FROM RECEIVER TO REMOTE CONTROL: THE TELEVISION SET
The New MuseumCurator: Mathew GellerExhibition design in collaborationwith Ken SaylorNew York City, 1990
While the purported aim of this exhibition was to explore the object nature of the evolution of the television set, as designers of the exhibition, we were much more interested in representing how broadcasting as a medium and television in particular transformed the family home from a site of production to a site of consumption. We saw television as bringing about the collapse of distance into communication, to paraphrase Leo Marx, as well as representing the extension into the modern period of specific US colonial ideas about ‘manifest destiny’—a right to claim ownership that extends ‘as far as the eye can see’. This bringing of the world into the home, while underway well before television appears, also marks the transformation of the home from a site of production to a site of display; consequently, the role of the wife and children within the home transforms as well.
In a series of 20 period rooms with appropriate television programming and several interactive projects, the exhibition traced the evolution of the meaning of television and its affects on the ‘social imaginary’: from the ‘50’s notions of ‘home theater’ and ‘easy living’ with labor saving appliances; to the ‘60’s notions of the television as reporting truth – from Civil War activism to the Vietnam War; to the ‘70’s proliferation of technologies – portable color TV and cable; to the ‘80’s notions of the television as having the potential for a return to production in the form of the computer monitor and the promise that implied.
A catalogue of this exhibition was published by the Whitney Museum in 1989.