04 March 2010

Book: Feedback: Television Against Democracy

David Joselit, "Feedback: Television Against Democracy" (MIT Press, 2007):


From the publisher's description: "American television embodies a paradox: it is a privately owned and operated public communications network that most citizens are unable to participate in except as passive specators. Television creates an image of community while preventing the formation of actual social ties because behind its simulated exchange of opinions lies a highly centralized corporate structure that is profoundly antidemocratic. In Feedback, David Joselit describes the privatized public sphere of television and recounts the tactics developed by artists and media activists in the 1960s and 1970s to break open its closed circuit. [...] These strategies, writes Joselit, remain valuable today in a world where the overlapping information circuits of television and the Internet offer different opportunities for democratic participation. In Feedback, Joselit analyzes such midcentury image-events using the procedures and categories of art history. The trope of figure/ground reversal, for instance, is used to assess acts of representation in a variety of media – including the medium of politics. In a televisual world, Joselit argues, where democracy is conducted through images, art history has the capacity to become a political science."

Endorsements: "Feedback is an incisive take on a period when art and life overlapped, and when intellectual activists regarded TV as an indispensable opponent – the number one medium which we had to hijack, or else die from the banality it radiated." (Andrew Ross, New York University)

"Feedback grips the reader as well with challenging analyses of image creation, proliferation, and circulation today. Drawing on a wild history that includes psychedelia, blaxploitation, video art, guerrilla TV, Nam June Paik, Hubert Humphrey, Lucille Ball, and Melvin Van Peebles, Joselit inspiringly entreats the reader to 'assess the image ecology ... and respond to it' and 'use images to build publics' now." (Maud Lavin, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)

David Joselit is now Carnegie Professor in the Department of the History of Art at Yale.

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