In 2007 I produced an arts oriented game show pilot called Art Show Down, which was filmed in front of a live studio audience at Art Interactive in Cambridge, MA. Over seven episodes the series boiled 20 contestants down to a single winner – our Ultimate Artist.
Art Show Down is a frontier-themed show and included an art exhibition.Â A stable of Bostonâ€™s most talented artists worked collaboratively for over a year to exploit the best (and the worst!) of the game show genre through the lens of the arts.
The shows feature the some of the most promising Boston based contestants, guest curators, and members of the Art Interactive audience. The show was initially broadcast on Cambridge Community Television (CCTV) during the run of the show. Episode #1 can be seen for free on the Art Show Down website, and the entire series can be rented on a single DVD from Netflix. You can also buy a copy of your very own from you distributor MicroCinema.com.
A Game Show Aabout Aart & An Exhibitions About Game Shows
Art Show Down aims to critique and exploit the game show genre through the lens of the arts. Conceptually, it explores how game shows offer a unique index of contemporary culture. Going back to the earliest examples of the genre, our show addresses the nature of televised competition, how such challenges interface with commercial interests, how the genre has been transformed over time, and how it influences the production of contemporary arts and culture today.
Art Show Down began with the identification of game shows as fertile territory for artistic exploration; the genre offers a rich history that reflects the evolution of televised broadcasting as well as that of popular culture. Yet, game shows have received relatively little attention from artists. Our team of curators, artists, researchers and writers began its inquiry into game show culture with the precursor of game shows, known as quiz shows. We began in the 1950s, at the end of the quiz show era, when several scandals revealed that networks were working to affect the outcomes of competitions and their ratings. A series of investigations by the Federal Communications Commission led to a general distrust of commercial networks. Through the process of re-branding â€œquiz showsâ€ as â€œgame showsâ€, along with new FCC regulations, game shows regained the trust of their audiences and soared in popularity.
The Art Show Down team initiated a series of brainstorming sessions to identify potential artistic opportunities with game shows as our muse. We wanted to work with the existing apparatus while defining new territory within the field.Â This new territory, or â€œfrontier,â€ led us to begin drawing connections between the re-branding of game shows and the branding of livestock as a means of signifying ownership. As we began deconstructing our favorite shows, we adopted a frontier theme to reinforce our intention to push the boundaries of the genre.
We looked to the tropes and clichÃ©s in the art world for material and started gravitating towards a comic tone. As we integrated our theme into the set design, game rules, characters, and structure, we found ways to connect our lowbrow frontier theme with a highbrow comic sensibility. We began working with mock-commercial spots to explore the relationship between commercial interests and game shows, and began looking for prizes that supported our arts positioning. Our brand of game show erodes the boundary between performance art, installation, and commercially broadcast game shows.
Of course, our show is not just a game show, it was also a gallery exhibition featuring a display of artwork created during the live performances and a behind-the-scenes look at the studio set, props, costumes, and taped episodes that gallery visitors watch between performances. In this way, we expose the internal apparatus of game shows and let the audience explore whether or not the show is fair or fixed, art or entertainment, exploitation or critique, show down or all of the above.
Art Show Down explores the border of new art forms and mainstream culture, and aims to show where all the talent comes from. Pop culture has relentlessly appropriated from the art world and has successfully recruited talent from the fine arts with the promise of broadcast networks, fame, and fortune. Compared to the contracting fine arts marketplace, the gravity of televised pop culture is hard to deny. At the Art Show Down Studios, however, artists still have more fun by dismantling the apparatus of the networks from the inside out and demonstrating that they live on the frontier of creativity.
How Does It Work?
We started with 16 contestants in each of the first four Elimination Episodes, plus one additional member was pulled from the audience during those shows. Four contestants survived that round and moved on to the Championship Episodes, which in turn narrowed the field down to two contestants. Finally, our Ultimate Artist Episode set the record straight!
THE AUCTION PRICE IS RIGHT
Four contestants test their art smarts by taking their best guess at the winning bid from an art auction. Our host, Chlorine, lets the audience help by yelling out their own guesses. The closest bidder, without going over, moves on to an individual challenge, selected by spinning the Surreal Wheel. This contest is repeated after a new contestant is selected from the audience to replace the first winner.
SCORING: The winner of the 1st round will win 50 points, the 2nd round will win 30 points. BONUS 20 points for guessing the exact price.
SOLO CHALLENGE ROUND
Contestants spin the Surreal Wheel to select a Full Solo Contest or a Bonus Mini Challenge. Full Solo Contests are: Hang â€˜em High, Schmooze & Booze, and Dead Guys Tell No Lies. Bonus Mini Challenges are: Famous-or-Forgery, Art-or-Bull, and a Mystery Challenge. Each contestant may only get one Bonus Mini Challenge.
SCORING: (see individual contests below)
FULL SOLO CHALLENGES
In the most death-defying feat in art history (well, Art Show Down history), contestants climb an obstacle-riddled rock wall, but instead of a backpack, theyâ€™ve got a portfolio filled with â€œflatworkâ€ slung over their shoulder. The clock is runningâ€”how much art can they hang in one minute? Theyâ€™ve gotta make sure the art is hung right, and if they touch the ground they canâ€™t climb back on.
SCORING: 10 points per painting (10 paintings total)
SCHMOOZE & BOOZE
Nothingâ€™s more stressful than trying to schmooze some fancy-pants curatorâ€”especially when youâ€™re trying to get a drink and get fed. Posing as an â€œartistâ€ at an opening, contestants are judged on their ability to converse intelligently with the curator, while simultaneously attempting to consume cheese and wine (actually, seltzer and hot sauce!) for additional points.
SCORING: 3 points for each cheese cube (10 cubes total), 5 points for each glass of Tabasco-flavored seltzer (4 glasses total). Curator will score contestant from 0 to 50.
DEAD GUYS TELL NO LIES
We all know artists live crazy lives, but thatâ€™s nothinâ€™ compared to the crazy way some of â€˜em die! In this spine-tingling event, contestants identify which story tells the truth about the death of a famous artist and which ones are flat-out lies.
SCORING: Each correct answer earns 40 points, 20 additional points for each true or false follow-up question (3 follow-up questions total).
BONUS MINI SOLO CHALLENGES
FAMOUS OR FORGERY
If you know Chlorine, you know sheâ€™s got no time for â€œfakeâ€ people, those fake-bake tans, and especially fake artâ€”or, as itâ€™s known in highfalutinâ€™ circles, â€œforgery.â€ In Famous or Forgery, two slides are shown side-by-side and contestants attempt to identify which is the real deal.
SCORING: 10 bonus points
ART OR BULL
A spin on the Famous or Forgery competition, in Art or Bull, contestants must guess whether a sculpture presented on a pedestal is an actual artwork or trash found in a dumpster.
SCORING: 10 bonus points
We ainâ€™t tellinâ€™.
SCORING: 10 bonus points
LUCK OF THE DRAW
Two contestants are pitted against each other to test their artistic ability … and their ability to keep their cool under pressure. First they draw from decks of Art Show Down playing cards to define an obstacle/idea, and medium/handicap! Then theyâ€™ve gotta draw a picture based on the cards, in two minutes flat!
SCORING: Each contestant can score up to 100 points, judged by the audience-participatory â€œArt Appreci-O-Meter.â€
ACTION ART SHOOTING GALLERY
Art gallery meets shooting gallery for this hard-hitting competition. Armed with paintball guns, contestants simultaneously take aim at a famous landscape painted on the wall. But they better keep their eyes peeled and be quick on the draw, cause they ainâ€™t just shooting at the pretty sunset, no sir! Contestants must shoot images of famous lawmakers (or outlaws, depending on how you see it) as they pop up on the landscape, but avoid hitting the artists.
SCORING: 20 points per shot that hits target, -20 points for shooting at the red herrings.
A BRUSH WITH DANGER
You ainâ€™t never seen nothinâ€™ like this before! Two contestants don Art Show Down suits and paintbrush helmets. The goal here is to cover their opponent in paintâ€”without getting covered themselves. And just to make sure itâ€™s a fair fight, Chlorineâ€™s got their hands hog-tied behind their back.
SCORING: 10 points per mark, judged by Chlorine.
Most importantly, I got to work with my good friend Jeff Warmouth as we tried to bring together high-brow vs. low brow culture. He was my partner making this project happen, and it would have not been possible without him. Of course, it would not have been possible without any one of these folks either:
Produced by: Roland Smart & Jeff Warmouth
Directed by: Jeff Warmouth & Paul Concemi
Art Direction: Roland Smart
Video Engineer: Haik Sahakian
Edited by: Paul Concemi, Ravi Jain, Jeff Warmouth
Hosted by: Megan Goltermann & Guest Blake Maloney
Set Design: Rand Borden Props: Nick Rodrigues
Music: Brendon Wood Sound Engineer: Gregg Swiatlowski
Flash & Web:Â Matt Nash Lighting Design: Todd Sargent
Writing: Ravi Jain, Jeff â€œBig Manâ€ Smith, & Anna Goldsmith
Photography: Rob Coshow
Installation Manager: James Manning
Research: Ardra Whitney
Greatest Intern of All Time: Mitsutoshi Toda
And, thank you to our sponsors!