Television Delivers People UP178

Richard Serra is primarily recognized for his minimalist sculptural work. His large-scale and site-specific steel installations are shown worldwide in public spaces and international museums. Less known and rarely screened are the films and videos he made between 1968 and 1979. After experimenting with 16mm short films, in the early 1970s Serra became fascinated by the potential of the new video technology and produced a few videotapes.
For Serra, video is a public communication device. Consequently, his engagement with the newly available technology led him inevitably to broadcast video to television. He was primarily interested in video art’s capacity to expose the manipulative format of television: “Rather than just use video to document my art activities or my psyche… what I tried to do is to point to television’s esthetic.”

The paradigmatic piece of Serra’s television critique is the video Television Delivers People, which he made with Carlota Fay Schoolman in 1973. A series of messages scroll on the screen, on an electric blue background, accompanied by a Muzak soundtrack. The first message is ‘The product of Television, Commercial Television, is the Audience’. Television, like advertising, has developed a strong set of strategies to control and manipulate its viewers. This includes the use of specific sounds, colors, content, and language.