Producer Anna Ridley; Fields & Frames Productions; Executive Producer Jane Rigby
This work is part of the rewind archive.
Duration: 4m 3s
Year: 1989Original formats:
1" SMPTE Type CMedia types:
Broadcast: March 1990 Channel 4 TV
Funding source: Channel 4 TV
First exhibited: Third Eye Centre, Glasgow June 9-24, 1990. Exhibition Curated by Stephen Partridge
Technical details: Made using a replica of John Logie Baird's original equipment a 30-line vertical mechanical scanner developed by Fields & Frames Productions Ltd
Commisioned by Fields & Frames Productions for Channel 4 TV as part of th TV Interventions Project.
“John Logie Baird invented television. He had worked in isolation for two years, partly because he could afford no help, and partly because he was terrified that his invention would be stolen. His only assistant was a ventriloquist’s dummy called Stooky Bill. Bill spent many hours under the intense light in front of various machines which were built from the cheapest materials. Massive cardboard discs embedded with sprirals of glued lenses were spun to the point of destruction – glass spraying all over the room. Thousands of volts of electricity were generated through coupling hundreds of batteries – electrocution was a distinct possibility. It was a very dangerous time for both of them. Then suddenly, one day in early October 1925, success. Baird transmitted the first ever recognisable TV image across his attic room. The image was of Stooky Bill. It was a great day for both of them….John Logie Baird, father of the most powerful medium ever, never received proper acclaim. Stooky Bill has avenged him ever since. TV belongs to Stooky Bill.The opaque. The transparent. The machine. The screen. The Fact as Fiction. Fiction as Fact. First TV, first Interruption, first illusion. Dummy illusion, double illusion, the grand illusion. Dummy TV.”
– David Hall, from the catalogue TV Interventions, editor Stephen Partridge, Fields & Frames Productions ltd, 1990, Glasgow. ISBN 0 9516280 0 3
Stooky Bill TV
Around the same time in Britain, David Hall, an experimental film maker who founded the first department for video art in the UK at Maidstone College of Art, made a series for the BBC entitled ‘7 TV Pieces’. This series consisted of short black and white films, each of which playfully deconstructed the illusory space of the tv image whilst subverting the expectations of the television viewer. Some years later, Hall produced another work for the BBC, entitled ‘This is a Television Receiver’, in which the BBC’s most famous news anchor of the day read a technical description of what a television is and how it works. This short reading was repeatedly retaped by shooting the screen image, until both image and sound degraded to a point of almost total abstraction. Again in the late eighties, Hall was commissioned to make a work for television and on this occasion he reconstructed the first experimental tv transmission of the pioneer engineer John Logie Baird. Baird’s version of television was never commercially developed, and Hall’s work thus functions both as an archeological account of the early years of the medium and as critique of the linear history of technological development.
Extract from – ‘Exploding. Plastic & Inevitable’, Jeremy Welsh, web 3.02.02 – Written for the exhibition “Video Works” at Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, 2002.