LEAP | vol. 40 | Conglomerate tv (berlin | de)
Conglomerate TV is a new online TV network conceived and produced by a core team of five artists and filmmakers based in Berlin: Sol Calero, Ethan Hayes-Chute, Derek Howard, Christopher Kline, and Dafna Maimon. They mix content ranging from documentary, melodrama, comedy, interview, music, and art into one unified body: 30-minute blocks composed of recurring shows.
LEAP: What is the history of Conglomerate TV?
Ethan Hayes-Chute: Well, it started at Chris and Sol’s project space Kinderhook & Caracas in Berlin, which they have been running for about four years. Last November they approached us individually, as they wanted to focus on longer term projects. They wanted to do something online, with television involved, but beyond that everything was still undefined.
Dafna Maimon: Slowly we formulated together the format we’re in now, which is linear in terms of its response to everybody’s different needs and works. We all wanted to move away from the classical exhibition format, where you would have to do a lot of work for one single show and people would only go to the opening or see pictures on Instagram afterwards. We actually wanted to have a project where the documentation would be the project itself. Now it is a network with blocks of programming, in which we put the primary source in everyone’s home.
LEAP: How are the different roles defined?
EHC: We have all worked together before in different sorts of constructions. One of the major aspects of this project is regaining the control that was possible. If you're working with different institutions, like museums or galleries, it is very much about making compromises. And now we can make whatever we want and the compromises we make are only among each other, among friends.
DM: We all have very different strengths. For example, what Sol did at her recent show at David Dale Gallery in Glasgow is amazing, as she designed a multi-room installation that also functioned as the set for a telenovela on Conglomerate TV: Desde el Jardín.
EHC: It was designed to be seen as an exhibition, but it’s also a set for the show on Conglomerate. Normally she doesn’t work with video, so Sol and Dafna wrote the script together, and it was obvious that Derek is most skilled in filming, so he did that.
DM: Sol grew up with Latin American soap operas, and, as telenovelas take everything to extremes, they are perfect for satire. We basically came up with a storyline that could be any telenovela, made a few alterations, and changed the gender roles to objectify the men.
EHC: In Desde el Jardín, all five of us had a big role, but some shows are made in smaller constellations. For example, The New Domestic Woodshop takes place here in my studio, and derives from the popular format of DIY video on TV and online. As I watch these videos all the time, I wanted to do something more absurd while bringing my domestic fantasies to life. So I decided to make a pizza oven. And Dafna’s show Behind the Beast is a direct continuation of her own work.
LEAP: What’s the function of the show Telethon? Is that the show that holds it all together?
EHC: It definitely is the binding, the mortar between the blocks. It reappears and levels out hard transitions between some of the video blocks and smooths them over, and it’s always reappearing in the background. It was directed by everyone, and needed a lot of extras, and a lot of our friends helped us with that, so that was the most collaborative.
DM: All five of us can use the platform of the Telethon to bring in different genres. Which is great and almost symbolic of the collaboration, as there are so many meta-layers of collaborations within Telethon itself.
LEAP: Do you feel that this project is a specific outcome of the Berlin art scene? As the city is very much known for its socialist history and community-oriented atmosphere.
DM: It could be, as it is very much in line with things happening in the city. But mostly because it’s related to all our practices in general. Sol’s work is social, Chris’s work is collaborative, and so is ours. We always work a lot with other people.
EHC: I agree, I think it could be made everywhere. There are so many people here and mostly people we love to work with.
LEAP: I’m not sure if that’s true, as the whole project has a large gönnen-factor (the active opposite of begrudging) in which you are sharing your contacts, opening up opportunities for other artists, and no one is taking all the credit for success.
EHC: Well, maybe. My practice doesn’t rely on money. If you look at the art scene in, for example, New York, you need to be commercial and put the product in the center of your practice. And because this project is related to Berlin, we are able to have a certain way of practice and life here that enables us to not only make things for a commercial reason.
DM: For us this TV format is, most of all, a charming and positive potential of the collaborative power of people, when they let their egos down and care about the affective labor that they’re doing. It is presenting an alternative.
LEAP: Can you tell me a bit more about the name Conglomerate. A conglomerate is a corporation that is made up of a number of different and seemingly unrelated businesses. What is the seemingly unrelated business here?
EHC: There are, of course, the conglomerates that we all know, like Nestlé or Unilever or big media companies. And then there are the geological conglomerates, like a rock consisting of other rocks. That was much more the sense of conglomerate I was thinking of. A very large mixture of smaller parts that form one greater whole.
DM: Of course, conglomerate is very much a capitalist term, but we are clearly choosing to work with very accessible and almost mainstreams formats.
LEAP: In between content you’ve produced there is also work shown from other artists. Is this a collaborative decision as well?
DM: For each block we work with different artists, and this is the more curatorial aspect of the project, the one that we all take part in. We started working with people that we are close with and who we worked with before, and people whose work we admire. For the first block we’ve had contributions from Jeremy Shaw, with a more abstract work, from Keren Cytter, who is a prolific video artist, Christine Hill’s object-oriented fascinations, and Constant Dullaart’s work DullTech, which fits perfectly in an advertising spot.
EHC: The guest contributors will change every block, and there will be six blocks in total to start with, so almost every two months there will be a new block. One of the reasons we’re doing it is because we want to meet new artists and engage with people that we don’t know, inside and outside of Berlin. For the second block we will work together with Shana Moulton and Stephen G. Rhodes.
LEAP: What would be the ideal outcome of the project?
DM: That it will stay available and have millions of views.
EHC: We basically just really want people to enjoy it and watch it. Art isn’t only difficult and abstract.
Watch Conglomerate TV’s Block One here: www.conglomerate.tv
Published in LEAP (Vol.40), the international art magazine of contemporary China