TV Casualty, ASX/Brad Feuerhelm, 2013.
Involuntary orgasms during the cleaning of automobiles. Studies reveal an increasing incidence of sexual climaxes among persons cleaning automobiles. In many cases the subject remained unaware of the discharge of semen across the polished paintwork and complained to his spouse about birds.1
So wrote J.G. Ballard in The Atrocity Exhibition. The chapter on Jacqueline Kennedy, oozing with a sort of abstract opprobrium, channels Ballard’s disquiet for the world of advertising, consumerism and images that illuminate – in black and greys and then all manner of saturated colour – from our TV screens.
JFK, Jacqueline, sex, television, assassination fetishes: these things are all in our lives somewhere. Who hasn’t watched TV and inspected the light bounce off walls; sound moving in and out of coherence. Thinking of Jaqueline. Watching TV. Masturbating. Ballard made sense of the assassination of Kennedy through sex.
As Raymond Williams suggests, presumably not thinking of fucking, an exploration of television is the division of television as technology and as cultural form. It is a technology, like all technologies, that sends us to sleep. If you’ve eaten too much, you’ll drift off and you’ll awake hungry again. This is the culture of television: enticement, gluttony, sleep.
This Epicureanism is a failing one because whatever hedonism is available from the box of bullshit is tempered with a pointless energy. We’re all too lazy to look so we watch, and Epicurus is the worst kind of self-centered materialist. Like TV? You’re all about personal pleasure. Remote control. Dinner on a tray; one’s spine arched in to an ungraceful crook.
We all touched the TV for that static buzz tingle. I remember the history programs. Black and white: the annals of the Twentieth century in monotone, and then in colour. Zapruder’s film. Doris Day vs. Jacqueline Kennedy.
This short essay was published in the book TV Casualty by Brad Feuerhelm/Archive of Modern Conflict, 2013. Design by Lamb & Sea.
1Ballard, J.G. (1970) The Atrocity Exhibition. London: Jonathan Cape.