January 12, 2005

Nature On The Screen


The subject of TV seems to be jumping out at me lately.

First, I happened to pick up of a copy of Middle Mind by Curtis Wright White.  Wright believes people preoccupy themselves with television, in spite how boring it is, for fear of falling out of sync with the dominant reality.  He also believes people defer to entertainment product because they lack the confidence to generate their own acts of creativity.

After that, the tsunami hit, requiring me to contend with cable news coverage of the event. 

Then, last Saturday, I was glancing at the front page of the LA Times Business section, and was really struck by the image above.

Finally, in a post a few days ago, I invited comments on an image published in a NYTimes photographic round-up of 2004.  The picture shows George Bush in a video displayed in a hallway at the Republican Convention.  Probably because of many negative associations I have toward TV, I didn’t consider the closed circuit presentation as having any connection with “over the air” broadcasting.  One of the comments, however, from Victor, had to do with Bush seeming like a character on TV. 

If analyzing an image is like excavation, this LA Times photo just seems bottomless.  What is going on between this couple?  Why are they sitting on the floor?  Who is this girl on the screen?  Why does everything, besides the TV, seem so monochrome?  What does it mean that all the framed images, besides the TV, are “cut off?”  What does the image have to say about television and preoccupation, or the supression of personal creativity?

Although I was interested in the picture, nothing about the actual article seemed that remarkable.  The headline “Blurred Reception for HDTV” was about how more people were purchasing televisions with enhanced display capability rather than the more expensive, higher resolution High Definition TV’s.  The caption, however, had some good data in it.  It read: 

NEW PURCHASE: Gera and Michael Thai watch a movie on their 42-inch enhanced-definition TV in their Glendale home.

Of course, any time you read into a photo, you’re going to bring your own biases.  In this case, because I basically share the same opinions about TV as Curtis White does, I admit, I was actually looking for evidence.  And, I wasn’t disappointed.

I saw the nature on the screen as more vibrant than the real thing.  With an image that you, you could brick up windows.

I saw the couple’s close proximity to the TV as quite intimate.  (The article says optimal view distance for enhanced definition TV is 10 feet.)  Because the woman on the TV appears to be wearing a kimono and carrying a sword, connoting a zen or martial art practice, I saw the couple, sitting cross-legged, relating to the TV in a spiritual way.  (The fact that they are on such a low plane relative to the TV even suggests dependence or cult-like subservience.)

In terms of the couple, however, there seems to be a short circuit.  The device comes between the couple, with the husband transfixed and the wife wife trying to regain control of things.  The “other” woman has all the power, however.  Embodying the full menu of primal instincts (sex, violence or sport), this little figure seems to have no trouble competing with “the other” reality.

(image: Beatrice De Gea in LATimes)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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