October 14 – November 29, 1998
Much has been written concerning the influence of Hollywood on and within the art world. As the focus of the art world extends an ever increasingly critical eye to Los Angeles, mass media — the city’s most lucrative and visible export — inversely expands its influence. The mass production of images and information is culturally charged, not only within this city but on television screens around the world. Olav Westphalen and Peter Friedl teamed up to examine and reinterpret the relationship between television, mass media, and art in a humorous and provocative installation entitled Gummi TV.
The exhibition Gummi TV was preceded by a week-long residency in May. During their residency, Friedl and Westphalen researched and developed components of the installation Gummi TV, particularly in the areas of video and design. The elements used to stage Project Presentation: Gummi TV, which included sculptural elements, diagrammatic drawings and video, were displayed at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions for the weekend of 9 May 1998.
The expanded scope of this project reflects the curatorial shift at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions toward research-oriented projects. It introduces the organization’s interest in a broadened perspective on the flexibility of exhibition programming, with the idea that the research itself can constitute a show.
For the installation in October 1998, the artists constructed an installation comprised of vivid color, painted walls, bright foam cushions in primary colors, studio lights, an inviting sound stage, and a full complement of audio and visual recording equipment that will together emphasize beauty, playfulness, and accessibility. As a sculptural installation, Gummi TV functioned as a lo-fi yet fully operating production studio to which viewers had access by appointment. In exchange for viewers’s free access to a camera and recording and editing equipment, the artists required only that viewers provide them with one copy of the finished product.
Friedl and Westphalen saw Gummi TV used as a site for on-camera interviews, discussions, and performance events. It was hard to predict what visitors would see when they visited the gallery, as they were lucky enough to catch any manner of live event being taped or edited when coming to view the large-scale sculptural installation. Naturally, then, through their actions viewers themselves became part of what is on display.
Implicit in this project is the idea of “studio” as a metaphor for “workshop.” The installation addressed the influence of television aesthetics on studio art practices and the relationship between an artist’s studio and a television studio, as both are a site for the production of images and information.
This installation, in its capacity and role as a production studio, has resulted in an archive of independently-produced video tapes, somewhat like Paper Tiger Television or the Video Data Bank. The difference is that rather than being subject to carefully determined curatorial mandates, this archive includes whatever is contributed to it via the use of the equipment in the artists’s installation. The archive is maintained by the artists and will be known as “Gummi TV.” Starting with this project at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, “Gummi TV” the archive will develop into an ever-growing video library of independent tapes produced via Gummi TV the installation, which is expected to travel.
The installation reflects the artists’ shared interest in the conventions of humor. One of Westphalen’s former day jobs was writing stand-up comedy for German television’s Gottschalks Hausparty, and much of his art work draws on this experience. Friedl recently mounted an exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels that invited viewers to don cartoon-like animal costumes as they meandered around the gallery. Together, these artists promise to bring a light touch to a serious exploration of art’s periodic infatuation with television.
With its residency, subsequent interactive installation, and promise of an ever-growing element that can be re-configured and re-presented with great flexibility, the expanded scope of this project reflects the curatorial shift at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions toward research-oriented projects and introduces the organization’s interest in a broadened perspective on the flexibility of exhibition programming to include performance, video, and other media not traditionally considered “exhibition friendly.”
Special support for this project came from the Institut fŸr Auslandsbeziehungen in Germany, the Austrian Bundeskanzleramt, the Austrian Cultural Institute, and the Villa Aurora Foundation for European-American Relations.