“Ready to Shoot”

A furrow is being plowed in the sand, first parallel to the left edge of the film screen, then to the right, bottom, and top edges, until the picture frame appears doubled by the quadratic line on the beach. Jan Dibbets’s 16 mm 12 Hours Tide Object with Correction of Perspective, 1969, filmed on the coast of the Netherlands, brings together the central aspects of the “exhibition” with which the Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum went on the air on April 15, 1969: “Land Art,” an anthology of eight projects, among them Dennis Oppenheim’s Timetrack, Following the Timeborder Between Canada and USA, 1969, and Barry Flanagan’s A Hole in the Sea, 1969, was the first exhibition conceived for the medium of television. Instead of presenting standard reportage on contemporary art, it presented artistic projects in the medium of television; instead of the object status of art, it emphasized its processes, such as in the way Dibbets’s sand square (which, because of the perspectival distortion of the camera angle, was actually a trapezoid) eventually gets washed away by the waves. And instead of the idea of art as property, it pursued the hope that through television, art could enter into direct communication with a mass public—familiar topoi of the ’60s, a time of expanding and reconceptualizing the role of artists and art institutions.

“Ready to Shoot. Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum. videogalerie schum,” which has since traveled to the Casino Luxembourg and will subsequently tour to Porto, Paris, Norwich, and Seville, afforded a comprehensive look into the activities of the Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum (1968–70) and the videogalerie schum (1970–73), which occupied as advanced a place in the field of art as the early activities of Seth Siegelaub.

Curated by Ulrike Groos, Barbara Hess, and Ursula Wevers, who now runs the archive and who supplied a wealth of as yet unpublished documents, “Ready to Shoot” began with early TV pieces such as Konsumkunst-Kunstkonsum (Consumer Art–Art Consumption), 1968. These are still firmly rooted in the format of art-commentary segments for TV and serve as a foil for self-contained televisual interventions like Keith Arnatt’s Self Burial, 1969. The Fernsehgalerie’s productions “Land Art” and “Identifications” (1970) formed the centerpiece of the exhibition. These were accompanied by documentary photos, letters, publications, and technical equipment—materials that allow insight into the conditions and artistic context in which they were produced, as well as into the decision-making process that led to the founding of the videogalerie.

The comprehensive artistic and documentary materials presented in the exhibition and catalogue afford a new look at the attempts to redefine accepted roles for artists and for art in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Gerry Schum personified several roles himself—as a film and video pioneer, producer, catalyst, gallerist, etc.—while never giving up the role of the auteur, as art historian Beatrice von Bismarck notes in her catalogue essay. Unfortunately, this means that other participants, most notably Schum’s coproducer Ursula Wevers, were largely hidden from public view. “Ready to Shoot” succeeded in presenting a homage to one of the most enigmatic figures of the art scene of the late ’60s, even as it effected a “correction of perspective.”

Astrid Wege

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.