Remote Control – ICA

Poor exhibits are upsetting. As is writing the review. You get excited about organising yourself on a quiet Easter weekend, make the effort just to be disappointed. As annoying as flicking through the hundreds of channels on Sky television to find that there is really nothing to watch. That probably is the problem with the Remote Control exhibit. Television has indeed had an enormous impact on our culture but perhaps it is to vast to cram into two small galleries in the ICA.

Since the Internet hit and I embedded myself squarely in its development I have been looking for the next revolution. In the early part of this century I really thought it would be about digital television and convergence. It’s safe to say I was wrong the media world is diverging with new devices and the applications are being built specific to medium. Although I would still love to see fiction story telling cross platforms just like following a friend’s life story via twitter and Facebook on phone and email.

The Remote Control exhibit coincides with the end of analogue broadcasting in the UK ensuring the nation is completely digital. The exhibit It is really an excuse to dust down a few artistic installments rifting on the notion that the television kit is art itself or that content can be re-cut to be installation art.

In the upper galleries the art work are physical installations that were chosen to challenge the themes of politics, propaganda and identity. Here we found one piece that did engage me. Dusted down from 1988 was Adrian Piper’s video installation called Cornered. Everything in the piece is meticulously chosen including Piper’s appearance right down to her necklace. An odd number of chairs is placed to view the screen and as you sit down you are part of the installation itself. Watching Piper’s lecture on race identity, that she delivers with a lovely but intimidating half-smile. The 80’s production made me feel like I was watching Sesame Street. An American earnest eduction.

The lower gallery is taken up by a new installation by Berlin-based artist Simon Denny who provides a remnants of London’s analogue broadcasting hardware. It is always odd to see technology familiar to you set as art work. Along side this premature museum piece are featured films available on viewing stations but the sound didn’t work and I gave up. Which reminds me of how many bits of television kit resides in my own home waiting for a museum. Far to loved to be trashed. On reflection I may have liked to have seen video artist Fredericke Pezold piece. The BBC explains she only corresponds by fax and has named all her work by the same name. Completely unthinkable in this branded googled world.

Curator Matt Williams told the BBC. “We were aware of the analogue to digital switchover and we thought: ‘Why not?'”. Well Williams, we are all aware of the switchover and I would ask ‘why bother?’

Remote Control is at the ICA in London 3 April – 10 June 2012