\ Joshua Decter \ Lari Pittman \ David A. Ross \ Peter Schjeldahl \ Benjamin Weil \ Q&A \

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Space/Time Projections

I think that Nam June Paik was right when he said in 1974 that in the future TV Guide will be as thick as the Manhattan Yellow Pages. But I didn't think he really meant that it will be the Manhattan Yellow Pages. What we are now looking at is in fact a future where the telephone book becomes the guide to the content of all sorts of things in our culture, and where the Yellow Pages are already being transformed as a content guide of enormous importance. In the same year, actually in 1973, Paik made a collage for the benefit of an exhibition of American Art going to Stockholm, as part of the rapprochement between the U.S. and Sweden towards the end of the Vietnam War. It is called "American Collection for Stockholm" I believe. And Paik made a collage that he dedicated to Ray Johnson who at that time he called the great communication artist: truer words that probably have never been said. In this collage, Paik took a magazine advertisement from a 1945 Life Magazine, published at the end of World War II-- it was an advertisement which was aimed at the returning soldiers and their families, and its head line stated:

"How long will it be before all Americans have their own television sets?"

It was an interesting question to people who had just begun to think about television, and the idea of owning a television set seemed like an outrageously futuristic luxury. Nam June Paik added his own drawing and text saying,

"How long before every artist is its own television station?"

That was a very provocative question, especially at the early days of cable television, in which it seemed that this new video technology that I was involved with early on in my curatorial career was going to create a major change--- a new medium in which artists not only were going to create sculpture, engage aspects of real time and aspects of time and space organized in ways that were previously impossible, but would also offer artists an opportunity to create a direct link to the people outside of the art world, and to create networks that linked them together with similar communities, poets, writers and artists around the world who might share a use for a medium that had been developed as a mass medium.

Cable television was first understood to be a possible challenge to television as a particular kind of mass medium. But some twenty years later, we know that isn't the case; Cable television developed as a very classic model of the commercial exploitation of broadcast television, and even though Cable may offer 70 channels, the range of things that television can do is not truly increased by the development of this new technology. So video technology turned inward, and is not unusual or out of the question to understand today why video has become a main stream art form; indeed, it's rare to see a major exhibition in which video sculpture or video tapes do not have a significant place. Video no longer has the kind of radical cache that it had some 20 years ago. The reason for this is clear---that the promise of it was based on what was hoped to be an "economics of abundance," but it turned out to be the same economics of scarcity that govern the development of broadcast television.

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