Documenta 6 Satellite Telecast, 1977
Betacam SP, PAL, 4/3, couleur, son
In 1977, on the occasion of the inauguration of Documenta 6, performances by Nam June Paik, Joseph Beuys and Douglas Davis were broadcast live on television in several countries.
Nam June Paik, assisted by Charlotte Moorman, replayed some of his most famous performances (notably TV-Bra and TV-Buddha) while Joseph Beuys directly addressed the spectator, facing the camera and presenting the main principles of his artistic approach: a broad conception of art, development of free teaching, promotion of direct democracy, etc.
While Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik went to Kassel during the event, Douglas Davis broadcast from Caracas. The principle of his performance entitled The Last Nine Minutes is simple, the artist bets that he can localise the spectator, wherever he is in the world, in nine minutes. The artist wanders for some time in a dark room, and then asks the spectator to help him to find him by placing his hands on his television set. Hands then appear in the foreground, as though placed on a second fictional screen. They brutally strike against the latter, indicating to the artist to approach the camera. Douglas Davis then localises the spectator, realising that he finds himself quite simply... on the other side of the camera, behind the screen of his television set.
Taking advantage of the massive live retransmission of their intervention on television, the three artists attempt, each in their own way, to break the "fourth wall". Joseph Beuys manages this by reappropriating certain codes specific to the medium that he's using: he directly addresses the whole audience in the classic style of a televised speech. For their part, Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman manage this twice: by alluding to acquaintances of theirs whom they greet during the live broadcast, as well as by way of mise en abyme, when Nam June Paik, piercing a sheet of paper that he previously placed on the front of a gutted television set, literally "explodes the screen". At the end of his performance, Douglas Davis will also attempt, humorously, to physically abolish the barrier of the screen: after a countdown, he throws himself against the camera as though breaking down a door. The program abruptly stops at this point.
Translated by Anna Knight