According to Nielsen ratings, the average American watches 34 hours of television a week. This stunning statistic alone may explain the dulling of the nation’s competitive edge. It also explains the common feeling of not having enough free time; what little time we get, we use to dull our senses. For this multimedia project – an EP, a research paper and 6500 photos, Mitchel Davidovitz spent 34 hours watching TV, which may have been a sacrifice for him, but is a habit for others, and culled the aural experience down to a quarter hour. His sampled musical collage exposes the pollution of thought: the inane, unsorted messages that work their way into a passive observer’s brain.
The visual segment contains a dozen grids that organize 397 photos by category, highlighting the principle of indoctrination through repetition. Few Americans realize that the incidence of violent crime is down, because the images and news stories of violent crime have gone way up. The first grid – explosions – is obvious, as everyone knows the influence of Michael Bay. More insidious are the grids that display images of threats, security, surveillance, the military, and of course, the American flag. We are what we see – or at least, we think we are what we see, and then we become what we see by default.
The aural collage is an exposé of banality and desensitization. In “You’re Just Supposed to Listen and Say Yes”, an asthma commercial is stuttered, looped, and folded into an evangelist’s message. Every topic is presented on an equal level: the body and the spirit, hypochondria and fear of condemnation. Church and state are not separated; products and political parties are presented with equal levels of excitement. “Act Normal” exposes the current state of the mental health sales industry, advertising “positive mood technology”, preying on the vulnerabilities of those who don’t feel “normal.” Fun, fun, fun! “Woman Power/Bad Bra Day” juxtaposes the classic song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” with ads recommending the purchase of multiple diamonds. “You deserve to look good! Bring it, girl! Woman power!” The sequence simultaneously undercuts women’s rights and underlines the fact that much of the diamond industry was created by DeBeers; diamond engagement rings were not popular until the 20th century, but saturated advertising has convinced people that the gift is “traditional”. “24/7 Professional Monitoring” combines 9/11 fears with home security advertising. And round and round we go: the world is overwhelming, the world is safe, happiness is a product, happiness is a pill.
One thing Window of Normalization does not do is make the listener want to watch TV. I’ve got two shows taped to watch later tonight, both serial killer dramas. Davidovitz’s presentation has made me wonder what such shows may be doing to my soul, to my opinions about humanity, to my motivation to make a positive difference. “In the end, it’s the entertainment that matters”, a woman intones as the EP winds down. Meanwhile, an evangelist intones, “Fear not, I’m with you, I’ll be with you; don’t be afraid; I’ll never, never, never leave you or forsake you. I’m with you to carry you through the difficult days, take you through trials and tribulations” This is a paraphrase of Jesus’ speech to his disciples at the Last Supper, but in this context, it’s an invitation to make television the god, the panacea, the Comforter. Credit Davidovitz for exposing this unholy inversion. (Richard Allen)