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Cornerhouse on TV

Does Broadcast Yourself show the potential or the limitations of broadcast art?

Published on June 24th 2008.

Cornerhouse on TV

Big Brother it ain’t? Or maybe it is?

And that might mean Big Brother in terms of the reality TV show or the George Orwell novel. Broadcast Yourself is a thought-provoking and stimulating exhibition at Cornerhouse which looks at the way artists have responded to television and broadcast culture. It also poses a question or two about the increasingly creaky domination of the big broadcast networks over the past few decades. In the internet world of You Tube and instant blogging this might appear old hat, but the pioneering work with TV on display here paved the way for today’s artistic response to the opportunities offered by the world wide web.

To illustrate the role of artists in TV and self-broadcasting, Cornerhouse has brought together an impressive collection of people stretching back to the 1970s: ‘some of the cream internationally’ as co-curator Kathy Rae Huffman told Confidential.

There are more than ten installations here. This writer was interested and amused by The Amarillo News Tapes by Doug Hall, Chip Lord and Judy Proctor from 1980 which recreates a news desk in a Texas studio. Here, in collaboration with local newsmen, the artists examined news gathering and presentation through parody and documentary. Reverse Television: Portraits of Viewers by Bill Viola from 1983 is a sparky piece too. Viola videoed and interviewed viewers of a Boston public service channel in their own living rooms, gave it ambient audio and released it in breaks in the scheduling several times over the course of a day without any explanation of what was going on. This resulted in odd but very engaging pieces.

Aside from the exhibition there are a number of events and tours. Of special note is the screening of El Naftazteca: Cyber Aztec for 2000AD and An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later on Saturday 9 August. This is a double feature, the one wryly looking at American identity, the other examining the Loud family ten years after they became (possibly the first) reality TV stars. The screening will be introduced by the curators of Broadcast Yourself, Sarah Cook and Kathy Rae Huffman.

A niggle in the back of the mind remains after viewing the exhibition. Can the art presented here ever be more than ‘interesting’. As with digital art can it ever be ‘great’? Of course this term is relative, but the question remains whether any art which has to plugged in and turned on retains sufficient permanence to qualify as anything other than a curiosity, especially when several works seem to depend on a single joke or a clever re-interpretation of a typical TV situation (it also has the down side of dating rapidly, or even becoming inaccessible, as technology develops)? This opens a can of worms about the nature of art itself of course, and technologically based interpretations of it – all of which can lead to migraines and long lie downs in darkened rooms.

Still pop along to the Cornerhouse and judge for yourself. This is the sort of exhibition the Cornerhouse does very well and exactly what it was designed for. Confidential bets you won’t leave without a view on the exhibition...or even on the validity of TV as a medium for art at all.

Broadcast Yourself runs until Sunday 10 August. www.broadcastyourself.net

Image Credits Doug Hall, Chip Lord and Jody Proctor, The Amarillo News Tapes, 1980
Guillermo Gómez-Peña's El Naftazteca, 1995.

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