Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith
Team gallery 83 Grand Street
March 29th – April 28th 2012
Reception on Thursday March 29th at 6:00PM
Team presents a collaborative installation by New York-based artists Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith, featuring their rarely shown public access show which ran between 1994 and 1997. The weekly cablecasts were twenty-nine-minute long and aired on Channel 34 at 2:30 a.m.on Wednesday nights. The bits I have seen of this work through EAI were spot-on brilliant, and greater access to the work should be considered a small triumph for (CA)TV as a creative medium.
Each episode of Cash from Chaos opens with Bag and Beckwith destroying the previous week’s program, housed temporarily on the predigital age’s VHS tape. The artists burned, melted, and smashed tapes — once even taking a cassette to a shooting range for use in target practice. This destructive act epitomizes the artists’ fast-paced, in-the-moment approach to the shows, which demanded that they provide twenty-nine minutes worth of new material each week. This time constraint forced them to act on quick impulses in developing each episode’s idea, rarely allowing the luxury of thorough consideration. The work is volatile and highly personal, and showcases the raw, unfiltered conceptual creativity of the two artists.
The show also acts as a document of a specific New York City, one both individual and totally foreign to the two artists. Some episodes follow them meeting with artists and friends or visiting galleries, giving the viewer a sense of Bag and Beckwith’s milieu. In others, they become tourists in their own city, using television as an excuse and enabler for activities they either would or could not otherwise take part in, such as a helicopter ride over Manhattan or a visit to a sheep farm. Their roles as “television producers” allowed them myriad opportunities, and always free-of-charge. As Bag explained in a 1996 interview, “people take you very seriously when you tell them that they or their business can be on TV.”
Cash from Chaos and Unicorns & Rainbows turn TV against itself, punk-rock satires of the most pervasive form of mass media. The artists, however, recognize their own complicity in both its consumption and production. In one segment, titled Cable Theft Today, Beckwith explains in detail how to steal cable, conceding the omnipresence and even necessity of television in contemporary American culture, while at the same time subverting the corporations and establishments responsible for it. At another point in the show, the two artists visit a fortune-teller, who gives a tarot reading of the show’s future: “I can feel that you guys are into questioning authority,” the psychic deftly intuits.
The total running length of the project, some 60 hours in duration, was edited down by Bag and Beckwith to twelve hours, stored on hour long DVDs fed onto twelve dedicated monitors. These Sony cubes are arranged somewhat haphazardly in a kitschy communal environment cobbled together from materials bought at various home decoration centers. Visitors can lounge on bean-bag chairs, swing from ceiling-mounted hammocks, or recline on shag carpeting, while choosing which monitor to watch – a white-cube approximation of channel surfing stoned in yr parents basement in the suburbs. Or hanging out in yr friends’ apartment during yr early 20s.