From The Soho News (October 29, 1980). — J.R.
What attracted me to sign up in advance for a symposium called “Telvision/Society/Art,” put on at the Kitchen and NYU last weekend, was the opportunity to see and hear some old friends, encounter some new people, and maybe even get some new ideas (about what I should be reading and seeing, if nothing else): a bargain for the $10 registration fee.
Presented by the Kitchen and the American Film Institute and organized by Ron Clark, a senior instructor at the Whitney Museum’s Independent Study Program, the three-day event inevitably threatened a few dead spots — particularly to a virtual videophobe like me, who largelt regards the medium as a kind of wicker basket holding a few magazines that I’m neither interested in reading nor quite ready to throw away. On the other hand, the fact that some of the invited panelists seemed to share the same bias made me suspect that I’d feel right at home.
The symposium got off to a somewhat inauspicious start wuth the presentation of a lumbering keynote paper entitled “Television Images, Codes and Messages” by Douglas Kellner, a teacher of philosophy at the university of Texas’s Austin campus.… Read more »
This was put together at Victoria’s instigation when both of us were employed in the Art History department at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010-2011 (probably during the latter portion). It hasn’t appeared elsewhere. — J.R.
VHFS: What medium is more modernist, television or film?
JR: For me, it’s fairly obvious that film (from, say, the Lumière brothers to Pedro Costa) is quintessentially modernist and television, from the live transmission of the 1950s to “reality TV,” is quintessentially postmodernist. One could find notable exceptions, of course, such as Ernie Kovacs’ highly modernist comic experiments in the 50s and (say) Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s and Quentin Tarantino’s appropriations of TV in their films, which I consider far more important than their appropriations of (or, rather, derivations from) Jean-Luc Godard.
For me, the parts of film history that matter the most are invariably the parts that counteract or refute the so-called “realism” of the medium (pace André Bazin) in a modernist direction, whereas I would argue that the televisual alienation of Fassbinder and Tarantino (among others) doesn’t even know sufficiently what realism is or could be or should be in order to counteract or refute it.
VHFS: Despite those exceptions, what makes film essentially modernist and television postmodernist?… Read more »