General Idea
Test Tube (1979)
1979, 28:15 min, color, sound

Produced by De Appel, Amsterdam, while General Idea was in residence there, Test Tube was conceived as a program for television. Presented under the brand "The Color Bar Lounge," a cocktail bar in the mythical 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion, the program is a hybrid of popular television formats, including talk show, soap opera, news magazine, and infomercial. Introducing the program, the artists-cum-media hosts pitch The Color Bar as a "cultural laboratory," serving up curative potions in test tubes in a lounge environment. Advertisements for the bar are placed throughout the program; a loaded word choice, full of double-entendres and innuendo, betrays the influence of both Dadaism and consumerism. This collapse of popular and high culture is central to General Idea's agenda, as Felix Partz observes: "You know, the mass media are like a vast pharmaceutical complex developing new cultural elixirs of an unprecedented intoxication...but art remains a curious and elitist drink. Despite its unique flavor and heady cultural properties, it has never effectively been exploited."

Interspersed throughout the program is a soap opera narrative about an isolated painter, a stay-at-home mother who troubles over exhibiting her art publicly. A modernist, "abstract depressionist," she provides a clear counterpoint to the artistic model cultivated by General Idea - though it is an ambivalent portrayal. Test Tube was produced at the close of the 1970s and is a prescient meditation on changes in the art world. In the end, her show sells out to rave reviews, and a phone call from her gallerist to the hosts of The Color Bar Lounge is answered with enthusiasm.

Producer: De Appel. Consultant: Joes Odufre. Also featuring: Marina Abramovic, Bob Du Buy, Robert Handforth, Raul Marroquin, Bill Panko, Tom Puckey, Wies Smals, Louwrien Wyers. Camera: Frits Oostvogel. Video: Jack Vreeburg, Harre Van Der Maat. Recorded at Cinevideo, Cmoep Holland. Sponsored by CRM. -- EAI

This title is available for exhibitions, screenings, and institutional use through Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), NY. Please visit the EAI Online Catalogue for further information about this artist and work. The EAI site offers extensive resources for curators, students, artists and educators, including: an in-depth guide to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving media art; A Kinetic History: The EAI Archives Online, a collection of essays, primary documents, and media charting EAI's 40-year history and the early years of the emergent video art scene; and expanded contextual and educational materials.