activating the Real by the injection of Fiction
In summer 2015 for 3 months an entire TV channel staff, with its own directors, camera-men, editors, TV hosts, special guests, exits from the dark boxes and secluded spaces of regular TV studios and takes over the open spaces of the city.
The citizens are witnessing a peculiar process of inversion (or should we call it opening, extroversion, “aperture”?).
The TV channel literally mounts actual TV sets in the public domain, and arrays their full range of technical equipment. The cameras shoot (live) the shows of a regular TV station that has the real face of the city as a continuous backdrop.
Programs are happening in a wide variety of locations ranging from public plazas, to traffic intersections, out of the main institutions in the financial district, historical sites, city parks and gardens, shopping mall parking lots, public terraces, terrains vagues and courtyards of modernist superblocks.
Sometimes the channel staff recreates the settings of famous programs (the Gong-Show stage, the wall of cubes of Hollywood Squares, the curving wall of the Dating Game), in some other cases simple and more neutral public devices are installed, (a double auditorium for political debate, an ordered set of chairs for an audience, a long elevated platform for fashion catwalks or collective dining).
Whenever the program is over and the equips goes away, some pieces of filming equipment are left in place, operating. The recording never stops. The stage is free for spontaneous activities, available for individual appropriation.
In some places cameras are installed on selected spots with no other intervention on the place itself, simply the application of a witnessing eye, like a threatening CCTV presence.
This weird move surely recalled to us a lot of forms of nouvelle vagues into the moving pictures industries, in which the camera tries to get closer and closer to reality: the gallery of example is wide it ranges from the russian “man with the movie camera” the mechanical eye of Vertov in 1929, Italian Neorealism, or the French legacy of Godard or Truffaut, up to the Danish DOGMA-ensemble of the Nineties.
But when confronted with this point, during an interview in which the public press was trying to make sense of the reason of this almost situationist intervention on the city, one of the authors and creative directors of Imago Channel shifted the focus away from the high-end references of cinema’s history, and rather addressed aims of a much more political agenda.
Channel Imago is infiltrating and occupying public space because it is available. And it’s doing so convinced that even the sheer act of observation, of a witnessing presence, is able to modify reality.
But this shouldn’t mislead, surely the project deals with CCTV-like selective imposition of surveillance, that of course brings up all the freezing effects of shyness on the public, of intrusion on privacy etc.
Nevertheless: “One of our first inspirations comes from Franco Vaccari, its art piece at the Venice Biennale of 1972. The photo booth, the presence of an automatic mirror, has in itself a highly liberating potential, it’s a magnet of exhibitionism, an engine acting on that desire of protagonism and attention, everybody has in secret. It was a challenge but it worked, and it did so well it created a marvellous document, a map tracing the passage of life and time through pictures”.
Broadscast & Archive
Mr ZZZ speaks of an accessible web-archive, in which besides the regular broadcasting of the channel, all the filmed material is collected and tagged, and available in any sort of self-curated sequence.
The availability of public space in the word of Mr. ZZZ, seems to overwhelm the spatial condition of empty soils to be occupied; it’s instead more interested into the gradual devoiding of activity and interaction in the uses of that space by the citizens. A sort of draining of life and fantasy in the way people use the public domain, inhabit it or just cross it, seems to leave room for a potential boost. And that upgrade, in all its concreteness, may come from the virtual world of images.
From this perspective, the intention of the project sounds far from transforming the city into an all-encompassing urban-TV-set, but rather by sampling specific sites, the channel operates a selective superimposition of fiction onto the real. The agenda becomes so, that of an acupuncture of fiction onto the everyday scenery.
Fiction, spectacle, the virtual level of the broadcasted image, are squatting a space left free by reality, and doing so they become major agents of change transforming the public domain again into a territory of self-expression and encounter, an open stage for collective rites and individual action, a place of dialogue, negotiation and debate, and why not friction or even conflict.
“we believe that such an ecosystem of interaction and confrontation -the shift from oikos to polis- will simply be generated as an unconscious byproduct of the acupuncture of fiction into (within) the every day scenery”.
Through all this context and introductions the channel still appears to us as a hybrid creature, constantly swinging between two polarities: the event catalyst on one end, and a sort of voyeuristic knowledge project on the other. Mr ZZZ adds,
“in the society of spectacle, everything is worth being recorded”.
Paradoxically enough, Channel Imago thinks it will be the act of television in public space, to support and foster a collective dimension of re-appropriation of the public realm, in this sense recuperating the political in the everyday experience of the city.
City as a phalimpsest
Another key figure of Channel Imago project is played by the Palimpsest. The analogy with the palimpsest is actually a perfect fit for public space.
Ethimologically a Palimpsest is a manuscript page, either from a scroll or a book, that has been written, erased and then written again. Cicero’s de Republica, was hidden in the Vatican Library and was discovered by scratching away a note on the salms by Saint Augustine.
The palimpsest is surely a form of reuse, but it’s mostly an unaware form of memory. On the one hand it speaks of the time embedded into things (the duration and memory a site is able to carry on within itself), while on the other hand is a reference to the plain field, the white canvas that continuously and repeatedly hosts new writings, new actions, stories and meanings.
The palimpsest is also of course the word used in the TV industry to indicate the matrix of programs, a specific channel will broadcast. It’s the closest existing approximation to a TV channel identity card.
The reason for this use of the word, surely refers to the amount of corrections and erasure such a document is going to bear in its lifespan, but most radically it refers to its existence in time, its character of constant transformation, its crucial feature of being a grid that -in time- hosts continuous variations and rewriting.
By projecting these concepts on an urban scenario, what Channel Imago gains is not just a programmatic map of public spaces, a coloured Nolli’s map that could underline different activities taking place in different locations, but rather a device that overtly engages with the dimension of time.
A calendar that is open to curatorial moves as well as informal and spontaneous strategies of appropriation. A matrix highlighting events as well as suggesting potential room for freedom.
TV Timeline milestones
1. First television broadcast, from a room to another
2. Television broadcast between two different cities
3. The first TV program, regularly on-air, is in Nazi-Germany
4. Television is interrupted by World War II
5. TV-set owned by few, is a shared household-appliance
6. Man on the moon: first worldwide broadcast
7. Tv is a mass product
9 . Birth of the Reality TV Show, from dutch beginnings to the Big Brother.
10. Web Tv, Youtube (self-curated palimpsests)
CCTV & Telestreet
The project revisits and critically explores 2 already existing dimensions of contact between filming devices and the public domain: that of CCTV and TeleStreet.
Both are existing practices of exchange between the reality of facts and their recorded version into a broadcasted image.
Nevertheless these examples constitute the two opposing extreme polarities in the theme of filmed public space.
The Closed Circuit Tele-Vision is a passive system of surveillance, imposing the silent presence of a witnessing eye to sensitive areas that some interests require to be controlled.
The use of these cameras as a defensive tool for guarding public space from criminal acts, had no positive effect neither on security and prevention, nor on the common perception of the filmed locations. CCTV is a manifestation of power in the public sphere, something that underlines the condition of our actions being overlooked by some remote observer. Its first byproducts should be shyness and restraint.
TeleStreets are on the contrary a spontaneous phenomenon, in most cases they have no economic purpose, and often are produced by a freely arranged network of broadcasters.
These TV twin-version of the free-radio-stations of the 60’s and 70’s, during the analogic period of broadcasting were infiltrating in the gaps of signal that were left available by mainstream channels, occupying those frequences to transmit their independent contents.
Now, in the internet age, they often evolved into D.I.Y micro web-tvs. The street component of the name indicates the usual attitude to reportage, and filming outside the studio, aiming for a more direct contact to reality.
3 types of sets
1-Actual TV Studios ___ traveled out of the studio buildings and factories, are now infiltrating the public space like an acupuncture of fiction constellating the voids of the city map. Studios hosting classic TV Shows, talk shows and TV games, such as the Gong Show, the Dating Game, the Millionaire, The Hollywood Squares, they are now hosted by outdoor spots of the public realm.
A scatter-piece of television devices and fictional matter, such as “anchors, champions and challenger” is producing situations of extravagance and inversion, taking place with the city everyday scenario as a continuous backdrop.
2-Neutral public devices __ that can serve both as potential stages for TV programs, and at the same time offer facilities for collective use. This typology of sets includes tribunes for political debate and team games, open-air auditoriums for theater, table sports championships or cinema-projections, sound system equipped dance floors and stages, long elevated platforms for fashion catwalks or communal dinner parties. These type of generic urban devices is always associated with cameras, and recording equipment: any performance at any time (including silence and nothingness) is collected.
3-Sampled urban scenarios, dedicated to field recording. In some cases the TV-cameras are simply associated to standard places in the city, transforming the locations themselves (without further modifications either than the superimposition of Fiction) into ready-made sets. Sport pitches in a playground become the instant setting for the next Wimbledon tournament, the entrance of a metro station can be the stage for a stand-up comedian, a magic show under an obelisk…..
3 types of shows
The diversity of the stages and the variety of locations for the filming devices, automatically suggests the possibility of a diversity of shows and fictional outcomes.
Without any strict or direct association to specific categories of settings (i.e. as a completely independent and parallel system) three different types of shows are envisioned.
1) Actual TV Programs: organized by the channel, inserted in the urban palimpsest, therefore taking place in the city spaces, and open to public audience and participation.
2) Self-initiated performances: in which the public can use, re-interpret, adapt, squat, occupy, activate the different available settings and devices, being the script-writer of its own gestures and acts, and giving birth to the possibility of an endless stream of readymade performances, ranging from the talent-show, to open rehearsals, to a ubiquitous speaker’s corner.
3) Informal activities: field recording and the document of time. Like an open-ended CCTV, (an OCTV?) the channel records and keeps track of loose happenings, everyday distract movements of people and things, becoming an urban sampling system to document the time embedded in the city spaces. (…Automatic new-age backgrounds…)