BE TV FOR FREE
February 27th – March 4th
With work by Peer Bode, Matthew McElligott & Igor Vamos, Brian Springer, and Julie Zando
As part of Squeaky@x0
Squeaky Wheel’s founding in 1985/6 was not only an attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of Media Study Buffalo the year before, but also heralded an organization with an arguably different focus in the spirit of its time. Exhibition continued to be a vital part, but perhaps a greater ambition was its emphasis on both access and education. Video equipment – both cameras and post-production gear – remained prohibitively expensive even in the 80s. A joint ownership of the tools in the form of an organization was both effect and cause of a group that had come together in a spirit of community and activism.
The organizations founding also came at a critical time in the history of video art and its relationship to television. As founder of the Experimental Television Center, and long-time Squeaky Wheel friend Sherry Hocking, notes, “Video art evolved alongside the centralized one-way communications system of TV, then the dominant entertainment and information system. We believed the instruments of TV could be redefined, from tools of institutions of social and economic control into systems for creative activity – a means of self-determination within a two-way interactive communications structure.”1
However, this joint evolution was about to take separate paths. Besides the drop in state and national funding for the arts that effected many organizations – it is perhaps a small miracle that Squeaky, founded in the dawn of these cuts, survived at all – but a technological change as well. Erika Balsom locates the split of video art’s shared lineage with television – and with that, its journey into the white walls of the museum, with its economic and ideological implications – in the year 1990, with a moving image exhibition titled Passages de l’image at the Centre Georges Pompidou. As Balsom states:
“The location of Passages at the beginning of the 1990s initiates a decade that would be marked by an increasing spectacularization of the museum and new initiatives by major institutions to further integrate moving images into their collections and exhibitions. The tremendous institutional endorsement of the moving image at this time is inextricable from the widespread embrace of high-quality video projection that occurs at the turn of the decade. Projection weakened video’s link to television – an apparatus that is a piece of domestic furniture as much as an image support – and forged a link with cinema and its giganticism.”2
The four works collected this week, made between 1985 and 1989, evince spirits –community-based, focused on both celebrations and critiques of the industry of television and its habits – that would gradually change over the coming years. Brian Springer’s Be on TV for Free (1989) is a clip from a public access show Springer produced in San Francisco after his Buffalo tenure. The title is exclaimed and flashes on the screen along with a number asking its audience to call in. A mechanized mouth moves in time with the callers voices, allowing the audience to find embodiment on the screen, while also neutralizing their difference within the monolith. Peer Bode’s Animal Migrations (and why they don’t get lost) (1985) not only brings with it the history of the color flicker film and the found footage film, but also of channel flipping gone berserk, his images intermingling at a subliminal pace.
Julie Zando’s Hey Bud (1987) brings together close-ups from a fashion-shoot and footage from the suicide of public official Bud Dwyer, which he committed on live television. Zando tries to locate her own sensibilities within Bud’s public act: “I learned from you how to hate myself for an audience.”
Finally, placed in front of a couch, Matthew McElligott and Igor Vamos’s Matt and Igor’s 1st & Last Episode Mash-up (1988) mashes together episodes of the duo’s Axlegrease shows. Axlegrease is Squeaky Wheel’s public access television program. Renamed Artgrease in 2004, the program continues to this day – still on public access television, and now uploaded weekly onto Vimeo as well. McElligott and Vamos’s 45-minute long mash-up is sweet, goofy, boring, disturbing, and features a number of amazing pieces and performances: everything you would ever want from the idiot box on a late night after work. Made seven years after MTV’s first broadcast, its pace nowadays feels mostly languid, relaxed. Our perceptions have naturally changed with our technologies, and the works included here both showcase interests and are symptomatic of their times and processes, 30 years ago. – Ekrem Serdar
1 Miller Hocking, Sherry. “Squeaky Wheel at 20.” Squealer XX. Oct. 2006: p.9.
2 Balsom, Erika. Exhibiting Cinema in Contemporary Art. Amsterdam: Amsterdam U, 2013. p. 20.
Be On TV for Free
4 min, ¾” U-matic video, United States, 1989
This clip is from a public access TV show that Brian produced in San Francisco in 1989.
Animal Migrations (and why they don’t get lost)
12 min, ¾” U-matic video, USA, 1985
“This is the first of a set of pieces that involve combining a series of electronic video process recordings, musics, texts and appropriated materials. These multiple elements, simple and tricky grammars, trigger expanding electronic narratives. The trajectories and drags of multiple narratives color the electronics and visa a versa. The piece is the scene of many animal migrations unpacked as sliding tropes and grammars: diagrammatic sound image complexes, crawling texts on time query, circus performers, astronauts, psychologist fathers, texts on mathematical computer graphics woven with scenes of mid-Century artist monkeys a la Life magazine and painting machines… Oh my, o you, o them.” – P.B.
“Peer Bode’s Blind Fields (1985) and Animal Migrations (1985) use found footage, abstract images, music and text to extend image processing into new metaphors for the transformed and changing image. Bode’s style charts a refreshing change in the relationship of the image to sound and text. In his work, sound and image support and play with the meaning of the image rather illustrate it.” – John Hanhardt, 1987 Whitney Biennial Catalog
11 min, ¾” U-matic video, United States, 1987
“Hey Bud revolves around the suicide of Bud Dwyer, a government official who killed himself before a television audience. Zando compares the suicide to a kind of pornographic sex act that plays upon the tension created between exhibitionist and voyeur. It forces viewers to take either an empathetic position vis-a-vis the exhibitionist, or to act as voyeur through release of the repressed desire to see the forbidden face of Death. The piece attempts to understand the power gained through exhibitionism, and how that power is lost through death. Zando compares the suicide to the position of women who seek power through exhibitionism and exploitation, the price being death of the self.” – Video Data Bank
Matt & Igor 1st & Last Episode mash-up
Matthew McElligott & Igor Vamos
44 min, ¾” U-matic video on DVD, USA, 1988
Same night, same station, different location.
Featuring performances by Tony Conrad and Julie Zando, and work by Matt McElligott and Igor Vamos, including; ‘Bert Checks the Mail,’ naked guy crits video painting part 1, a helicopter descending slowly to prolonged howl, a yellow tinted, trippy piece, Igor screaming on the roof, Matt playing with the fifth wall (I love my TV set song), Science museum/Zoo/Niagara Falls, abstract fan morphing into white and yellow shapes, and naked guy crits video painting part 2.
Peer Bode (b. 1952, Rosenheim, Germany) is an artist, educator, and independent-media studio advocate. Bode is a second generation American video artist, his work first appearing in the mid 1970’s. He is associated with the New York, Owego and Alfred schools of independent media art. Bode is Professor of Video Arts and Co-Director/Co- Founder of the Institute for Electronic Arts at the School of Art and Design, NYSCC at Alfred University, Alfred, New York.
Working in film up until the early 1970s, Bode then moved into emerging electronic moving-image media. Peer Bode had been exposed to electronics by his father Harald Bode, pioneering developer of electronic musical instruments. Working as programs coordinator for the Experimental Television Center in Owego, New York, Peer Bode collaborated with numerous resident artists and engineers in creating a DIY community and artist project committed to “tool expansion” and “personal studio making.” Recognizing the imposed limits of industrial and consumer technology, Bode sought to externalize the “hidden coding and control structures” of the video signal. As a new media arts practitioner, Bode harnesses historical and emerging media technologies in a reflexive investigation that explores and presents electronic images and sounds in their historical, phenomenological and semiotic conditions. Bode’s work presents spaces, times and transitions that are giddy, excessive, autonomous and poetic, specifically through the synthesis of audio and video signals
Peer Bode’s work has been exhibited and collected worldwide, including Hallwalls, Squeaky Wheel, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Whitney Biennial, the Museum of Modern Art, ICA London, European Media Art Festival, Beijing Film Academy and National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo. He is represented in ”Surveying the First Decade, Video Art and Alternate Media in the United States”, Video Data Bank, Chicago, IL. Peer Bode is cited in the recent book “The Emergence of Video Processing Tools: Television Becoming Unglued”. Intellect Ltd. UK 2014. Bode has collaborated on numerous electronic tool building projects with video systems designer David Jones and artist Ralph Hocking. Peer Bode and Andrew Deutsch are founding members of the electro-acoustic “Carrier Band” with Pauline Oliveros, Stephen Vitiello and Rebekkah Palov. Their CDs are available on Deep Listening Publications and IEA and are distributed by forcedexposure.com. Peer Bode is the Director of the Harald Bode Archive.
Matthew McElligott is the author and illustrator of many books for children including the Mad Scientist Academy series, Even Aliens Need Snacks, Even Monsters Need Haircuts, and the Benjamin Franklinstein series. His books have been published around the world in many languages on five contintents. Recent awards include the 2012-13 Oregon Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award for The Lion’s Share and the 2012-13 South Dakota Prairie Bud Children’s Book Award for Even Monsters Need Haircuts.
While pursuing his undergraduate degree from Alfred University, Matt took a semester off to intern at Squeaky Wheel with his longtime friend Igor Vamos. After graduating from Alfred, he went on to graduate study at SUNY Buffalo in the Department of Media Study. Today, Matt teaches as a Professor of Graphic and Media Design at the Sage Colleges in Albany. He lives on a small farm in upstate New York with his wife and over a dozen chickens.
For more information, visit his website at: www.matthewmcelligott.com
Igor Vamos is a media artist and culturejammer living and working in New York. Vamos is well-known for his collaborative public art projects such as the Center For Land Use Interpretation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the increase and dissemination of knowledge about the nature of human interaction with the Earth. Currently, Vamos is teaching at Renslaaer Polytechnic Institute.
Julie Zando co-founded Squeaky Wheel and was its first Director. Zando’s media works have been exhibited worldwide, in venues including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Centre George Pompidou, Paris; and festivals in Rotterdam, Oberhausen, Berlin, London, Tokyo and Seoul, among many others. Zando is an attorney and lives in Easton, PA.