As of Wednesday, analogue telly is a thing of the past. Well okay, it’s clinging on for a few more months in a couple of parts of the country, but for most of us in the UK old tellies either need to be attached to a digibox or it’s all over. At Ambika P3, David Hall’s End Piece … exhibition (part of which I wrote about here a week or two ago) is a fitting way to mark its passing. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the extraordinary, descriptively titled installation 1001 TV Sets (End Piece). With the analogue switchoff on Wednesday the work went from being a bewildering jumble of images with a cacophonous soundtrack to 1001 different types of snow. The sound is still loud but it’s a constant static now rather than the chaos of five competing television channels.
I’ve seen this installation in all its phases now: with five analogue channels broadcasting, with four channels working and one reduced to snow when the BBC 2 signal was switched off on the 4th April and now, in its final phase, with no analogue signal at all. The televisions – all old cathode ray tube sets – are lying in a low net, supported by a scaffolding grid. They face upwards, more or less, meaning that they now form a blanket of snow across the vast floor of the gallery space. In previous, smaller scale versions of the installation made in the 1970s, the televisions were banked up around the walls. The different approach taken here is clearly a response to the nature of P3 – a cavernous, industrial space buried under the University of Westminster building on Marylebone Road where, apparently, the concrete for Spaghetti Junction was tested – but it also works conceptually given the timing of this version. Snow should cover the ground, after all, and after a disappointingly snowless winter, analogue techno-snow is better than nothing, in my book.
I’m exaggerating very slightly when I say there are 1001 different versions of snow. There are of course a few boxes that haven’t survived the show – the tellies have been gathered from recycling programmes and are ones people are getting rid of rather than attaching set-top boxes to get a digital signal – but apart from that a couple of sets (I noticed two, there may be more) are, I assume, attached to DVD players so walking round the space reveals the odd screen showing a shadowy, indistinct figure. The ghost of television past, perhaps?