General Idea’s Test Tube uses news magazine, sit com and advertising formats, with a barrage of special effects to create a futuristic self-portrait, a prediction of the artist in the media-saturated universe of the eighties,’ stated the original press release from 1979 by De Appel. Produced in residence at this Amsterdam based arts centre, the cast of this production features amongst others Marina Abramovic, A.A. Bronson, Raul Marroquin, Felix Partz, Tom Puckey and Jorge Zontal. It was the first piece in a series of programmes designed by artists for television. The program Test Tube consists of a mix of popular television formats: soap opera, news- and talk show, commercial and infomercial and uses also the monotonous language of television to construct a portrait of ‘the artist’. The video highlights the lack of alternative space outside the television studio and the necessity of using an accepted format to fill it with content. For this reason, The Color Bar Lounge is the brand of General Idea’s studio: from there, we follow the story of an "abstract depressionist", a lonely painter who seeks public recognition, while advertisements for the bar are scattered throughout the program. The result is a collage of counter positions, fictional sketches and images taken from television, references from the art world, daily life and television. By using the zapping style of television consumption, General Idea declares that the scope of television is as broad as life and influence in primis the art domain. At the time, Dutch television refused to air the completed work, because it “looks too much like television,” but it was broadcast in Switzerland, Spain, Canada, and the United States.

Test Tube, General Idea, 1979. Courtesy Electronic Art Intermix (EAI), New York