The Televised Apocalypse

Justin Keever

This paper argues that Jean Tinguely’s Study for an End of the World No. 2 and the television episode which the auto-destructive sculpture appeared on, “The End of the World” on David Brinkley’s Journal, should be viewed as a single, synthetic artwork which seizes upon broadcast television’s medium-specific lack of closure to allegorize the persistent duration of nuclear fallout which is elided in other media’s attempts to capture and represent nuclear detonations. This paper argues that this joint artwork/television episode also comments on an epistemological and spectatorial shift that is exemplified by the format of broadcast television, insofar as the ideology of electronic presence which surrounds the television medium is reflective of an anxiety about the dissolution of the critical distance of the rational spectator (i.e. the Enlightenment subject). This paper suggests that the artwork/episode ultimately reflects on the anxiety of the potential loss of textuality as such that is unique to the nuclear epoch by suggesting that discrete texts are ultimately insufficient means of making sense of the world.

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Justin Keever is a PhD candidate in visual studies at the University of California, Irvine. His dissertation concerns the role of video games in the perpetuation and rejection of neoliberal subjectivity.

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