A Matter of Time by Richard Serra
I am fortunate in that I live in an interesting place.
As I look out of my living room window, I can watch the Today Show and Al Roker, being made live from Rockefeller Center.
As I walk into the bedroom, I can look down on the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art. This month it is dominated by the Richard Serra retrospective.
Television is the most powerful medium in the world. We collectively spend almost as much time watching television as we do sleeping, or living. More people likely will watch the “Today Show” in one hour than will pass through the MOMA in a month… or a year.
So what we do with it is critically important to who we are.
If we took all the art in the museum’s collection and piled it in the sculpture garden, it would probably not reach my window – even including the massive Serra work. If we took all the TV in the NBC library and piled it up in Rockefeller Center Plaza, it would stand 83,300 feet in the air, or about 15 miles high. (Assuming the earlier works are on 2″, then moving to 1″, then u-matic, then beta).
That is about 100 times the height of the NBC building in Rockefeller Center, or the size of 4 Mount Everests, piled on one another. No matter how you look at it, it is a titanic amount of television.
This is a good comparison because both NBC and MoMA began at almost the same time, just a block apart.
Buried in the MoMA pile we find Picassos and Jackson Pollocks and Modiglianis and Rauschenbergs and Giacomettis… works that have both been the hallmark of the 20th Century and have the power to move and express at the same time. Awesome giants.
In the NBC pile we find Lauers and Courics and Huntleys and Brinkleys and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Compare the piles – the alpha and the omega of our generation.
The difference is inherent in whose hands the tools of creation lie.
When Jackson Pollock or Picasso picked up a brush, they connected their passion directly with the canvass. Like it or hate it, it is a poweful instrument.
When a professional cameraman picks up a camera, he may be an excellent craftsman; but he is carrying out the work.. and the vision.. of others. There is no passion. There is, to be sure, a passion to do a good job, or even a great job; but this is vastly different from the passion to express one’s own emotions through the medium.
To site an example mentioned here yesterday, when Jim Sturges pickes up a camera to film his 8 children, there is a powerful and visceral connection between Sturges and his children and the fact that they are alone and together at home. He is just starting, but if he keeps at it, keeps honing his craft, he will be able to convey through the medium an emotion that simply will not be there even if Katie and the best camera crew in the world showed up. It is somthing different.
As we start to empower people with the technology and the tools of video making and television, we have the potential to start to create something very different with this, our most powerful means of communication and expression.
We can, for the first time, take the medium, which has traditionally been so cold and distant, and infuse it with passion. This does not mean that we capture a woman crying because her husband has been killed in Iraq. It is not the passion of the subject; rather it is the passion of the maker.
The ability to communicate passion is what makes Picasso or Pollock or Dine or Motherwell so powerful. They do it through paint on canvass. Directly.
Soon, we will be able to do it through images on a screen.
Think of the potential.
Think of what television could be.