Douglas Davis

The Austrian Tapes


Werk - The Austrian Tapes
Artist / Artist group
Douglas Davis
The Austrian Tapes
video, Analog video
Material / Technique
U-Matic, b/w, mono, original format: Open Reel Sony
Dimensions / Duration
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

“My attempt was and is to inject two-way metaphors – via live telecasts – into our thinking process. All the early two-way telecasts were structural invasions.” [1]

In his video »The Austrian Tapes«, Douglas Davis examines the medium of television. It was realized for a video symposium and the exhibition »Art as Living Ritual« curated by Horst Gerhard Haberl at the P.O.O.L Gallery in Graz. Davis knew from the outset that the work would be televised live by ORF. With this knowledge, he actively sought to interact with the audience, who were sitting at home in front of their TV sets. For this purpose, he divides the video into three parts, each lasting about five minutes. In each sequence, the audience is asked by the artist to perform a specific action. In »Handing«, it seems as though Davis is touching the TV’s matte screen on the inside with his hands. This effect is actually created by a pane of glass positioned in front of a camera. Davis appeals to the viewers to do the same. In »Facing«, he repeats this process with his cheeks and lips. Lastly, his chest and back are used in the »Backing« part.

In addition to »The Austrian Tapes«, he produced a series of similar videos – »The Florence Tapes« (1974) and »The Caracas Tapes« (1975) – all of which aimed to establish direct contact and exchange with the people in front of the televisions. They can be interpreted as an attempt to overcome the distance and passivity created by the medium.

[1] Interview with Douglas Davis by David Ross, in »Video Art: An Anthology«, 1976 (first published in »FLASH ART« , no. 54–55, May 1975), 33.

Author: Clara Runge