In 1984, Fred Forest invited the public to use the mass medium of radio to deconstruct—critically and humorously—another mass medium: television. For Learn to Watch Television with Your Radio, Forest set up a mobile studio in front of the Grand Palais that served as the engine of an event unfolding across a network of local, low-wave radios. On October 19, 1984, from 7 to 11pm, Forest gathered a group of specialists, including the media theorist Abraham Moles, art critic Catherine Millet, and Professor of media Pierre Moeglin, to comment on and discuss television programs on view. Circled around a monitor, the group analyzed the televisual image, deconstructing its form, values, and its creation of meaning, while debating the medium of television. This commentary was aired in real time on ten local radio stations, including Aligre, Espace 1901, Fréquence Gaie, Radio G, Spectacle, Poste Parisien, and others. Those who sought to participate needed simply to position themselves between a radio and a television tuned to the indicated channels. With the television's sound muted, the commentary on the radio replaced the audio of the television, instantiating a break between image and sound. Participants could also add their own voice to the on-air commentary by calling the mobile studio and speaking over telephone. Described by Forest as “pedagogical, critical, and playful” Learn to Watch Television with Your Radio brought one mass media to press upon another.
Coinciding with the inauguration of the annual contemporary art fair FIAC, Forest's project inserts an open and critical dialogue about the visual image. The invited respondents pointed to montage, framing, pacing, placement of figures, and the many ways that the treatment of images shapes their content. Rather than taken as natural or given, the televisual image becomes strange and constructed. Such a process is powerful at the level of instructing a kind of critical looking, but it is also a riposte to state-run television by the more local means of neighborhood radio stations. In bringing together these dramatically different scales in the media economy, Learn to Watch Television with Your Radio suggests that minor and community media offer powerful tools to intervene in dominant institutions.