W a l t e r z A l t e r
p o r t f o l i o

a r t i c l e s


Our Friend the Electron

Television as Anti-Retrograde


Hatley Martin Gallery Catalog 1987

The Artist Watches TV —But Not Like Anyone Else

“I am m the position of Louis Pasteur telling doctors that their greatest enemy was quite invisible and quite unrecognized by them. Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they ewe used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the ¦content" of a medium is tike the juicy piece of meet carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because ft a given another medium as “content". The content of a movie is a novel or a play or an opera. The effect of the movie form is not related to its program content. The "content" of writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print or of speech.”

erstanding Media- The Extensions of Man” 1961

If you think you know what television is and how it acts upon society, then video artist Walter Alter has a few ideas on the subject that are guaranteed to make you think again.

When Walter Alter watches TV. he doesn't do it like anyone else. He claims that "normal" television viewing is "like hitching up a team of horses to a modern automobile and heading out to the shopping mall at 4 miles per hour.

"Real TV watchers use the medium to make themselves smarter" says Walter. He goes on to show how television had to grow out of its infancy as a scarce commodity into a mature status as surplus. "It is only now that we can begin to utilize TV in a way completely independent of what the network programmers intend for us," he asserts. Furthermore, Walter insists that in spite of the economic, political, and social turmoil that we clearly perceive, forces are being brought into subtle play which can insure a world of equitable social forms and intellectual development. What row must be accomplished is to amplify the original methodologies of artistic perception linked to scientific inquiry that gave birth {during the Florentine Renaissance) to the institutions of modern civilization. However the advent of television during the most recent 35 years has had a mind-boggling effect on civilization that is unprecedented, and the way in which television has so far been used leaves the public inadequate to the task of citizenship in a world whose complexity is also unprecedented. Asks Walter. “How can you or I keep the total field picture in mind if we insist on interpreting important events as though they occur one at a time, like the pages of a book?!”

Walter watches TV on three or more sets at once and appears to be getting most of what is going on. "It took practice, but soon I was able to watch soap operas simultaneously, following each story line. You begin to realize that the important part is the multi-screen approach. It allows you to assimilate many limes more information than you think it possible. Normally, our peripheral visual field goes almost unused because of the habit of reading at the point of focus. The content of the programs becomes incidental to me because I need them on\y to develop the mental technique. But I see the development of an accelerated learning method that could empower us not to be overwhelmed by the rapid and simultaneous play of current events. In time, humans will unleash their intelligence to read pictures in ways similar to the way we now read printed words”.