After what has been an inadvertent two year break, we are ready to take on our second year-long challenge. This time we are going to follow along with the Oprah Winfrey Show, blogging as it is broadcast. There are some big differences this time around. Firstly, we are being totally transparent about our goals and who we are*. And secondly, we have a support team this year, in the form of an Art(ists) on the Verge 2 fellowship. For us this is a two-part endeavour. Initially the project will be about the process of rigidly watching a new episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show whenever it broadcasts, blogging about it, facebooking it and tweeting it. Secondly, in October we will compile all the data from months of broadcasting/ blogging into an exhibition combining art and technology at the end of the fellowship period.
*As an aside, last time we blogged as a European family living in the Midwest, following a cookery book because we could. This time, we are coming clean- we are a couple, we collaborate as installation artists, Lars teaches full-time at a University, I have an up and coming business, and we also have two very cheeky little girls, age 2 and 4. Wish us luck!
We were planning to follow the Oprah Winfrey Show for a year anyway, and decided that we could attempt to apply for a grant to help with the exhibition we planned for the end of the project. We applied for a Northern Lights Art(ists) on the Verge 2 fellowship, and were delighted to be one of the five chosen artists. The following is the proposal we submitted for the fellowship.
Oprah Winfrey is one of the singularly most important figures when looking at the convergence of celebrity status with our endless desire for self-betterment. TV listings of the Oprah Winfrey Show proclaim “The groundbreaking talk show host interviews celebrities, newsmakers and experts in the world of self-improvement, style and culture.” Her media empire includes her talk show, film company, book club, radio show, magazine, lifestyle website and online charitable network. Press releases inform us that in 2010, Oprah, as we all know her, will debut her own television network, Oprah’s Own Network (OWN), replacing the Discovery Health Channel. The network will be dedicated to “Best Life Programming”, showcasing talent dedicated to allowing us to lead our best life, broadcast to over 70 million viewers.
For the duration of 2010, tectonic industries are committed to watching every new episode of the Oprah Winfrey show and committing the spoken words to text. We will transcribe every episode and put the transcription on our website, www.anotheroneyearproject.com, in blog format. In this manner, we will become extremely knowledgeable of the important news, style and cultural issues of the day, as dictated by Oprah. We will be in an exceptionally strong position with regards to knowledge of means of self betterment. We will treat the Oprah program as a medication to be taken for an hour a day each weekday, with the outcome being tangible knowledge of processes of self-betterment, dramatically upgraded typing skills and improved small-talk capabilities.
By transcribing the show we are removing all drama and visuals for the audience, allowing the conversations to be akin to a stream of consciousness from the table of Oprah. For one person to be responsible for the opinions and fortunes of so many, outside of the political or religious realm, is a peculiarly contemporary phenomena. As viewers actively translating the experience of digesting so much daytime television, we will both be differentiated from, and the same as, the millions-strong audience. All of the received information is processed, but ultimately we will rarely change our behavior as a result of the passive activity of television watching. Like the rest of the audience, we may be full of good intentions but they will invariably dissipate sometime before going to bed full of resolve and waking up to reenact old habits.
The transcriptions will continue for the duration of 2010, activated whenever new episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show are aired. We envisage that the final manifestation of the project would take place either at the culmination of the fellowship period at the Spark Festival in October, or possibly/ additionally in January 2011 if this was acceptable. We do not have an absolute concrete vision for the final manifestation of the project, but would like to stream the transcripts into a physical space. This could be achieved through video projections, or monitor displays, or audio recordings of the transcripts done through the computer’s text to voice feature (eg Voice Over for Mac) which play simultaneously and together create a cacophony of instruction, information and entertainment.
The goal of our project, is to create two distinct streams of information, one of which is published in real time as we transcribe the episode of the chat show, throughout the year, and one of which is cumulative, displaying the collected knowledge of the year as a multitude of layers of information. The online element is reasonably straightforward, requiring that we publish a blog post per weekday, transcribing what was heard on the show. This information will also be distributed via such channels as Facebook and Twitter, for maximum exposure to the inane. This information feed will begin with the first episode of Oprah aired on or after New Year’s Day. The cumulative information will require more assistance and input from others. It is anticipated that we will seek advice on some technological aspects or potential solutions, and need assistance in acquiring equipment for the final exhibition and with creating a marketing plan.
The public outcome of this project will be an experience which is far removed from the original source material, but recognizable as the combined weight of many many episodes of a daytime talk show. The stream of words will include references to media events, celebrities and wellness tips which form a time capsule of sorts of the collective preoccupations of the year 2010, as reflected through the media empire of Oprah Winfrey. In this way, we want to communicate the necessity of re-examining that which we take for granted, by giving viewers the opportunity to examine our aspirations from the mundane to the fantastical. As a society we want to make delicious, healthy meals in minutes, to throw fabulous dinner parties, to seem effortlessly stylish and impeccably organized. We want to be smarter, richer, more successful, to cure cancer and solve the problems of the world. And at the heart of all this, we want to be appreciated for who we are, recognized for our individuality within the mass, and perhaps most importantly, we want to be loved.