(The collaboration of Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill under the pseudonym of MANUAL began ten years ago this spring. The following is taken from a talk MANUAL gave recently at Betty Moody Gallery in conjunction with their exhibition there titled Videology. They acquired their first video equipment in June, 1974. The present project was completed over a period of 16 months.)
In general, the work in the Videology project is about received images both in the literal sense of images received on a home television screen and, more importantly, in the same way that Gustav Flaubert collected received ideas for his famous Dictionary. That is to say, television as a transmission/ reception system communicates through the malleable terms of culturally shared and communally understood images.
More specifically. Videology is about the problems of representation and meaning, about tbe ways in which meaning in television is dependent upon the ambiguity of the individual IMAGE-SIGN. Each image (as in the individual photographs) has meaning potential. Each image holds the possibility of representing or evoking multiple meanings by calling up in our imagination other signs (images). Further, when several images (photographs) arc then put together they may activate this meaning potential in particular ways quite specific to an individual viewer.
The programmers of broadcast television intend to direct the viewer's consciousness toward consumption of certain calculated messages. Our intention, however, has not been to construct fixed
messages (as, say, in the manner of the rebus), but to deconstruct and expose the process that is at work in television while leaving the viewer maximum free-play for interpretation. It seems to us the common objects that make up the majority of our photographs are shown as familiar and "made strange" at the same time - at least, we hope that is the case. We want to remove television from the realm of the taken-for-g ranted.
The Videology project attempts to examine our culture as a whole as it is mediated by TV. Not only is our present everyday world mediated by television, so is our past. History, even "private" history, is absorbed into the present and commodified.
We make no distinctions here between high or popular culture, between profound or trivial, between "good" or "bad." At the level of signs, they are all equal. The derived meanings available from these images are both socially and individually constructed. But they come to us thoroughly structured by the medium or video (i.e.. television) - pre-screened as
The 120 photographs comprising Videology might be better called a "collection" rather Than a "series." Why such a large number? In order to give the semblance of a coherent cultural breadth, it seemed necessary to marshal as many and as heterogeneous a group of images as we thought could be pulled together in a single presentation.
We would like These photographs to be experienced as photographs, not as "stills" from television. They are about photography insofar as they do what photography generally does: they examine a part of our visible world, they freeze time, and they frame space. The space they isolate is plainly cultural; it makes no pretense of actually being natural. And yet, television has become "naturalized" (or normalized) in our collective consciousness.
We are not embracing video culture, simply turning our camera and projecting our imaginative understanding towards it.
Videology, strangely enough, owes a great debt to Flaubert's last work of fiction, Bouvard and Pecuchet.