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Paper Tiger in the Box, and in 1991

Wed, Oct 10, 2007
Paper Tiger Television, 1991
Paper Tiger Television at Wexner Center, 1991

When we decided to show Paper Tiger Reads Paper Tiger Television in The Box this October, we weren't remembering that it was sixteen years ago this month that PTTV's spectacular Dream House installation opened in Gallery A, where it would remain—a continuous project altered daily, so to speak—into January 1992. Our invitation to Paper Tiger to take over a gallery came about directly as a result of the Wexner Center Foundation the previous year making the remarkable gesture of providing us with funds for annual Residency Awards; Paper Tiger was the first such recipient in the media arts department; in exhibitions, the recipient was Terry Allen, and in performing arts, Twyla Tharp. In choosing a group rather than an individual artist for this honor, the media arts department was trying to acknowledge the idea of collective endeavor, a production method embedded within an overarching philosophy of how a person's time on earth ought to be shared and expended. In the introduction to ROAR!: The Paper Tiger Guide to Video Activism, the catalogue generated by their residency, DeeDee Halleck, fairly considered as the first among equals within PTTV's history, had this to say:
One of the secrets of PTTV's success is that we have been able to be inclusive: to allow the talents and initiatives of individual members/producers and those who are subjects to find full support and articulation. But the basic premise has always been that the work be identified and recognized as collective work. In thinking about all this, I recall some of my own formative experiences as an individual artist, if you will, in the lively art world of the early and mid-seventies in New York City. I didn't even like dance but there was something about the Grand Union that galvanized my own notions about creativity. Each of the dancers retained their own individuality, and yet were supported, prodded, critiqued and inspired by the group. That model was and has been an ideal for me of how creative people might work in the world. In the evolution of Paper Tiger, it has always been my goal to somehow recreate that improvisatory freshness, inspiration and insight that was the Grand Union, which worked because it was a collective. So does Paper Tiger.
During the run of Dream House, PTTV members past and present (from New York, mainly, but also from San Diego, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and elsewhere) formed a rotating band of resident artists, staying by night in an apartment we'd rented on Chittenden Avenue and by day living in Gallery A, hanging out in the semi-working kitchen, watching and making video and/or TV, napping on the beds and couches scattered about, and welcoming faculty and students using the space as an alternative classroom. When the show came to an end, in lieu of the standard process of “deinstallation,” PTTV simply decided to have a tag sale, thereby restoring the Dream House's already-second and third-hand domestic clutter to the economy of the Columbus thrift stores from which it'd been gathered (two of their throw pillows still reside in my office).

As noted in the gallery guide to the PTTV video now in The Box, the systems of production and delivery for alternative political media have changed profoundly since 1991, and PTTV has anticipated and adapted itself to those realities. What they haven't had to change much at all is the aspiration undergirding everything they've ever done, which is that enacting common cause is superior to going it alone—sometimes that's harder to do, but it's almost always more fun, if not at that moment, then definitely in the aftermath of reflection (sixteen years on).
Bill Horrigan, Director of Media Arts at the Wexner Center

Click here to see more of Mary Albrecht's photos from Paper Tiger's 1991 visit to the Wexner Center
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