Glow House Poster Text: Dave Dyment

I love to watch things on TV. When I first bought a video camera I pointed it out the window and sat on the sofa watching the passersby on my set for hours on end, in a way I would never just sit and look out the window. It’s this addictive quality that draws the ire of its detractors, even as they indulge in their own opiates of choice.

It’s television the appliance that appeals to me, not the programming, 90% of which is crap (a ratio on par with the visual arts, theatre, literature, music, film and most other things). I like that it’s a nightlight for the insomniac, company for pets, a warm glow left on low in the backroom when one is cleaning or working. A common comfort, like a porch light left on.

When art turns its attention to television it tends to be as a critique of the content, or at best an examination of the possibilities, but seldom a celebration of the qualities intrinsic to the ubiquitous box. Sound artists recognize the strong cultural resonance that a record player needle or speaker holds for its audience. Rarely are the properties inherent to television(s) mined for the same visceral memory effect.

Artists’ writings sometimes come closest. Laurie Anderson likens television to Heaven as a perfect little world that doesn't really need you. As a stand-alone, the metaphor holds up, but she nails it with the line that follows, and everything there is made of light. Tom Sherman, in his 1980 text "How To Watch Television" proposes leaning in close, with your face pressed up against the glass. It's beautiful up close. It’s rare that we think of televised images as made of light. We’re somewhat aware of the illusion and the frames per second but the glow often goes unnoticed, perhaps because it is inconspicuously projected onto us.

Kelly Mark sees the light, harnesses and amplifies it in a brilliant outdoor installation titled “Glowhouse” - a vacant home flickering with the blue light of thirty-five televisions, conspiratorially set to the same channel. The cartoon plutonium-like glow pulsing through the house, like the heartbeat of the home. Like a jack-o-lantern.

The building appears gutted, cast with light in a manner reminiscent of Rachel Whiteread’s concrete cast of an East London house. Mark’s work betters Whiteread as a public sculpture by being less intrusive, less monumental. It’s a late-night intervention situated on a residential street near the downtown core, waiting to be stumbled upon by drunks and dog walkers, for a discreet but sublime evening encounter.

A companion work, “Horror, Suspense, Romance, Porn, Kung-Fu”, records the glow of genre cinema reflected onto a wall. In exhibition a different genre is represented weekly for the duration of the show. Just as different types of music have rhythms and timbres specific to their styles, cinema genres have their own particular rhythms and hues. Westerns are browner, film-noir blacker. Thrillers flicker faster. Glowhouse also highlights these rhythms – during an action film, or commercial break or music video, the fast edits make it appear as though fireworks are going off inside the house.

Mark is often called a “working-class conceptualist” and, for all its physical beauty, “Glowhouse” is not incongruous with this assessment. A common working-class pastime is to come home from a hard day’s work and unwind in front of the television by watching others perform their job. We watch shows about cops, teachers, doctors, coroners. Newscasters and talk show hosts sit perched behind desks.

The upper classes once distinguished themselves by the culture they consumed and now resent sharing one with the great unwashed, perhaps explaining the condescending epithets boob tube and idiot box. Television is often blamed for our short attention spans, laziness and the learning difficulties of our children. For violence and deviant behaviour - nothing short of the breakdown of society. Mark sidesteps the pissing match and democratizes the medium by reducing it to its core element. By accentuating the light, Mark reminds us that television has merely replaced fire as center of the home - the glow around which we tell our stories.

Dave Dyment, 2005