PIGEONS IN PLASTIC CHAIRS

JUNE 2020

MAX FLEURY

Pigeons in Plastic Chairs by Max Fleury


Giggle:

I’ve been carrying around a Kodak disposable camera with ‘TV’s in public spaces’ written on it in vivid. Whenever I see a TV, I get out my camera and snap a frame. Televisions are ubiquitous, getting flatter with smaller bezels. Sometimes disguised as a menu or a painting (I wish more were disguised as paintings). Intended primarily to carry content, they are both formally present and camouflaged. A wolf in green clothing. They change the ways spaces are arranged.

My interest in public television started in 2016, or somewhere around that time. I’m at Capitol Market on Willis St, possibly having a lunchtime beer (I was at art school) at the now defunct bar sectioned off in the middle of the foodcourt, or maybe eating chicken katsu from One Sushi. In either situation, I’m starring up at a medium sized flatscreen LED television (maybe 42”) mounted high up, almost reaching the ceiling on an articulating bracket facing downwards to the scavenging pigeons and diners in plastic chairs. We watch hackneyed jokes typed over stock images and short AFHV style fail videos play cut up with ad’s for insurance companies I’ve never heard of. Ah yes, this was my first experience of Giggle TV! These approximations of memes appropriated for the big(er) screen evoking droll laughter from my dining buddy and I. According to the Giggle TV website, the company was started in 2008 in Palmerston North with the purpose of helping ‘local businesses to deliver brand messages in an affordable and engaging way.’ [1]

Music for Harvey Norman outlet stores:

Taking around a camera and taking photos of televisions has meant that I’m spending a lot of time looking at content that I would usually be trying to block out. What do these televisions say about us? I’ve put together a walk around some televisions in public that have been on my mind. Places that struck me for one reason or another.

First up is Oishi bento in Newtown. Being on the main Street in Newtown, I often walk past this place, although I only noticed it when they got a MASSIVE television visible from the street. The shop has started to sell donuts, specifically, Epiphany Donuts. I’ve never heard of epiphany donuts, but according to their website they’re a nationwide chain that won ‘New Zealand Cafe of the Year 2018’, and the Franchise Association of New Zealand’s ‘best emerging franchise’ award.
The massive TV plays videos of donuts, however I only catch glimpses as I walk past. Today, a Saturday, I’m the only person in the shop and the television isn’t on. I take out my camera and take a picture anyway. The black rectangle idles on its plywood perch, sparsely surrounded by artificial pot plants. Objects are placed in a mode similar to home decoration. The video, from memory, is comprised of close up panning shots of donuts with a shallow depth of field, standard techniques of product videography. Evidently this company has ambition. The homespun installation of the television contrasts the high resolution shots of larger-than-life donuts.
I then visit capitol Market on Willis St to relive my first memory of Giggle. Not hungry after my bento bowl and recovering from a chest infection, I just grab a ginger beer. It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon, so i have no trouble finding a seat with a clear view of a giggle TV screen (I counted three altogether in the space). Just as I remember, G- rated humorous content set to a soundtrack of youthful diners. Sitting here alone, I do find myself almost laughing at some of the jokes. Maybe this works! Obviously I’m not above it, but I don’t need security systems for my property.
Next up on my trip is an unnamed office on Willis St. The office is drab and unassuming, tucked behind subtly brown tinted windows that mute the green of the pot plants. There are two televisions, both placed at floor level right up against the corner beam on a right angle facing the street and driveway. I’ve walked past this serval times a week for years, however I don’t remember when these televisions were put there.
One television plays a loop of jokes, the other a series of saturated nature photos; beaches, a volcano. There’s no signage for the business and I don’t see any branding in the videos. What impetus does this business have to play an animated photo of a volcano? Why does this unassuming office use power on weekends to run two televisions harping jokes to the distracted passerby? I wind up my camera and frame up another shot.

Clutter bugs:
There’s a warmth to amateur design that appeals to me. It doesn’t look the best, but I get it! I could do that! On my walk I see many monitors in windows advertising interest rates and phone plans, seamlessly mounted into bespoke branded bezels or onto beams that look constructed for the sole purpose of holding up the screen. I find it hard to empathise with these decisions. They’re not make by workers in the shops. I assume there are design teams or professional merchandisers who make these choices.

🎵Strange but not a stranger
I'm an ordinary guy 🎵

As noted by Isabella Dampney and Theo Macdonald in the closing paragraph of their essay accompanying their show burning down the houses ‘An unplugged television is after all, a mirror.’ [2] Looking around at televisions tells us much of what we already know. They reflect capitalisms co-opting of new mediums and drive to expose audiences to products wherever possible. However looking again can reveal how this drives a new visual language and makes possible moments that enliven everyday life.

On their website, the Giggle TV team announce that: ’No matter where in the world you go, no one likes waiting, people love to laugh and businesses want more affordable marketing.’ Well I agree with you there Giggle TV! Waiting is a tedious and boring feature of everyday life, let’s get rid of it :'D

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[1] ’About Giggle’, Giggle, https://gogiggle.nz/about-giggle , accessed 6 June 2021

[2] Isabella Dampney and Theo Macdonald, ‘Burning down the houses’ exhibition text.


Soundtrack:

Daryl Braithwaite- The Horses (1990)

Talking Heads - Burning Down the House (1982)

exhibition