The Medium is the Medium: The Convergence of Video, Art and Television at WGBH (1969)

On March 23rd, 1969, Boston’s public television station WGBH broadcast a program titled The Medium is the Medium. The program was a half-hour long compilation of short videos by six artists. The six pieces ranged from electronically manipulated imagery set to the music of the Beatles to an attempt at communication between four separate locations through audio-visual technology. As the narrator, David Oppenheim, the cultural executive producer for the Public Television Laboratory, intones at the beginning of the show, “what happens when artists explore television?” What happened was a program unlike anything seen before. The Medium is the Medium was the result of the pairing of artists with engineers. This pairing was the brainchild of the Rockefeller Foundation, which decided to bring these two together in what was the Artists-in-Television program. Founded in 1967 it gave seed grants to two public broadcasting stations, WGBH in Boston and KQED in San Francisco. These grants enabled the stations to begin residency programs matching artists with members of their production staffs. Several of the artists in the program had made films but most were coming to this type of time-based art work for the first time. The Artists-in Television program gave these artists the opportunity to expand their ideas into an art from involving television technologies. It offered those working in more traditional media the technology and expertise to try their hands at a nascent art form, video.



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