Medusa / TV-Head

Year 2003/08
Text by Pino Poggi
A tube television hangs in the middle of the gallery room. Numerous cables hanging down from the TV almost covering it totally. Two small screens are visible on the front screen. Huge mirrors are placed on the floor and the walls.
Environment AU, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška, Slovenj Gradec, 2008

Entering through a narrow and base hole you get into a white room with dampen light. Who gets into this room should feel like in a kind of cave. On both sides and obverse the entrance can be cognised high mirrors, a fourth one lays in shivers on the floor in the centre of the squarish or rectangular room. Exactly above that broken mirror hangs an arranged TV set. It’s fixed on the roof by cables, once used to connect antennas, telephones or computers. This cables overgrow the cage of the TV set, so as they would be hairs: the cable mess symbolize the lovely curls that after the transformation to Medusa became lambent snakes.

The big screen doesn’t function anymore, but two small monitors, that were built in, show in continuous what televisions broadcast nowadays: Soaps, game shows or news… They state Medusa’s eyes, whose gaze turns into stone. In front of the broken TV set with the two monitors stands a sofa on which sit three or more, as “couch potatoes” masked mannequins, that has “amused” themselves to death – through excessive TV-consumption turned into stones.

The AU Environment uses this ancient myth very targeted as foil to describe our present situation. Medusa / TV-Head so transports an archaic story into nowadays immediate understandable language and shows us in that unambiguous way parallels between the impact, which the glaze of the head of the Gorgons, turning into stone had and the consequences that the automatically grip to the TV remote control releases. The laser beam that comes out of the monsters eyes kills immediately, accordingly encountering that alien no one survives. This consciousness of immediate danger doesn’t persist in the TV viewer because the light signals sent by the screen are innocuous. The habituation brings the spectators to an unconsciousness creeping addiction television, so that he neither realises the occurring manipulation, nor the programming he is subject. The device tells him about what to be sad or to be disgusted, about what to dream and what to desire. So he slowly transforms into a zombie who will-less surrender himself to television. This is the actual analogy to the petrifying glaze of the Medusa.

To recognize and understand the connections between the thousands of years myth and the actual television it’s helpful to take a look at the ancient myth and its compilation. At Homer (ca. 700 B.C.) the Gorgon is a monster of the night that haunts the Hades (even Hercules dreads her). The glaze of the monster does not kill. The figure of its head on the aegis (shield) of Athena is sufficient as protective magic against all enemies.

Hesiod (also ca. 700 B.C.) reports about three goddesses of the moon, the Gorgons. He gives them a genealogical tree and names (at his version they are not monsters at all). Medusa the youngest of the three sisters – she was the only mortal – disports herself with Poseidon on a “tender meadow”, as Perseus came along and beheaded her just like that and disappears again…

A later version which was applied later on Ovids’ metamorphosis ( ca. 44 B.C.) and in consequence became the classical form (the one I used for my AU Environment Medusa / TV-Head), tied the incoherent strings together with a view to construct an accusation against Medusa. Now Poseidon violence the girl and that was – observed exactly – a political motivated act. The sexual humiliation of a daughter of the night, the goddesses of the moon Medusa, by a son of the sun, a god of the Olymp demonstrated the power of the patriarchy over the doomed matriarchy. The scene of the crime (the “blue light curled” chose a temple consecrated to Athena) shows that it has been a cleverly arranged intrigue. Prompt the goddess was offended and punished the victim. She transformed the universally admired hairs of the Medusa into viperous snakes and the beautiful girl into the most ugly monster which glaze inescapable killed. The monster created by Athena became a danger for the humans and even for the (demi-)gods.

One of them, Perseus the son of Zeus and Danaè, beheaded Medusa acrobatically with a sword. To escape the killer-glaze he looked through a blank polished shield, where the deathly eye just mirrored. It really was a real slight of hand to use the weapon precisely. The trick with the shield was studied by Athena who was in all that intrigue the puppet master in the background. Perseus assured himself, that even the lifeless head doesn’t have lost its properties by using it on some of his enemies and gave it after that to Athena who fixed it as special trophy on her Aegis (shield).

The head of the Medusa now took the place where that of the Gorgon always was present. And that makes the deciding difference. The Gorgon was a figure of an acherontic monster, which served as a protective magic but the Medusa is an artificial created medium that constitutes, as instrument of power, a weapon. The perfidiously strategy to transform an ingenious Parthenos into an invincible monster is absolutely comparable with the deployment of the television which also lost its ingénue through political and profit-driven manipulation.

Originally intended as a democratic mass medium that should inform, educate, and legitimately also entertain it nowadays produces only entertainment in an infinite loop (even information has depraved to infotainment). Similar to Hollywood where the major parts of the production are orientated at almost illiterate kids, the television does not spare any efforts to infantilise their viewer. To glaze into television makes addlebrained. Addlebrained doesn’t know anything and believe everything. The internet at least makes you believe an active participation, television just immobilize: Medusa / TV-Head

(Many thanks to Mr. Helmut Schneider for his precious collaboration and consultation at the preparation of this text)

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