Test Tube

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.