Lynne Tillman wrote “21 TV Tales” in 1976 for Barbara Kruger. A fiction writer and cultural critic, she interviewed Kruger, but also produced this work of short fiction in response to the artist’s practice.
Tillman’s short stories read like TV guide synopses, like programs flashing briefly one into the next, a kind of literary channel surfing. Each is terse, bright, and straightforward, alike in spirit to Barbara Kruger’s use of white text on bold red color blocks, paired with unidentifiable tokens of American nostalgia. There’s a feeling of something familiar in both, not unlike Cindy Sherman’s photographs; a catching simulacra, a false parody, the sense that you’ve heard these scenarios before, like urban legends. Tillman’s composites toe the line between fiction and reality.
Not only does Tillman capture the energy and experience of Kruger’s work, she does it without mentioning Kruger within the context of the piece at all. This anonymity allows Tillman’s story to stand alone as a work of art, complimentary to but not dependent upon the initial subject of discourse. In this respect, 21 TV Tales transcends the limits of traditional criticism. It speaks to art rather than for it, evoking those themes within the context of contemporary culture, imitating them, expanding upon them, while existing independent of them.
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This is part of “Radical Storytelling,” originally submitted to the SAIC Collections on 14 Dec 2013.