Luminant Point Arrays, cathode ray ghosting

Luminant Point Arrays

In contemporary art installations the television is a commonplace item, sometimes used more for its “scenic” value than for its symbolic potential. In ‘Luminant Point Arrays’ Stephan Tillmans chooses analogue TV itself as a field of research. This work is a photographic series that features the bright flash that occurs during the shutdown of the old CRT TV. The rapid suction of light that usually converges at the center of the screen is captured through photography. The instant of the shutdown expands in the space and in some soft, misty light planes, and becomes crystallized in pictures that can be observed and analyzed endlessly. To realize these pictures the artist has spent days with his TV, pressing the camera button and the remote control simultaneously. The choice of subject is based on a study of the relationship between concretion and abstraction in photography. But discovering the (surprising) beauty of the last gasps of the TV opens up further reflections. These pictures could be seen as an epic epitaph to analog TV, almost overwhelmed by the transition to the digital broadcasting. But they could also be a nostalgic ode to the aesthetic value (rather than functional value) that this medium has taken over the years. From Nam June Paik on, it has been essential as an icon linked to the video art of the ’60s. The TV, with its over-familiar lines and popular content, provided artists with an opportunity to experiment in new and alienating ways. By 2000 TV-art had been redesigned through the audio tracks of Carsten Nicolai in Telefunken (2000) and transformed into an interactive percussion performance via the Jazz Band of Braun Tube of Ei Wada (2006). But whatever its fate, the TV was a communication channel of almost universal impact. These frank and sensually sardonic pictures of its shutdown seem to warn of a ghost, cowering in something less impressive than the CRT, but equally enigmatic.

Chiara Ciociola