The HUAC investigations of 1947 focused on the film industry. In 1951, the investigations were reconvened to attack the television industry. The Committee would have an even larger impact on Hollywood then before. It now had the immediate economic leverage facilitated by the corporate sponsorship given to individual shows. The intricate system of blacklisting forced Hollywood to capitulate to every demand of HUAC and its supporters. The result was a climate of fear where one’s livelihood could be immediately taken away by another’s carelessness or spite. Actors were misidentified as communist supporters while others had false accusations levied against them.
Television was consuming America at an exponential rate. It was also loosely regulated. Unless a transcription was created at the time of broadcast, there was no record until the advent of magnetic video tape in 1956. The accountability of documentation was absent at the height of the cold war hysteria. Accusations could land with impunity.
“Boob Tubes” is a set of three abstract televisions that demonstrate the coldness of the medium in the 1950s. Glass powder was silk screened on to glass that was slumped over a mold of a 1950s RCA television screen. Selected information of how this medium became a political tool is starkly illuminated on the screen. The metal frame holding the glass provides an austerity to the work that reduces the television to its most basic form.