Godfather of British video art marks digital switchover with 1001 TV Sets

 

Are you ready for the digital switchover? 1001 TV Sets (End Piece) by the godfather of British video art David Hall, 75, fills a huge subterranean space under the University of Westminster with 1,001 televisions. They will be tuned to the five analogue stations – gradually their electronic signals will emit only white noise, first as BBC2 switches off on 4 April – followed by the rest of the channels on 18 April, during London's digital switchover.

The old-fashioned TV sets have been collected from people in the UK who are chucking them out to make way for the digital era. With screens facing upwards, the television sets are positioned on low scaffolding in the show.

"The sound of all channels blends together like a cacophony of audio," says Michael Maziere, the show's curator.

This is a timely reworking of Hall's major work 101 TV Sets, which was exhibited in 1975, in the groundbreaking Video Show at London's Serpentine Gallery – the first major international show of video art in the UK.

"In short, while video art got very popular on the back of the YBAs in the mid 1990s with artists such as Gillian Wearing, Steve McQueen, and Sam Taylor-Wood, it started as a proper practice in the late 1960s with artists like Hall, who was Britain's first video artist," says Maziere, whose idea it was to commission Hall's new piece.

"The UK came late into video art – the Tate only acquiring the US stars such as Bill Viola and ignoring the home grown and rather seminal works of London Video Arts and artists such as Hall, Steve Partridge and others."

Hall was awarded the first prize for sculpture at the Biennale de Paris in 1965. Soon he was using photography, film and video in his work. He was co-curator of the first video installations exhibition at the Tate in 1976.

His first works for television included quirky television interventions, which appeared on Scottish TV randomly in 1971 between TV shows. Most famous is the one in which the TV fills up with water and another of a burning television set, against a pastoral landscape. Seven of these early TV interventions will be exhibited in the show, along with his multi-screen interactive work, Progressive Recession (1974), which utilises nine cameras and nine monitors as "complex analogical mirrors".

"A lot of early video art history has not been properly recognised. It was not taken up by galleries because it couldn't be bought or sold like a painting. Sometimes, history has to correct itself. I hope this show is the start of celebrating early video art."

1001 TV Sets (End Piece), Ambika P3, London NW1 (www.p3exhibitions.com) 16 March to 19 April

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