Curator's Note

The narrator of G. Anthony Svatek’s short found footage film, .TV, delivers a message from the future: “Perhaps Tuvalu—my home—and I would still be on Earth, if people knew the root of the word ‘television.’” Television: To see from afar. Images of Tuvalu, a diminutive nation in the South Pacific, make up much of the short film, which draws from YouTube footage to assemble a distant (and disjointed) view of the island. [1] Low-slung buildings and shipping containers hug a narrow landing strip; kids play among a cluster of roadside gravestones; freshly dug turtle eggs form a tidy grid on a sandy beach.

The fourth smallest country in the world, Tuvalu consists of a volcanic archipelago located about 1500 miles southeast of Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. In 2000, it joined the United Nations using funds generated by leasing the rights to its country code top level domain (ccTLD), which happens to be .tv. Anyone anywhere can now register a .tv domain. Assigned by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), .tv generates much needed revenue for Tuvalu, a nation whose scarce resources are increasingly threatened by rising sea levels. As the film unfolds, scenes featuring streaming content from sites employing a .tv domain disrupt Svatek’s borrowed travelogue, interjecting make-up videos, nature docs, and soft-core porn. This footage plays on cellphones, desktop monitors, and laptops situated in spaces that suggest a mediated “here” counterposed to Tuvalu’s more immediately present “there.”

Have we forgotten, as .TV’s narrator fears, that television means “viewing from afar”? For Jonathan Sterne, the problem is rather the tendency to reduce television to the brute fact of a signal transmitted from point A to point B, while failing to account for the way its “physical, technological and institutional development” has been informed by “ideas circulating among technicians, industry executives, programmers, congresspeople and audience members.” [2] Leo Goldsmith urges that we add experimental filmmakers to this list of stakeholders, since found footage filmmaking has been employed “as a means of foregrounding — and even analyzing — moving image production and distribution.” [3] For instance, by juxtaposing cowboys and Indians with spectacularized bomb test footage derived from newsreels, Bruce Conner’s A MOVIE repurposes footage from B Westerns that were, at the time of the film’s production in 1958, simultaneously being re-cut and broadcast by the major television networks seeking cheap programming to fill their open schedules. [4]

The “managed scarcity” of the airwaves made visible by A MOVIE gives way in .TV to the no less carefully administered abundance of on-demand programming, microcasting, and livestreaming on platforms like [5] As Sterne argues, the nation has been taken for granted “as the fundamental geographic unit of television” since the 1930s. [6] Today the work of analyzing moving image distribution requires attending to political, institutional, and market forces that supersede the state. In all likelihood, the .tv domain extension will persist even after climate change has rendered Tuvalu uninhabitable. .TV shows us how the colonialist disregard for the lives of Pacific Islanders glimpsed in A MOVIE continues to haunt our collective future. [7]



1. In an interview with Amanda Hammett, Svatek explains, “I knew I didn’t want to travel there, because it was all about seeing this story unfold from a distance.” Amanda Hammett, “Cyber Nations: An Interview with the director of .TV” October 28, 2018

2. Jonathan Sterne, “Television under construction: American televisionand the problem of distribution, 1926–62,” Media, Culture & Society Vol. 21 (1999): 505

3. Leo Goldsmith, “A MOVIE BY … Appropriation, authorship, and the ecologies of the moving image,” First Monday, Vol. 22, No. 1 - 2 (January 2017)

4. Douglas Gomery, Shared Pleasures: A History of Movie Presentation in the United States (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 247.

5. Jonathan Sterne observes, “Advertising revenue was itself a driving force in the organization of television distribution: since advertising revenue was based primarily on audience quantity […] more markets with fewer stations in each market maximized potential revenue. If large audiences are needed, then not only must the programming be kept scarce and nationalized, but the media of dissemination would also ideally be organized according to a kind of managed scarcity.” Sterne, 509

6. Ibid., 522

7. For a related reading of Conner’s work, see Johanna Gosse, “Altered States: Psychedelic Experimental Cinema as Border Crossing in Bruce Conner’s LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS,” Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, forthcoming Autumn 2021. 

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