Images from the Past Tense (for Douglas Davis), 2014
In 1971 the video artist, Douglas Davis, created the first of his television pieces by placing a television, pointed at the wall and tuned to non-broadcast (static), on a pedestal a few inches from the wall. I found this piece, titled Images from the Present Tense, in Fragments for a New Art of the Seventies in the Athenaeum's artist book collection. The piece struck me the way that many Conceptual Art pieces do... that's so easy. But, this is more compelling than a Lawrence Wiener text piece. Like Turrell or Flavin, Davis attempts to activate the space. But, in this case the object itself, unlike a hole in a wall or a fluorescent tube, has so much content to it. I could imagine the subtle flicker activating the viewer's mind in a way quite different then a mundane light fixture. And the title itself suggests another important aspect of this piece, it's temporal nature. The static on the screen, and the related glow on the wall, being the byproduct of intercepted radio waves within the space.
So, I set out to re-imagine the piece not as a found object, but as a crafted object. Instead of heading to the thrift store to pick up an era appropriate television, I set out to make an image of the television using my own skill set and the few images of I could scavenge of the original. My intention was to make the craft of the piece part of its content, while dealing with notions of time, nostalgia, and obsolescence. Ultimately, a custom designed array of three-color LEDs mounted to the front side of the piece, create a simulation of that television glow, based only on my recollections of it from my childhood. Since, as you know, static on TV screens is almost extinct in our land. Details, such as the horizontal and vertical hold knobs, the handle, and the antenna became focal points for me. The inversion of front and back within the piece became very important to me, as I spent so much time making this thing the hard way and intended the front, the most active surface, to be obscured.