The global TV market represents around 1,220,000,000+ TV Households with at least one TV. The northern hemisphere continues to own the most TV sets per household unit. Russia, Europe and the US were the first TV populated regions between 1930s and 50s, followed in the next decade by Canada, South America, Australasia, China, Eastern Asia and finally Africa. TV is the global mechanism through which we are entertained and educated. It is a hugely powerful and popular medium which has embedded itself into our lives: often blamed for instigating the ills and faults of societies as much as their triumphs and achievements. It is impossible to imagine the world without TV and although we have the freedom to just switch it off we elect to turn it back on again day after day. In the half century or so since television broadcasting has been with us technological progress has occurred. The TVs of the 1930s were ‘mechanical’ systems of spinning discs reflecting synchronised electrical pulses providing ghostly transmissions. Analogue systems came with the development of more stable cathode-ray tubes whereby electrons agitate surfaces coated in phosphor to transmit signals. Analogue technology has been the established global technology throughout TV history – until very recently. With the evolution of digitisation, TV technology has converged with the “home computer”, cameras and telecommunications. The TV set is no longer the carrier of controlled set pieces – we can now scan across countries and time lines, interact with whatever when ever, actively feed into the technology as well extract from it. The quality of “picture” – colour, luminosity, dimensionality of digital is hyper-real compared to the grainy black and white images which our grandparents recall. But don’t be fooled – what we see and hear now is as “unreal”. The visual parallels to early photography and printing allowed analogue TV to be readily accepted as normal – It was only notation; radio with pictures. The new sets on the block also offer illusions: but their chroma key back drops layered with digitised images shift our sense of reality even further. Conscious that the information we receive influences our actions the more real our “eye witnessing of the event” is the more impact it has upon us. Seeing is believing or is it? No longer can we be sure. The massed analogue TVs in David Hall’s commissioned installation “End Piece…1001 TV sets” describes the current log jam for broadcasting and illustrates the massive task of shifting old technology to make way for the new. The reclining TV monitors which fill the massive abandoned industrial gallery space absent mindedly broadcast ‘repeats’ – dealing us a game of snap which emphasises programme fodder out put – most of which we wouldn’t chose to consume anyway. The viewer is confronted with both the mental and physical heat of broadcasting, the visual cacophany of 1001 pensioned off analogue TVs doomed to “NFR”. The plug will soon be pulled on analogue to be replaced by freshfaced, broad shouldered, sharp and efficient digital who promises to liberate us from national programmed TV controllers, or controlled TV programmers… and an infinite hotel in an interactive global village will appear with more services, higher quality and faster broadcasting signals, speedier downloading/ uploading.
Hidden amidst the massed monitors of “End Piece…” is David Hall’s “Stooky Bill TV” (1990). “Stooky”, produced as an unscheduled TV Interruption piece first shown on C4, presents an imaginary conversation between John Logi Baird and a ventriloqist’s dummy. Also showing in two other rooms in P3s vast industrial engineered gallery space are two of David Hall’s earlier installations: “Progressive Recession” (1974) consisting of 9 x CCTV cameras and monitors that sequentially displaces the viewer and “TV Interruptions” (1971 and 2006) an installation of 7 x TV pieces. When analogue transmission is finally turned off in London (26 April) there will be four days to experience the “….terminal audio hiss and visual sea of white noise.” But where do these synthetic carcasses end up? maybe as props in a beautifully crafted TV documentary about small third world children picking them over for a living.
“End Piece…1001 TV Sets” David Hall solo exhibition: 16 March – 22 April 2012 Venue: Ambika P3 Galleries – University of Westminster, 35 Marylebone Road, London NW1 5LS AND Journal of Art & Art Education RCA Society Royal College of Art Society Exhibition opening photos