David Joselit – Feedback: Television against Democracy

David Joselit

The MIT Press, ISBN 9780262101202, U.S.A., 2007, English
There are plenty of scientific facts which testify to the pervasiveness of television, and to the ease with which it affects our consciousness, creating what the author defines as the “image ecology”. He focuses on the postwar media art, especially the early video art, not scrutinizing every single major artist of that time, but constructing an analysis of the whole system (a “symbiotic” one he states). His research is mainly based in the U.S.A. and on the hardware revolution induced by cable TV black boxes, with their increasingly privatized information stream. The American consumer culture and its alienated members were then confronted with early video artists’ strategies. The author catalogues these into three main categories: the viral approach to dissemination, the “feedback” (as in the title) – a technical means and metaphor of counter-attacking TV hierarchy using its own tools – and avatar, as a strategy for inserting an alter ego into system to disrupt it from within. We could apply all these to the current advent of digital video for the masses through Youtube platforms, the instant production “YouTube ready” cameras and iPods. With a gigantic lack of critical approach as it was in early TV, the scenario is mutated and more complex than ever, but with familiar traits, calling artist and activist to action to create unexpected conceptual breaks in the most self-fertilizing medium. That’s why his last page “manifesto” is a precious one, injecting a viral activism against both the scaring US capital machine and the artists’ cliché.