Life and Death on Television: David Fagan’s Prelude to Nothing (2012) and Suspension (2011)
National College of Art and Design
(at time of presentation)
Slides of 'Life and Death on Television' (powerpoint)
Television has long been theorized as the infinite medium. Its never-ending stream of narratives incites endless consumption, conceptualized as flow—Raymond Williams’ term which acts as the cornerstone for television theory and analysis. In this way, television works as a medium of immortality: for example, when series end they nevertheless have a second life, or continued life, in syndicated re-runs and fan fiction. Television’s immortality can also be understood according to desire: Beverle Houston argues that television is structured by the “repetitive reformulation of desire,” likening televisual engagement to a process of nourishment and survival. Dublin-based artist David Fagan, however, disrupts this conventional understanding and notably interrogates the death of television in some of his most significant works, such as Prelude to Nothing (2012) and Suspension (2011). He focuses on the moments of ending that occur within the realm of broadcast, such as Europe’s final analogue broadcast signal in April 2012. With Fagan’s works as my objects of focus I seek to interrogate television’s relationship to life and death. Neither immortal nor dead, I argue that television ultimately functions in a comatose state—a state the viewer embodies when viewing television and a state the medium itself inhabits. Fagan’s works invite an inspection of the tension between immortality and death and allow for a critical investigation of the viewer’s own life and death in relation to television’s complicated immortality and finitude.