The influence of television on daily life is overlooked by much of modern society. Before television invaded the contemporary household, families gathered around the fireplace in the evening and spent valuable time together reading, playing board games, or just having a nice conversation. Now, TV sets define the central focus of the average living room—conversational furniture faces the TV while dusty bookshelves sometimes frame it. The mesmerizing screen and senseless noise coming from the box has stolen the valuable opportunity for families to connect and create bonding experiences. In my sculpture, I dressed a faceless mannequin to represent the mindless adolescent created by excess screen time. Wires extend from the box, absorbing the teen by attaching to her limbs and preventing her from escaping its hypnotizing static.
My youthful generation is growing up without having the experiences fundamental to maturing, such as riding bikes through the neighborhood and building tree houses in the backyard. Instead, kids stay indoors, glued to a blazing screen watching mind-numbing cartoons and wasting their childhoods inside. Television splits the relationship between parent and child and child and nature by consuming the child’s attention with the promise of immediate satisfaction. The death of a developing imagination is overlooked as the presence of television grows in the modern home.
The majority of the public simply does not have the patience to sit and read a classic novel anymore. The media has stolen the privilege of literacy from the modern child, replacing it with bright flashing pixels on a screen. When books were more common than TV, people were more literate simply because they indulged in more literature. Books challenge the mind by by forcing us to process words on the page, thereby expanding our vocabularies. The television simply spoon feeds people information, without supplementing vocabulary, and spoils the brain with mindless observation, rather than exercising it. Reading and watching television are both completely sedentary activities, however, the level of mental activity is completely different. Even the most basic, undemanding form of reading requires decoding, the transformation of printed letters into meaningful words, and therefore is more active than viewing a TV program. In the words of my astute history professor, “I like to read because I like the feeling of dead people tapping me on the shoulder and offering me advice. I like to have the opportunity to think about life given to me—you don’t get that with television.”
I built a miniature television emerging from the pages of an anonymous book to show how TV is taking the place of reading. The circuit board in the upcoming pages represents complete replacement of books by technology. Wires extend from the center of the box and attach themselves to the pages, consuming the words and destroying the written language.
Television is everywhere. Small TVs hide in our cell phones, cars, living rooms, shop windows, street corners, restaurants, airports, and waiting rooms. Any attempt to escape the screen’s cathodic light is futile. We cannot pick and choose what we see on the television, so we have to decide whether or not we will allow the presence of television to influence us. Television constantly overrides our brain with data and forces images into our heads we may not even be aware of. We do not seek TV for information on a day-to-day basis—it seeks us. TV invades every moment of our ordinary lives. In order to stop the invasion of television, we have to purposefully break ourselves from it. In my performance, I disassemble the TV from its weakest spots, beginning by bashing in the screen, which entices and hypnotizes the viewers, drawing them in.
We have to reevaluate television and its influence on our lives if we want to regain control of the information we receive day to day. We can do this by becoming more in tune with nature, having more family game nights and friendly dinners, volunteering, and getting information in other ways like newspapers and books. Television can be used for artistic or scholastic purposes, as long as educational shows replace asinine cartoons. The average American spends three hours and forty-six minutes watching television every day. It is time to renegotiate our relationship with television. We must take the time to acknowledge what we’ve overlooked in our lives in order to fix the problems that television has caused in our culture today.