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New Media Art Exhibit to Examine Mid-Century TV as Artistic Medium

An image of Richard Nixon created by artist Nam June Paik for broadcast on television, part of Emerson Urban Arts’ Vision of Television exhibit.

Emerson Urban Arts: Media Art Gallery will take a look at the development of broadcast television as an artistic medium from the 1950s to the late 1970s in its latest exhibit, Vision of Television: Early Experimental Artists’ TV Broadcasts, opening Thursday, November 15.

The exhibit is one of a handful of exhibits planned by the gallery’s late director and Emerson’s Henry and Lois Foster Chair in Contemporary Art, Joseph D. Ketner II. This research also culminated in Ketner’s most recent book, Witness to Phenomenon: Ground ZERO and the Development of New Media in Postwar European Art.

“We are pleased to bring one of Joe’s last exhibits to life and to honor his work around the early development of artists’ involvement with television broadcasts during its nascent stage,” said Rob Sabal, dean of the School of the Arts, who added that the exhibit also commemorates the 50th anniversary of landmark broadcasts by two public broadcasting stations: Black Gate Cologne by West German Broadcasting (WDR) and The Medium is the Medium by WGBH-Boston.

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, when TV was in its formative stage of program development, postwar artists became interested in the medium as a way to reach more people than through exhibition or installation.

This idealist “vision of television” is the foundation for understanding a period of experimental artists’ television programming in Europe and the United States that was first initiated by WDR and WGBH.

Broadcasts like Black Gate Cologne and The Medium is the Medium helped uncover a new world of postwar art and opened the door for many artists of this generation to gain access to broadcast networks to produce imaginative programming. Those artists included Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik, Otto Piene, Aldo Tambellini, and Stan VanDerBeek.

Vision of Television opens Thursday with a reception from 5:00-7:00 pm, and runs through Saturday, January 19. Emerson Urban Arts: Media Art Gallery, 25 Avery Street, is free and open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2:00-7:00 pm.

Research for the exhibit was sponsored by Gerda Henkel Stiftung, Düsseldorf.



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