reviews

Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith’s Cash from Chaos/Unicorns & Rainbows, 1994–97, eight-channel video projection, 458 minutes.

Alex Bag

Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith’s Cash from Chaos/Unicorns & Rainbows, 1994–97, eight-channel video projection, 458 minutes.

FROM AROUND ’94 THROUGH ’97, my friend Patterson Beckwith and I had consecutive public access shows on Manhattan Neighborhood Network, Cash from Chaos and then Unicorns & Rainbows. They aired on Tuesday nights at 2:30 AM. We liked the idea of producing a half hour of uninterrupted TV with a regular time slot and—because it was broadcast directly into people’s homes, right where TV is at its most comfortable and insidious—that what we were producing could bypass and transcend the art bubble. Pretty quickly, we set up a voice-mail number that we’d flash during the program; the messages we’d receive became a time-delayed crit, and we’d sometimes use them on future episodes. Actually, the phone was of major importance to us as a way of looping in reality. We made a lot of crank calls to 1-800 numbers, offering comments and suggestions to customer-service reps from major corporations. You know, politely pushing them off-script into the abyss of our orbit, asking Time Warner if they were watching us watching them, or waxing nostalgic about childhood scent associations to SC Johnson. We also reedited a lot of TV, dredging up and continually scanning for glitches in the matrix. Minor infractions like PiL refusing to lip-synch on American Bandstand or Crispin Glover tripping on David Letterman . . . But remember, these were the olden days of ’90s TV, when the spectacle could still offer a blip of surprise. It’s older, wiser, and fatter now. Toss it a tiny wrench and it just smiles, wolfs it down, and spits up a DUH, WINNING T-shirt, or maybe a mug.