The Viewer’s Receptive Capacity

Still from "The Viewer's Receptive Capacity", 1978-78

The Viewer’s Receptive Capacity was made in collaboration with Gabrielle Bown, whom I had also worked with on Continuum. This tape was a development of the earlier work- more technically ambitious and with a greater emphasis on a direct application of some of the theories of communication and attempts at developing a specifically televisual language that we were interested in at the time.

Chris Meigh-Andrews’ scrutiny of the viewer’s receptive capacity takes these media conditions as the starting point to talk in the studio situation about the modes of production in two directions: to us the audience of the videotape and to the image of a woman who appears on an internally framed monitor and also standing in the studio but in another room. The recordings of her explanation of the technical and scientific purposes of television entertainment and news are immediately controlled by Meigh-Andrews. By playing the role a studio director who…overseas all elements of vision and sound, Meigh-Andrews introduces another personal level of commentary and agitation when he demands that she repeat and rehearse again and again in a tone that rather belongs to their personal relationship in real life than to the process necessary to produce the “live” effect of television.

The tape stretches the viewer’s patience to the limit not so much because of the media-within-media situation, but because of the two television “actors” to meet the basic requirements of the medium and deliver content ready for broadcasting. Like Vito Acconci’s refusal to accept the separation of production and display spaces, Meigh-Andrews here contests their split reality and argues with the woman on the monitor in real time. The struggle to maintain control over televisual production reverses the impression of real life, however, as the recorded material that creates the content of the video in return deals with the structure of television programmes. What is strengthened here in this conceptual loop, is how video can function as rupture and breakdown of television formats at the end of a chain of reception.

Yvonne Spielmann, “Video Between Television and Art: Interventions into Programme Flow and Standard Formats by British Video Artists”, Rewind: British Artist’s Video in the 1970’s & 1980’s, Sean Cubitt and Stephen Partridge, Eds, John Libbey Publishing, New Barnet, Herts, 2012.