The field of gallery-specific video art carries a set of conventions which defines a range of outcomes within it. This genre is identifiable by features of a direct monologue, fragmentary narrative, shoddy special effects, disjunctive editing, amateur actors, extended takes, play with exposure and duration, and allusions to popular media modes of the past. This latter convention drew us to the supernatural investigation dramas of the 1990s. The TV shows within this genre–think Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer–are marked by serialised storytelling, monster-of-the-week episodes, government conspiracy, smouldering tension between leads, Emmy bait special episodes, and reboots and rip-offs.
The video artist Dara Birnbaum, who rose to prominence in the 1970s with work appropriating television content, said of her practice: “I wanted to use video on video...television on television”. Single-channel video distribution has the advantage of increased accessibility to a more diverse range of audiences. Single-channel, unlike multi-channel, does not require a sophisticated installation to be presented outside the gallery, worldwide, and can utilise languages innate to television viewers. Recent moving image practices have shifted towards the spectacular, destination viewing in staged site specific, gallery environments. In Bella and Theo: Detectives of Crime, the serial videos that make up Avoiding Climax take both modes of distribution. Each episode in the series airs on a twice weekly schedule within the Window space or are available to be viewed anytime, on Window’s online space, as are the shooting scripts.
Avoiding Climax is a response to the recent battlefield of on-demand streaming services, and to the resistance shown by certain established international broadcasters to engage with the full-season release strategy. In line with that, it is a response to the proliferation of viewer-supported reboots and the rise of DIY video culture through youtube and other streaming services. The web-series is a contemporary answer to the 1950s studio freeballing that allowed untested talents such as Edward D. Wood Jr to break through, albeit with significantly less budget.