1983 and 1984, and subsequently on German, Austrian and Spanish television. Parts of the seven-episode series have been seen on American cable channels and in Japan and Australia. Perfect Lives’ innovative combination of chanting, storytelling, meditation and ecstatic revelation, challenges the ways in which we perceive the relationship between language and music. It has almost single-handedly changed the way we think about opera, television, and performance.

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Stan Douglas: Monodramas 1987-92

Ten 30- to 60-second videos from 1991, conceived as interventions into commercial television, interrupted the usual flow of advertising and entertainment when broadcast nightly in British Columbia for three weeks in 1992. These micronarratives mimic televisions editing techniques, but as kernels of a story they refuse to cohere. They are tales of dysfunction and dislocation, misanthropy and misunderstanding. When the videos were aired unannounced during commercial breaks, viewers called the station to inquire about what was being sold, their responses evincing how the media can refocus attention from content to consumption. 

"Double Dip Concession", Auto Italia LIVE

Paul Becker, Nathan Budzinski, Benedict Drew, Robert Carter, Andrew Kerton, Leslie Kulesh, Huw Lemmey, o F F Love, Francesco Pedraglio, Lorenzo Tebano, Jess Weisner

Auto Italia South East presents Auto Italia LIVE: Double Dip Concession, an artist-run Live TV show performed before a studio audience and broadcast over the internet. Working in collaboration with Auto Italia, artists are developing new work for this one-off episode which engages directly with the format of live television. This new episode is commissioned by the ICA as part of Remote Control and will be broadcast live from the ICA Theatre.
This episode will use the techniques, characters and editing of live television to explore our interaction with the flow of images that invade our lives. Exploring the individual relationship that the audience has with broadcast, we consider the possibility for a personal and autobiographical tone to be delivered within a context which alienates those present on the screen from accurate self-representation. The manufactured space created by the set will be the backdrop for actions, statements and performances which are commonplace in live TV production but are rarely broadcast to the viewers.
This project is engaging directly in contemporary broadcast culture as a space for new work and how physical communities use the Internet to distribute ideas. It aims to be a proposal for how artists can produce live broadcast work in collaboration and act as a unique place for artists to create their collective context and distribute their work.
Produced in collaboration with: Nikki Bevan, Giorgio Bosisio, Anna Brecon, Roderick Burrows, Nat Cary, Cristen Clague-Reading, Luke Collins, Theo Cook, Cameron Foote, Mette Juhl, Fran Hitchcock, Julia Innocenti, McDeath, Tim McFarland, Kate Molins, Celia Moodie, George Moustakas Elly Nakajima, Radiance Audio, Sonia Rodriguez Serrano, Rebecca Root, Bernard Thompson
With special thanks to: Lauren Barnes, Marleen Boschen, Paul Crompton, Aoife Flynn, Henry Petrides, Laurence Price, Matt Welch
Commissioned and produced by Auto Italia South East.

"Via Los Angeles", Michael Asher, 1976

From Situation Aesthetics, The Work of Michael Asher, by Kirsi Peltomaki, 2010, MIT Press

Documentation of the live feed of the control room at kgw (radio and television). (Photograph courtesy the artist.)

Documentation of the live feed of the control room at kgw (radio and television). (Photograph courtesy the artist.)

“…Three years later, in January 1976, Asher explored the affective thresholds of normalcy by devising a television program that literally turned the camera back onto itself by filming the scene of production in the control room of the television station, and broadcasting the footage of the backstage activities to viewers at home. Produced with the support of the Portland Center for the Visual Arts in Portland, Oregon, as Asher’s contribution to the exhibition “Via Los Angeles,” the program aired as an episode in the regularly scheduled arts program Eight Lively Arts on kgw-tv at one o’clock on a Sunday afternoon. “Andy Warhol should have been in Portland Sunday,” declared the local newspaper Oregonian on its front page the following day. “He would have appreciated the Michael Asher ‘visual art’ presentation on kgw-tv. Numerous viewers didn’t.

They thought it was ‘an accident.’ ”During the Asher broadcast, the station’s telephone feedback line received around 140 phone calls about the program.

Some of the callers, disturbed by the situation, wished to alert the station to the fact that there were technical problems with the broadcast. “[O]ne call came from a television technician… who, thinking there was a faulty transmission, called the station to let us know that there was a camera in the master-control area,” Asher recounted. “A number of other callers… also communicated the same observation, some of them noticeably upset.” Although the act of calling kgw-tv to notify it of a perceived problem might have been an altruistic deed resulting in no immediate personal gain, it might also have been prompted by a more acute psychological need. The tone of the calls underscored the viewers’ urge to protect the television station from error—as they perceived Asher’s backstage view to be—and their desire to prompt the station into restoring normalcy to the broadcast. Ultimately, this impulse might have been linked to the caller’s own identity, to the degree that the caller’s sense of normalcy was affirmed by recognizable television content.

Although it would be easy to stereotype the Portland callers as cultural dupes who were naive or ill-informed because they missed the point of Asher’s project, such a reading would miss the power of personal response that Asher’s program unleashed within the callers.64 The callers were perfectly aware of the normative boundary that the project unseated when it crossed over the lines of conventional broadcasting. Immediate feelings of anxiety became more than ambient affective states when these reactions turned into acts of calling the station. The perceived irregularity of Asher’s program moved these television viewers into attempts to correct the situation and restore normalcy to what they considered normatively irregular television content. Their experience of the project was based upon par- ticular forms of cultural knowledge, assumptions, and rules, but these collec- tive aspects were modulated by individual response. The experience of the work mobilized in these viewers what Foucault might call relations to self and others, relations that were articulated in the emotional and practical care these viewers demonstrated in attempting to remedy the situation.”

Robert Ashley: Perfect Lives

PERFECT LIVES — an opera for television by Robert Ashley

I. The Park (Privacy Rules)

II. The Supermarket (Famous People)

III. The Bank (Victimless Crime)

IV. The Bar (Differences)

V. The Living Room (The Solutions)

VI. The Church (After the Fact)

VII.The Backyard (T'Be Continued)

Raoul de Noget (No-zhay), a singer, and his friend, Buddy, “The World’s Greatest Piano Player,” have come to a small town in the Midwest to entertain at The Perfect Lives Lounge. For some reason, unexplained, they have fallen in with two people from the town, Isolde (“nearing 30 and not yet spoken for”) and her brother, “D,” just out of high school and known as “The Captain of the Football Team” (his parents call him Donnie), to commit the perfect crime, a metaphor for something philosophical: in this case, to remove a sizable amount of money from The Bank for one day (one day only) and “let the whole world know that it was missing.”

Robert Ashley (March 28, 1930 – March 3, 2014) was an American composer, who was best known for his operas and other theatrical works, many of which incorporate electronics and extended techniques.

Ashley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He studied at the University of Michigan with Ross Lee Finney, at the Manhattan School of Music, and was later a musician in the US Army. After moving back to Michigan, Ashley worked at the University of Michigan’s Speech Research Laboratories. Although he was not officially a student in the acoustic research program there, he was offered the chance to obtain a doctorate, but turned it down to pursue his music.[1] From 1961 to 1969, he organised the ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor with Roger Reynolds, Gordon Mumma, and other local composers and artists. He was a co-founder of the ONCE Group, as well as a member of the Sonic Arts Union, which also included David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, and Gordon Mumma. In 1969 he became director of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. In the 1970s he directed the Mills College Center for Contemporary Music. His notable students include Maggi Payne.

Jaime Davidovich

Jaime Davidovich (born in 1936) is an Argentine-American conceptual artist and television-art pioneer. His innovative artworks and art-making activities produced several distinct professional reputations including painter, installation artist, video artist, Public-access television cable TV producer, activist, and non-profit organizer. He is the creator of legendary downtown Manhattan cable television program The Live! Show (1979-1984). Billed as “the variety show of the avant-garde,” The Live! Show was an eclectic half-hour of live, interactive artistic entertainment inspired by the Dada performance club Cabaret Voltaire and the anarchic humor of American television comedian Ernie Kovacs.

The emergence of portable video equipment in the late 1960s dovetailed with Davidovich’s existing interest in minimalism and the aesthetics of line. Davidovich’s single channel video works “Road” in 1972 and “3 Mercer Street” in 1975 are some of his earliest video art explorations. These works are noteworthy because of their institutional backing; “Road” was produced with the assistance of the Akron Art Institute in Ohio and “3 Mercer Street” was made possible by a grant from the Creative Arts Public Service (CAPS) program. Davidovich then went on to create video installations, including his “Evita” works that developed between 1984–1992 and “Inside and Between” a 1996 work shown at El Museo del Barrio in New York City.

When cable television emerged in the mid-1970s, Jaime Davidovich was one of the first artists to recognize its potential for the contemporary arts. In 1976 he helped establish Cable SoHo. A year later he established the Artists Television Network, a nonprofit organization established to explore the artistic potential of broadcast television and encourage the dissemination of video art through a commercial broadcast medium. The organization produced television programming under the name SoHo Television, a Project of the Artists Television Network, and broadcast on Manhattan public-access television cable TV. Programming included video art, early music videos, performances and interviews with artists including Laurie Anderson, John Cage, and Richard Foreman among many others. The organization produced programming until 1984.

Davidovich is perhaps best known for his work on The Live! Show, a weekly public-access television program with a variety show format that appropriated the formal norms of television along with avant-garde performances, artwork, political satire, and social commentary. The program featured interviews and performance work by visiting artists, including Laurie Anderson, Eric Bogosian, Tony Oursler, and Michael Smith, along with musical performances, ersatz commercials, and viewer participation via live call-in segments. Presiding over the show’s disparate collaborative elements was Davidovich’s own satirical character, “Dr. Videovich, specialist in curing television addiction,” whom the New York Times’ television critic John J. O’Connor described as “a persona somewhere between Bela Lugosi and Andy Kaufman.” The show also featured commercials for Videokitsch, commercially produced items and art multiples made by Davidovich and others. Of The Live! Show, one critic notes, “Davidovich’s humor obviously transcends his medium, resulting in a comment as potent today as one assumes it was in 1972—harnessing new media to capture what is ‘real’ and 'true’ is an artistic act both vitally important and profoundly absurd.” In 1991 the American Museum of the Moving Image presented a retrospective of The Live! Show. In 2007 the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Spain added The Live! Show to its collection of video art.