The present work features three gigantic banks of surveillance monitors, each composed of 144 porcelain plates printed with the SMPTE color bars in television test patterns. Building on the collective’s 1979 video piece Test Tube (a parodic yet prescient meditation on the collapse of popular and high culture through the mass media), Test Pattern employs the form of the television screen to comment on the highly stylized and mediatized nature of the culture industry, serving it up (so to speak) on a wall of plates. The piece also highlights, in mimicking the format of security monitors, the group’s interest in and investigation of the social and aesthetic forces of cultural panopticism. The initial impetus to create Test Pattern came from the exhibition venue itself, Spiral, in Tokyo, Japan. Established in 1985 by the Wacoal Corporation, Spiral is an arts center that includes exhibition spaces, a restaurant, a gallery shop, and a cutting-edge video production facility. General Idea was intrigued by the concept of a place where you can ‘look, shop, and eat,’ and thus produced a work that could participate in all three, while featuring the prevailing image of Japanese life, a video monitor.
General Idea was formed in 1969 by the Canadian artists AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal. They were amongst the first artists to implement media critique and queer theory in their work. For 25 years, they created a pioneering and singular body of work that addresses the intersection of art and commerce, the role of the artist and the museum, body politics, and the AIDS crisis.
Access the Audio Guide by Magalí Arriola.