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TELEVISION

Work of Art

“LIFE IS AN UNENDING CONTEST,” Frantz Fanon concluded in his famous book The Wretched of the Earth. What Fanon could not have predicted is how entertaining that contest would be for twenty-first-century spectators watching from the safe remove of their sofas—or, moreover, how the atomization of this mortal competition into its constituent parts would go on to fill so many hours of television programming. Among the reality-based television contests we have now witnessed in prime time are those involving vacation travel, matchmaking, cooking, corporate takeovers, fashion design, the leisure time of the rich, parental substitutions, and drug rehabilitation. It comes as little surprise, then, that Bravo finally got around to producing an hour-long competition in visual art with the aim, as the predictably operatic subtitle suggested, of discovering “the next great artist.” The question of why

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