I thought Chris Burden’s work that we watched on Monday night was very significant, especially his intent behind the commercials and media he created. Designed to interrupt the flow, hypnosis, or “spectacle” of television, his video art made powerful commentary on the messages and images that audiences are inundated with through t.v. advertisements and general mass media. Richard Serra’s “Television Delivers People” is also a great example of video art that seeks to tell truths about mass media. I really love the term “enlightened witness,” which means someone who is able to view or read something and is able to deconstruct the problematic messages, or make important connections that uncover the sort of violence that is perpetuated through the media. Phil Pataris’ “The Iraq Campaign” is a film that seeks to train viewers to become these types of viewers – viewers that recognize that nothing is neutral and there are important messages, practices, and ideas underlying even the most simple images we see in the media.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent Emmy Awards, and particularly Viola Davis’ acceptance speech. I believe part of the spectacle and intended hypnosis of the media, television and film particularly, is the creation of white aesthetic and a fantasy some audiences desire. Viola Davis’ win as the first black woman to win an Emmy for lead actress was a definite interruption to this fantasy, and I hope it is the start of continued insertions of POC into mostly white institutional spaces. Her use of the Harriet Tubman quote and her naming of other black women in the industry was very intentional and disruptive to the traditional acceptance speech. Overall, I really admire her use of her platform to further disrupt and reconstruct the idea of what is correct, desired, or possible on TV, and I think connections can be made between her speech/win and the idea of being an enlightened witness and participator in the institution of the media.

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2 responses »

  1. katyschaefe says:

    Phil Pataris’ work was very successful and did bring to light many of the veiled racist, or at least biased, tricks that the new media in particular use to push a particular agenda.It is interesting to think about what that agenda might be. In some cases it might be nationalism or a fear tactic to promote a certain political party, but in most cases I have noticed that it is a capitalist agenda at play.

  2. doriebailey says:

    I think award shows in general are usually places where non-dominant ideals and heavily-ingrained social and cultural norms–centered around predominantly white, heterosexual, affluent, males–often make themselves known, particularly as of late. When I think of the Oscars, for example, this past year’s disastrous list of essentially all white, all male nominees. It was referenced multiple times within the award show itself, particularly referenced through comedic bits made by the host, or nominees. In fact, it seems that self-referential Hollywood-problem jokes are almost expected from the hosts these days.

    I think the role of comedy within the Hollywood sphere is where most of the social and political changes stem from–because joking about serious issues makes them more accessible to the masses, and also allows for the industry’s complicit passivity (when it comes to changing the long-standing and highly publicized problems within the industry, such as lack of diversity in representation, male-dominated everything, etc.) to be addressed without completely alienating those making the fuss from the rest of Hollywood. It is very interesting to see how celebrities, media creators, and those rooted deeply within the Hollywood system all endorse and support different causes, because it makes you question how political, business, and personal interests affect their decisions to take a stand. I applaud Viola Davis for using her platform for good, and hope to see more of the genuine and honest ways in which Hollywood works towards fixing their many and deeply-rooted issues.

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