press release

Nothing else has had - or has - as big a role as television in shaping our image of the world. Since the coming of television many artists have focused on this medium. They began to make television themselves, both in order to parody television and to offer their commentaries on it, and to produce their own television programs. A half century later there appears to be little left of the ideals and the critique of those early days.

In the exhibition TV Today a number of artists who grew up with the medium, the 'second TV generation', seek to reveal the social impact of television on mass culture. These artists use television to show us their vision or critique, or just to let us see their work. Within this context the emphasis in TV Today lies on the programs that color the contemporary TV landscape: soaps, talk and game shows, and reality TV.

Exhibition text by Dominique Busch

Who can have forgotten the opening music for 'Dallas' or the images of Southfork Ranch and the oil wells that went with it? Candice Breitz revives these bygone days in her installation Diorama (Amsterdam Version). On various television screens we see the recognizable faces and hear the voices of J.R. Ewing, Pamela and the other members of the Ewing Clan. The social predictability of the characters that is characteristic of soaps in general is placed in a different context by Breitz in this heavy installation.

The German artist Bjørn Melhus also works with audio material from well-known television series and films which he re-edits. He often creates a virtual environment into which he places his characters, thereby evoking a strong sense of dissociation. The work The Oral Thing (2001) is about the pseudo-religious mechanism of guilt and penance that comes to the fore in many talk shows. For Zauberglas (1991) Melhus uses the German synchronization voices from the American Western 'Broken Arrow'. As in his other works, all the characters in this tragi-comic but also moving dialogue with his feminine alter ego are acted and performed by Melhus himself. In the video CNN - In Hope for the Best (1999) Daniel Pflumm shows images of people from the audiences of various talk shows while they are applauding. This rhythm is intensified by the addition of electronic beats to create an infectious rhythm and unending applause - but for what?

In his work blink (1999) the Dutch artist eddie d also focuses on the audience in a television studio. In contrast to Daniel Pflumm who makes a sort of music clip of it, by zooming in on the faces and slowing down the found TV footage blink creates an intimate portrait of the anonymous audience which mostly is use as a décor of the TV Show.

The photoseries Studios (1998 - 2002) and Fernsehwohnungen (1997) by Peter Dombrowe let us see the familiar sets of talk shows and soaps. The photos are taken in such a way that the work spaces which lie in the wings around the sets are visible. This deconstructs the televised spaces, but also the illusion of what happens in them.

In her work bingo show (2003) the French artist Christelle Lheureux films a number of presenters in the several minutes preceding live broadcasts from the set of a bingo show. Everyone stands around waiting, sometimes the persons appear tense - and then the tension disappears from their face and it almost looks as if they have begun to become bored. Nothing is said, and in these long minutes time seems to stand still.

In his work Otto Berchem has already several times scrutinized Andy Warhol's dictum 'In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.' In one of his latest exhibitions he in even called his project The 16th Minute, a reference to Warhol's famous observation. The rise of television programs such as 'Big Brother' and 'Idols' would appear to have proven Warhol right. In previous exhibitions Berchem has examined this development by, for instance, making parodies of talk shows and dating shows.

Matthieu Laurette on the other hand has dived into the world of commercial television himself, having first been seen in 1993 on the French television show 'Tournez Manege' (The Dating Game) as one of the participants. From that moment he has used television both as his workplace and an instrument, because this medium has the capacity to bring the means of production, the distribution channels and the audience together simultaneously. After that he appeared many more times on TV as an active participant in various television shows or as a character. His work 'Apparitions' (manifestations) is based on these broadcasts.

Bernhard Martin's works are humorous reflections on popular culture. In this exhibition he is showing his leather video beams (1998). The faces of well-known talk show presenters are 'projected' on screens next to the beams. By tacking down these images with needle and thread the faces appear to project from the canvass. This 3D illusion contrasts with the frozen portrait, causing the facial expressions to form strange grimaces.


only in german

TV Today

mit Otto Berchem, Candice Breitz, Peter Dombrowe, Daniel Pflumm, Matthieu Laurette, Bernhard Martin, Bjørn Melhus, Eddie D., Christelle Lheureux