A Tribute to Ernie Kovacs
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An Essential Rememberance
of Ernie Kovacs

(January 23, 1919 - January 13, 1962)
As an artist formerly working in the video medium, I couldn’t call this web site complete without an expression of gratitude to the first of our breed - the ‘video artist.’  When he is remembered, Ernie Kovacs is recalled primarily for his comic genius, his brilliant and insightful writing (he penned and directed all his own material) and the many hilarious characters and sketches he invented. Those of you who are old enough will be able to identify here the poet Percy Dovetonsils and the chimpanzee leader of the Nairobi Trio, among others.

Ernie“...saw laughter as a means of survival, and created a televis ion of the absurd as a video fallout shelter.”
Edie Adams (Mrs. Ernie Kovacs)

Ernie is less noted, though, for the fact that he was the very first to use the video medium as an art form.  He breached the commercial TV monolith of the1950s and early ‘60s with a unique, iconoclastic, erudite and inventive (in)sanity.  Ernie devised unprecedented experimental pieces for television a good fifteen years ahead of the rest of us (who have also yearned to see our work broadcast).  He used kaleidoscopes and other devices
to modify the television image.  He loved to mount outrageously expressionist segments, but also created gentle impressionist pieces, such as the one following the life of a raindrop in its descent from the clouds all the way to the ocean (and this, mind you, only in black and white).  Ernie did things no one else in television thought of, or dared try.  He was so far ahead of his time that when we johnny-come-latelies had finally gotten our vision and our facilities together, he had been largely forgotten for the artistic visionary he was.

The evolution of mass consciousness is a cumulative phenomenon.  Therefore, as artists, we dare not forget that the acceptance of our work rests on the shoulders of those who came before us, and broke ground for our own innovations. This is true even when it relates to our neglected forebears.  I, and many of my generation, who are or have been video experimenters and scholars, received much precious early inspiration directly from the work of Ernie Kovacs.

Ernie nailed it when he remarked, "Television is often called a medium because it's so rarely well done." Thanks,  Ernie, for your pioneering efforts in showing those of us who came later how meaningful and aesthetically satisfying the video medium could be.

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