Adventures of the Avant-Garde

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)
Dec 2, 2013 10:26PM

Jaime Davidovich is a conceptual, video and installation artist, who has long been invested in the potential of artist interventions in a wide cultural arena. Born in Argentina in 1936, Davidovich became hyper aware of the public spectacle of television in the early 1950s, when the first broadcast coincided with the presidency of Juan Domingo Perón, and the cult of personality around his charismatic wife Eva, or “Evita.” Davidovich moved to New York in 1963, and began to extend his own art making from abstract painting to other forms and contexts. His view that art is not a precious, rarified thing but rather of and for the people was conveyed in his use of humble materials (installations made entirely of adhesive tape) and his interest in entertainment and satire. 

The backdrop of New York City, an early hub for artists experimenting with video, nurtured Davidovich’s experiments with television, which was a perfect staging ground for his interventionist projects. Davidovich was a founding member of Cable Soho (1976) and president of the Artists’ Television Network (1978), both of which aimed to disseminate the work of contemporary artists and critics through cable broadcasting technology. His own cable access show, a weekly variety program called The Live! Show, aired on Manhattan Cable Television from 1979 until 1984. The Live! Show, which Davidovich hosted in the guise of his alter-ego Dr. Videovich, featured performances by and interviews with art world personalities, live phone-ins, and a home-shopping segment from which he sold his collection of TV-related kitsch.

Davidovich also made short videos that aped the format of television news special reports. In his hilarious satire Adventures of the Avant-Garde (1981), he plays the role of a naïve reporter who sets out to discover the true avant-garde.  This role enables Davidovich to demonstrate how difficult it is to define avant-gardism, which is relative to its context. As an outsider, Davidovich’s reporter doesn’t distinguish between so called art experts, people on the street, or museum guards in his quest. His inability to find an embodiment of avant-garde art that transcends mere hearsay also suggests that the avant-garde has been so successful in its escape from institutional borders that it is no longer discernable. Having dispersed into a broader public sphere, the “avant-garde” descriptor might just as well be applied to a television show.

This tape could be a manifesto of sorts for Davidovich, who was interested in the legacy of the Dadaists and especially their origin in the Zurich nightclub, Cabaret Voltaire, where they would engage their audiences in anarchic performances. The stimulation of a public stage, whether it be a cabaret or a variety television show, is central to Davidovich’s art making. Ian Wallace, writing in the catalog for “Museum of Television Culture” at Churner and Churner, observes: “Davidovich’s practice is defined by an ongoing attempt to pull away from specificity and, at the same time, toward democratic presentation, placing art directly into public space (in this case, directly into people’s homes) and achieving the diffusion of avant-garde experiences into everyday life.”

To view more of  Jaime Davidovich's works, email [email protected] to make an appointment in our free viewing room.

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)