This article will juxtapose two public-access cable television shows dedicated to interdisciplinary artistic production in New York City in the early 1980s. Each program, Daniel R. Quiles will argue, treated its group of artists as a counter-public fighting for visibility and viewership in relation to a larger field of downtown culture. Glenn O’Brien and Chris Stein’s TV Party (1978–1982) parodied the mainstream variety show format with a mix of music and guests from the graffiti art, No Wave, and New Wave scenes, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Arto Lindsay, and Klaus Nomi. Jaime Davidovich’s The Live! Show (1979–1982) focused on the art world, featuring interviews with John Cage, Laurie Anderson, Vito Acconci, and Les Levine, among others. Both shows deployed the conventions of television—from canned laughter to real-time editing—to craft alternative modes of viewing attention. Together, they testify to the downtown New York of the early 1980s as an interdisciplinary and international array of networks.
Daniel R. Quiles is an assistant professor of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he teaches courses on the theory and history of postwar art of the Americas. He was a 2003–2004 Critical Studies Fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program, and has since written criticism of contemporary art in Arte al día, ArtNexus, Art in America, and Artforum, as well as catalogue essays for Hyde Park Art Center, Americas Society, and Art in General. He will be writing chapters for Fundación Espigas’s forthcoming book on the work of Luis Benedit in the 1970s and A Companion to Modern and Contemporary Latin American and Latino Art, to be published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2014. He received his PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2010 and is currently expanding his dissertation on Argentine conceptual art into a book manuscript, titled Ghost Messages: Argentine Conceptualism, 1965–72.