Critics’ Picks

View of “Your Content Will Return Shortly,” 2013.

View of “Your Content Will Return Shortly,” 2013.


“Your Content Will Return Shortly”

Franklin Street Works
41 Franklin Street
January 24–March 24, 2013

What has become of television, that ugly box that once sat in our living rooms, satiating our appetites for information and inanities with its one-way stream of content? This group show, including ten artists—Christopher DeLaurenti, Eric Gottesman, Jonathan Horowitz, Sophy Naess, Jeff Ostergren, Lucy Raven, Martha Rosler, Catherine Ross, Carmelle Safdie, Siebren Versteeg, and Emily Roz—asks us to reconsider the broadcast medium that was once almost entirely privatized and thoroughly centralized and yet pervades the American cultural landscape, a landscape now going through a period of enormous redefinition in light of burgeoning new technologies.

Lucy Raven’s video 4:3, 2008, shown on an old faux-wood-veneered box complete with its own easy chair, offers a succinct explanation of how the medium functions and profits from our passive consumption—or, more precisely, used to function and profit—set in scrolling white text on a black background. The piece began as PSA broadcast by a public access station in Tivoli, New York, at the advent of television’s shift from analog to digital. The rest of the featured artists deconstruct TV’s amusing facade, instantiating everything Raven elucidates by astutely manipulating content delivered via a medium—in most cases the TV itself—that remains more or less intact.

Take Catherine Ross’s video Trilling, 2006, which casts its critical eye on Three’s Company, capturing similar scenes of actors shot mainly in midframe and cropping them further so that only the performer’s midsection and hands are seen. Where they were once performing only secondary gestures, the hands now star in their own narrative-less drama, which unfolds from right to left as each shot scrolls steadily across the screen in concert with a fluttery trumpet score. The music responds directly to the hand movements, increasing or decreasing in pitch and pace with the gestures. Whatever silly, melodramatic appeal Three’s Company made to our emotions—and, by keeping us watching through commercial breaks, to our pocketbooks—is now simply appealing, even perhaps (in its own simple way) subversive.