TV Kids No More
In my opinion television is a normal part of life. In the 1980s, when I was still a child, Taiwan only had three official television stations. They would stop broadcasting at midnight and play a short national anthem film before shutting down. Half of my childhood was spent in front of the TV, and I would often see the national anthem being sung before I went to sleep. Around that time, the term “TV kid” appeared which was used to describe the spreading popularity of television among the new generation.
Similar to many products of an era, the TV kid generation will soon disappear, and this time it will be superseded by the “internet generation”. When I think back to the work I made from 2004 to 2007, I realize it was actually a kind of personal testimonial; a testament to the TV kid generation, its particular way of thinking and problems and the fact that it was soon to be wiped out. These works essentially discussed the legacy of this generation.
When I first started, I was very interested in everyday life and this was reflected in my work. Although the work was rather cold and too serious at this time (like Happy Space, 2002), after 2004 I started to turn towards jokes and banter to express myself. The jokes weren’t a strategy for making a statement it just happened that I started to include television-related subject matter in my work, and in my experience television was really funny (even if something is very serious, when it’s on television it looks very funny to me), and so jokes were inevitable.
After 2004, my video work included a three-part series called Endless Recalling. The subject of this series was a television soap opera and “feel-good purchases” and was related to sensational tricks commonly seen on television. The pieces Bad (a 2005 collaboration with Huang Yi-ru and Wang Jia-ming), Stars and Stripes (2004) and Dance (2006) all talked about MTV culture, identity and the process of colonization. In The Super Model Love (a 2005 collaboration with Zheng Shi-jun) Zheng Shi-jun and I crashed a performance by super model Lin Chih-ling and were consequently in a news story with her. At the scene, we were warned by security guards and asked to leave. The artwork was about television and idols. Everything (2006) used moving type similar to a news headline or movie preview. From beginning to end this film was about everything in television culture, especially the impressions that news and movie previews give us. Another series was The Fabled Shoots, which was inspired by shoot-out scenes from Hollywood movies. With these works I talked about the frightful imaginings and experiences of the media generation.
My everyday habits make me an out-and-out TV kid. I believe the time for the TV kid generation has already passed, since the internet will soon completely replace the experience of the television. Nowadays, many people don’t even watch TV but they can’t do without the internet. The way the internet transmits images has already created a new kind of media experience which frequently allows one person to be both the producer and user (like the very popular YouTube). This makes me think of the internet term “end user” which generally refers to an individual computer user. End users have gone from being relatively passive with no means of production, voice or participation to active creators of content. This is due to blogs, websites designed for groups or setups like YouTube. In contrast, nearly everyone of the TV generation was strictly an end user; TV kids could only receive information and could never make their own statements.
According to a 1999 American Academy of Pediatrics report, children two and younger should never watch television, and children a little older should have their viewing time limited or avoid television altogether. The reason is that most television programming is devoid of content or spreads a lot of misinformation, and furthermore image information will cause a child’s ability to imagine or reason to decline. These concerns compared with today’s internet experience can only be seen as a big fuss over nothing. TV kids are already something of the past, and today’s media environment has become much more complex and varied. These works of mine are like a summary; they summarize my experience watching TV, serve as a recollection of an era, and bid farewell to the TV kid generation.
Why must we “bid farewell”? This is a complicated question. As I said before, many researchers firmly believe that television is a hindrance to personal and intellectual development. Besides the warnings of those medical organizations, the French scholar Pierre Bourdien gives us another reason. He believes television presents an enormous danger to art, literature, science, philosophy, law and other forms of cultural production. According to Bourdien we should strive to expose the influence television has over our lives, and make everything clear so everyone can freely express their conscious points of view. In Bourdien’s opinion, television is a very bad and dangerous thing indeed! However, this is not necessarily the correct view, as many other researches have pointed out television’s positive contributions. Every time I watch television, I can’t avoid wondering what television—this part of my life I never had the opportunity to choose myself—really is. Is it what those published theories and medical reports say it is? Is it all those television stars that appear everyday? Does it come from that confusing world of high technology that I will never understand? Is watching television already passé? Television is inevitable yet distant in this way, and this not only encouraged me to consider its significance, but also once made me want to give it up (when I was in college, I once went a whole year without watching television). Therefore, at this time there are multiple reasons for “bidding farewell”. One reason is because of my excessive reliance on television for stimulation, another is it’s dubious intellectual value, and a third is my understanding of media in terms of history (from the standpoint of trends, television seems destined to disappear).
I still watch television until I fall asleep. When I wake up, the first thing I do is turn on the television. When I eat, I usually want to watch television, and if I could, I would put a television in the bathroom. In this way I am not much different than twenty years ago; I am still a TV kid. Television has occupied an extremely important part of my life, and even so, I am now using my artwork to create a memorial to this fading era.
However, in comparison, the television era seemed somewhat simpler than today.
回到一開始說起，我的創作一直對「日常生活」(daily living)充滿興趣，我早期的作品風格較為冷冽而嚴肅 (如2002年的《幸福空間》)，但是在2004年之後我卻開始轉往較為戲謔的態度去表達。然而戲謔並不是一種說話的策略，而是因為我的主題從這個時期開始都跟電視文化有關，而電視，在我的經驗上就是非常好笑的(我認為即使是很嚴肅的態度，放在電視裡看來都會很好笑)，於是戲謔自是必然。
2004年以後，我的錄像創作包括有「所以我們反覆呼喊」系列(Endless Recalling，2004-2005，共三件) ，它講述的主題是電視肥皂劇(Soap Opera)與情緒消費()，這是一種類型片「灑狗血」伎倆的的後遺症；「Bad」(2005，與黃怡儒、王嘉明共同發表)、「星條旗」(Stars & Stripes，2004)與「Dance」(2006)，它們講的是MTV文化、自我認同與殖民過程；「我愛林志玲愛我」(The Supermodel Love，2005，與鄭詩雋共同發表) ，內容是我與藝術家鄭詩雋親自破壞了名模林志玲的一個表演現場，並且參與了林志玲的當日新聞，我們當場遭到警衛驅離並遭到警告，這件作品講的是關於電視與偶像；「Everything」(2006)，運用了類似新聞頭條或者電影預告的字體運動，這支影片從頭到尾談論的是電視文化的整體，尤其是新聞與預告片手法給我的感受。另外就是2007年的「槍下非亡魂」系列，它們的靈感起源於電影中的槍戰場景，透過它們我談論媒體時代下關於恐懼的想像與感受。
從生活習性而言，我是個徹頭徹尾的「電視兒童」，而且我相信「電視兒童」已是一個老去的世代，網路即將全面取代電視的經驗。如今很多人是不看電視的，但是他們不能沒有網路。網路影像的傳遞模式造就新的媒體經驗(例如You Tube的風潮)，讓生產者與使用者兩種身分經常是同一人。這使我想起一個網路術語，「end-user」，末端使用者，泛稱個人電腦的用戶。末端使用者從一個相對被動的接受者，無法生產、發言或參與，到了如今因為部落格、交友網站與各類如You Tube這樣的架構，而具有積極的主動權。反觀在電視時代，幾乎所有人都是「最陽春的末端使用者」，電視兒童只接受訊息，從不發言。
根據美國小兒科醫學會(American Academy of Pediatric) 1999年的報告，二歲以下的兒童最好完全不看電視，年齡稍長的兒童也應儘量不接觸電視或是限制其時間，理由是電視大部份內容都很空洞，傳播很多不正確的資訊，圖像式的資訊也會讓兒童的推理力與想像力下降(註1)。這些擔憂相對於今日的網路經驗只能說是大驚小怪，電視兒童已經是個不可想像的狀態，媒體情境亦較過去更為複雜而多變。我的這些作品，就像是一個總結，它們是我在電視經驗上的總結，也同時企圖成為一個時代反思，用以「告別電視兒童年代」。
註1： New York Times，August 5. 1999。