“there is inherent conflict between: commerce, information, entertainment.”
Richard Serra’s “Television Delivers People” (1973) is an eerie take on the consumerist goals of television as mass media. The pairing of subversive messages about the nature of television with a scrolling blue background and muzak mimics the nature of subliminal messages and is mesmerizing to the viewer. I found myself unable to tear my eyes away, even as I felt my eyes almost burning from the extreme royal blue screen and bold white text. After the screening concluded, I wanted to learn more about Richard Serra and his work. I was interested to see that he works in multiple artistic mediums, not just video/performance art as I expected. I also read on Wikipedia about the various avenues outside of the art world that he used to make a living at various points during his life, which I thought was relevant to our class discussion today about the Situationist manifesto and their doctrine that members not rely on art as a form of income. I cannot claim to know that this is why Serra worked outside the industry, and it is very possible that he did this simply out of financial necessity, but I found myself thinking about this aspect of the Situationist mindset and why this would be something they would advocate for. Although the idea of being able to support oneself through one’s craft and doing something you love is enticing, what is the danger art being motivated by consumerist goals? Can art enact change within this sphere? Can one profit from art while still pushing the societal boundaries of what is normal and dominant? Or are we just stuck then in a cycle of regurgitating corporate values, as the “end product” of mass media?