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.