LuckyPDF TV, review by Catherine Spencer
Having recently relocated from a London postcode to distinctly more rural climes, I was intrigued by Peckham gallery Auto Italia South East’s latest project LuckyPDF TV, which has involved a collective of artists broadcasting live across the Internet at 5pm every Saturday for five weeks. As a geographically distant viewer, the work has provoked longing and nostalgia for the density of contemporary visual culture that London offers, while providing an irreverent, sometimes challenging, and often very funny deconstruction of that culture. Each episode, delivered with a distinctly low-fi graphic aesthetic, is a Frankenstein’s monster of recognisable tropes from television, digital media and creative practice. It’s fusion of post-pop and post-conceptual attitudes, and embrace of web technologies, could be said to fit Nicholas Bourriard’s theory of the Altermodern - apart from the fact that the Tate Triennial bearing Bourriard’s coinage is, however, precisely the kind of venture LuckyPDF TV would gleefully lampoon.
The series of broadcasts have seen artists reproduce and remix a range of media and artistic stereotypes, demonstrating by doing so how closely the two discourses have become intertwined, and leading to the question of how much they have ever really been distinct since the advent of mass-media communications. During each episode, members of the collective act out a range of personas and scenarios, including an upcoming internet artist whose project is, well, the internet (“it’s like watching television without thinking”), a studio band (which has never played together before) and a T.V. chef (who indulges in a spot of ‘metonymic cooking’ before being trussed up like a turkey by a female in bondage leathers). In this melange, nothing is spared; video art, performance, poetry readings, dance, happenings, countercultural protests and institutional critiques are all mocked using a format that is itself all these things. The continual flaunting of each instalment, rough and ready credentials - taking too long to cut between segments, presenters reading from scripts in clueless monotones, glimpses of the studio audience and producers hunched over laptops - places the emphasis on the processes of communication and information transmission.
The first episode establishes this general premise via series of gently parodic artist interviews. The subsequent episodes concentrate on specific broadcast genres, including a self-consciously highbrow production in the style of the South Bank Show, and a chat show presented by an Oprah-esque diva, dwelling on their particular characteristics and conducting a sustained critique of the dominant modes in which cultural production is analysed. The second episode features the inspired creation Jeremy Bailey, a media ‘personality’ who appears throughout the episode via a live laptop link-up (appearing to us from “inside” his computer, as he puts it). Bailey’s segments constitute an internet car-crash: he uses the lenses of the obnoxiously large sunglasses graphics partially obscuring his face to screen lolcat clips culled from YouTube, segments of films (“you could watch a whole movie on my face!”) and a scrolling banner of the words “I will make more artworks of less value faster”. All this while he monitors his followers on twitter and remixes a video of Kanye West to produce sounds that are distinctly painful. Like a budget Jeff Koons, Bailey flaunts his relationship with his girlfriend as much as his ability to churn out replicated artworks.
Elements such as Jeremy Bailey are easier to identify as parody than others; I started watching the interpretative dance section of the ‘highbrow’ episode, reminiscent of many a excruciatingly bad art/dance collaboration endured in the past, only to find myself strangely moved as the dancer responded to the disjointed lines of a kitchen-sink style drama delivered by a speaker in another part of the studio. At points such as this, it is difficult to decide the critical standpoint from which LuckyPDF TV is being delivered, is it all arch mockery, or does its parody allow for affect’ The episodes can be blatant in their lampooning of the culture industry, such as the overly keen leader of a Kansas arts collective who described Lady Sovereign’s appearance on her TV show dressed in a ‘giant booger’ costume as a ‘magical experience’ at others it feels distinctly celebratory of the potential represented by the internet for splicing and recalibrating the conventions of popular broadcasting. Even with the parody, there is an uneasy sense that the work is parodying parody, implying that as an option it has become too easy, and too widely adopted to retain a critical edge. Perhaps the main thing to result from LuckyPDF TV is the sense that this opposition (between sardonic deconstruction and serious engagement) is misleading, and that the two are always combined.
LuckyPDF TV is one of several instances of gallery spaces being used by artists as sites for media production and meditations of definitions of ‘old’ and ‘new’ media. These include The Last Newspaper at The New Museum and Charlie Woolley’s Radio Show at SPACE. Woolley invited a range of cultural practitioners to feature on his show, which ran for seven weeks, while the Last Newspaper sees artists ‘disassemble and recontextualise’ elements of the newspapers within the content of the medium’s current competition with other forms of communication. Like Lucky PDF TV, these shows reflect on our current ability, through social media, to make and share content, and to participate in a DIY approach to the production and dissemination of culture. For Lucky PDF TV, however, this recent turn in cultural commentary is itself one of the constituent elements in their rich patchwork of allusions and pastiches. Ultimately, this is a work that is so self-aware it hurts; it is also brilliantly humorous and inventive. It even managed to make me miss the Old Kent Road - but then, I can always access it via the web.
Auto Italia LIVE: Episode 2 from Auto Italia on Vimeo. Auto Italia LIVE: Episode 3 from Auto Italia on Vimeo. Auto Italia LIVE: Episode 4 from Auto Italia on Vimeo. Auto Italia LIVE: Episode 5 from Auto Italia on Vimeo.