Television first debuted in the USA as part of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair. For fair-goers, television was an exciting promise of “The World of Tomorrow” which they believed was at their doorstep. The start of World War II delayed its actual public launch into American life until the 1950s.
In Australia television first aired in 1956 and has, until the relatively recent advent of the internet and television streaming services, held an unchallenged place in people’s homes and lives as an avatar of entertainment and information. In many ways television democratised both these things by providing them free to anyone who owned or had access to a TV set.
From the time it entered our lives television has divided the community. It has had its champions, who saw it as a ubiquitous but powerful intermediate through which we learnt about the world; and its critics who saw it as an accelerant in the decay of society. While its defenders blithely pronounced it as art for the masses its critics have variously described it as the Idiot Box, the boob tube, the shit pump and the baby sitter among other colourful epithets.
However television’s place as an indispensable part of life, which it held for generations, has in the 21st century “World of Tomorrow” that eventuated at last lost its dominance for people’s imagination and time.
While Wollongong Art Gallery’s social historical exhibition The Box in the Corner takes a nostalgic look at television in Australia through its halcyon years from 1956 to 1999 the contemporary art exhibition The TV Show, drills down into a more complex story of television in its many and varied manifestations, aspects and mores. The artists’ draw on their own experiences to bring personal responses to not only the obvious tele visual image, but also to the social undercurrents that have always been a part of the television experience and bring into focus the changing dynamic and role of the viewer as an active participant.
I’d like to thank the exhibition curator Daniel Mudie Cunningham for his passionate approach to the subject matter and for developing an intriguing and affecting exhibition. I’d also like to thank the participating artists Liam Colgan, Sarah Contos, Amala Groom, Sara Morawetz, Liam O’Brien, Philjames,. JD Reforma and Giselle Stanborough for sharing their work and unique perspectives with us. We hope you enjoy the exhibition.