“Imagine what it would be like to be twenty and see this exhibition?”
I was asked that question halfway through viewing 000000, and it’s the right question to ask. Largely made up of a variety of half-functioning T.V. sets and computer monitors that sputter static, 000000 firmly demonstrates the fleeting nature that sharpens the cutting edge of technology. This edge divides generations, keeping the aging one step behind the youth who sigh at their parents’ inability to operate an I-phone. As I am over the age of 20, the entire show had a nostalgic air to it. I remembered playing old MS DOS games on the various malfunctioning computer screens and that old frustration anyone would remember who ever wrestled with T.V. bunny ears to get a clear picture. For those under the age of twenty, maybe they looked at the static and malfunctioning T.V. sets and thought the entire thing was an elaborate animation or something they once heard their older siblings complain about. Or, maybe they understood it, but they realized with some relief that they never had to live through it like having to live through dial-up Internet.
I can still hear that horrible screech of ‘dialing-in.’
Found object aesthetics traces its roots back to Duchamp and his infamous Fountain. What that work asked when it debuted was a series of questions about the art object and how its constitution was established on authenticity, authorship, and context. In short, it aggressively brought to light the question, “what is a work of art?” And while this question still raises itself today, and proves to agitate a variety of conversations, from a critical-theory standpoint it’s not a very fertile ground to dig into.
Given the various aesthetic attacks on the establishment of art that took place during the 1960s and 1970s and their resulting diversification of art wherein anything went, we get it; anything and everything can be a work of art. Somewhere between Vito Acconci’s Seed Bed and Jeff Koons’s Puppy the act of asking that question become routine and institutionalized. At that point, why keep asking it?
How 000000 succeeds in this is by not asking that question. The show doesn’t even pretend to worry about it at all. It rightfully assumes that we, the viewing public, are over it. We got it. Yes, old mass produced T.V.’s can be works of art. Thankfully, the show doesn’t suppose we need that history lesson. Nor does it pretend to be avant-garde in some tired and overrun method.
Instead, for those of us who remember the dials and knobs of 1980s technology, the works trigger various memories about or around those objects. As for those who see them as a relic of the past, they need to remember that if this exhibition was held in five or more years, with updated/outdated technology, they would be where I am now asking or being asked that same question, “imagine what it would be like to be twenty and see this exhibition?”
Posted 19th March 2015 by Arnold, H.C.