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Nº1 – December 2018

Jaime Davidovich

Arturo / fito Rodríguez Bornaetxea – 11:42

https://vimeo.com/video/301589715

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Jaime Davidovich (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1936 – New York 2016) was a multidisciplinary artist. His work was especially ground breaking in as much as he transferred his artistic project onto television. 

Davidovich started out his career exhibiting his paintings in 1958. He first explored video art when the first portable video recording equipment was marketed in the late 1960s. On cable TV’s launch during the mid-1970s, Jaime Davidovich was one of the early artists to recognize its potentiality as a platform for art. In 1976, he contributed to the establishment of Cable SoHo. One year later, he founded Artist Television Network (A.T.N.), a non-profit organization aiming at exploring the artistic potentiality of “open” television and encouraging video art broadcasting. The organization produced television programs under the brand SoHo Television, a cable television project open to public access in Manhattan. Its schedule included video art, the first music video broadcast, as well as performances and interviews conducted with artists such as Laurie Anderson, John Cage and Richard Foreman, to mention but a few.

However, Davidovich is best known for his role in The Live! Show (1979 – 1984), a weekly program in the open public-access channel, which combined the formal aspects of television with avant-garde events taking place in New York during the 1970s. In addition, it included political satire and social subjects, delivering a very original type of artistic infiltration in the media. The program brought up one of the cleverest takes of the world of art over the television phenomenon; whereas Soho Television represented television’s take on artists, The Live! Show was a group of artists looking at television.

One of the early programs of The Live! Show, on December 28th 1979, is available now on YouTube. This fact perfectly closes the loop. On the one side, it speaks of the development and evolution of audiovisual media and their technological possibilities; at the same time, it adds a new dimension to a program like The Live! Show by delivering within a global, mainstream, screen a project that initially existed on the fringes of local television.

From our present-day perspective, the program has travelled through space and the mass media in a time-space capsule. It is now a living memory, giving an account of paramount audacity to gain access to the mass media, taking as a point of departure new creative approaches. Communication devices and policies have changed, but there is something that ultimately endures in substance, opening its way through historic, local and domain-specific circumstances. It (always) represents a new attempt to have one’s own voice, to encourage dissident views from the cultural domain, from one’s own management of time and contents.

Therefore, we believe that Jaime Davidovich’s project has an important and refined political significance. He may not have defined with the label “political artist”, and his work may not have been understood as “political art”, in terms of how this overused label has been typically conceptualized. We, in turn, reclaim Jaime Davidovich’s work, since he reveals a true commitment to  the society and technologies of his time, always keeping a productive tension between the artistic domain and the television phenomenon.